AVONDALE, La. (AP) — Seung-Yul Noh was in danger of losing his PGA Tour card late last season.
Now the 22-year-old South Korean is eligible for the Players Championship next month — not to mention next year's Masters — thanks to the nerve he showed in capturing his maiden tour triumph at the Zurich Classic.
"Dreams come true," Noh said after his 1-under 71 Sunday gave him a two-stroke win worth $1.22 million. "When I started at 7 playing golf, I dreamed of always playing (on the) PGA Tour ... or playing any major, especially the Masters."
Noh deftly navigated wind gusts up to 30 mph and showed little trouble maintaining his composure while playing in the final group with Keegan Bradley, a former PGA Championship winner.
"Last whole season — very disappointing," Noh said. "So it was (a) very good experience for my game. I'm mentally stronger, so I don't get nervous."
Noh is in his third year on the tour, but finished outside the top 125 on the money list last season, forcing him to play in Web.com Tour Finals events to retain his tour card. In 77 previous PGA Tour starts, Noh never finished better than a fourth-place tie at the 2012 AT&T National.
The Zurich Classic marked his first lead through three rounds, but his chance at victory looked tenuous when he made his first bogey of the tournament on the first hole of his final round.
One hole later, Bradley made birdie to pull into a tie for first.
"Very challenging today out there, especially playing with Keegan, a major champion, and heavy wind," Noh said.
But Bradley slipped down the leaderboard with a bogey on the fifth hole and a triple bogey on the sixth, while Noh remained steady enough to hold off the remaining challengers.
Noh needed some clutch shots on the back nine. They included a chip out of a grassy downhill lie on the edge of a bunker on 13, which hit the flag on a bounce, setting up a routine birdie putt. On 16, with the wind in his face, Noh landed his approach 3 feet from the hole to set up his last birdie. He then made a 14-foot par putt on 17 to assure a two-shot cushion on the final hole, pumping his fist afterward.