Grayson Murray is a PGA Tour winner again and feels better than ever about his future. The gold trophy he won Sunday at the Sony Open with a 40-foot birdie putt in a playoff is only a small reason for that.
Murray has been sober for eight months, tired of alcohol fuelling his arrogance in public and making him feel like a failure for wasting talent in his private moments.
He feels renewed through Christianity and is getting married in April to a woman that became a big part of a small support group.
No, winning didn’t change his life. But it sure provided a big boost to his career.
“My story is not finished. I think it’s just beginning,” Murray said. “I hope I can inspire a lot of people going forward that have their own issues.”
Murray always looked like the odd-man out in a three-way battle at the end of the Sony Open until he delivered the goods.
His wedge into a breeze to a back pin to three feet gave him a birdie on the par-5 18th for a 3-under 67 and allowed him to join a three-way playoff with Keegan Bradley and Byeong Hun An. And then he buried a birdie putt from just inside 40 feet with An facing a four-foot birdie.
Bradley missed from 18 feet. An’s short putt grazed the lip. Murray had another PGA Tour title, the other coming more than six years ago at an opposite-field event when he was a rookie.
The timing couldn’t be better.
Murray, who earned his way back to the PGA Tour with two wins on the Korn Ferry Tour last year, now can bank on his first trip to the Masters in April and a spot in the seven remaining signature events with their $20 million purses.
“I knew today was not going to change my life,” he said. “But it did change my career.”
Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., finished in a tie for seventh at 14 under — three shots back of the winner. Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., finished at 13 under and tied for 10th.
Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont., tied for 18th at 11 under, while Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., finished tied for 30th at 9 under. Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., tied for 57th at 6 under.
As big as the win was for Murray, it was a tough loss for Byeong Hun An and Keegan Bradley.
An hit a 3-iron to just inside 15 feet on the 18th in regulation, the best shot of the day on Waialae’s closing hole, and two-putted for birdie an a 64 to be the first to post 17-under 263. In the playoff, he hit a superb pitch from the thick collar below the green to four feet, only to miss.
“Just a poor putt and poor read at the end which could have happened on any holes during 73 holes,” An said. “It’s a shame it ended that way. It hurts, but what are you going to do?”
Bradley broke away from a five-way tie for the lead with a 20-foot birdie on the 15th, but he had to settle for pars the rest of the way. He missed the fairway on the 18th and had to lay up, hitting a pedestrian wedge to 20 feet. The winning putt in regulation narrowly missed.
In the playoff, he was in the best position in the fairway. But he pulled his fairway metal into the grandstand, chipped only to 18 feet and missed after Murray had made birdie.
“I played good enough to win. But sometimes it’s just not quite good enough, and that was one of these weeks,” said Bradley, who called it one of the toughest losses of his career.
Murray, who earned US$1,494,000, moves into the top 50 for the first time and has reason to believe the path leads only higher.
He ran into trouble with PGA Tour discipline three years ago in Honolulu. He later took to social media to criticize the tour for not helping him with his drinking. There also was a social media spat with Kevin Na when Murray poked fun at Na’s pace of play.
He was angry and his career was going nowhere. The winner’s lei around his neck was a sweet smell and allowed time to reflect even in the immediacy of winning.
“It’s not easy, you know?” he said. “I wanted to give up a lot of times — give up on myself, give up on the game of golf, give up on life at times. When you get tired of fighting, let someone fight for you.
“My life is so good right now. I wouldn’t trade anything,” he said. “Everyone in my life right now who is close to me who has been through the struggles with me. All of them are part of this. I think this is just the start of something really special.”
Carl Yuan and Russell Henley each closed with a 63 and had their chances.
Henley was at 17 under until he pulled his tee shot left on the 16th, made a strong recovery but ultimately missed a four-foot par putt. On the closing par 5, his drive went into such a deep lie in the rough he had no chance to get near the green and missed a 10-foot birdie chance.
Yuan made his mistake on the par-3 17th, missing the green left and missing a four-foot par putt to fall out of the lead. And he appeared to get a break on the 18th when his second shot sailed into the hospitality area.
The ball was never found, but officials interviewed spectators and determined with “virtual certainty” it was in a large part of a compound that included tents and restrooms and other structures. He got a free drop and escaped with par.
J.T. Poston finished alone in sixth with the round of the week. He closed with a 61 and was among seven players who had a share of the lead at one point.