(Reuters) – American journeyman Hudson Swafford, whose focus all week was on “standing tall”, birdied three of the last four holes to clinch his first PGA Tour title by one shot on Sunday at the $5.8 million CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, California.
Two strokes off the pace going into the final round on the hosting Stadium Course, Swafford fired a sparkling five-under-par 67 in overcast conditions to hold off a late challenge by third-round leader Adam Hadwin of Canada.
Swafford, who also produced good form last week to tie for 13th at the Sony Open in Hawaii, picked up shots at the 15th, 16th and 17th to move a stroke clear of a congested leaderboard before parring the last to post a 20-under total of 268.
“I felt like my posture was good all day and it just allowed the club to be in a perfect slot,” Swafford, 29, told Golf Channel after narrowly missing a birdie attempt from 20 feet at the par-four 18th.
“That’s all we focused on this week. I had really good rhythm, was standing tall and was hitting it beautifully.
“I didn’t make every putt I looked at but I felt like I was hitting some pretty good putts and to make three of the last four, and I felt like I actually made the one on the last hole, it was pretty special.”
Hadwin, seeking his first PGA Tour victory after taking over at the top with a sizzling 59 in the third round, birdied 16 and 17 on the way to a 70 and second place on his own at 19-under.
Left-hander Brian Harman and fellow American Bud Cauley closed with 69s to tie for third at 18-under while five-time major winner Phil Mickelson finished joint 21st at 11-under after shooting a 70.
Six players were tied for the lead early on the back nine before the long-hitting Swafford took control.
After sinking an 11-footer to birdie the par-four 15th, he picked up another stroke at the par-five 16th where he struck a superb second shot from 230 yards to 12 feet and two-putted to get to 19-under.
Swafford then hit a laser-like eight-iron to within two feet at the par-three 17th, effectively securing the title as he tapped in the putt.
“I really didn’t get ahead of myself, didn’t really look at leaderboards, didn’t really know where I was … this is a dream come true,” said Swafford, who began the week ranked 204th in the world.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Peter Rutherford)