Korea’s K.H. Lee had a sniff at glory before settling for a career best joint runner-up finish behind winner Brooks Koepka following a thrilling final round shootout at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday.
The 29-year-old Lee closed with a three-under 68 at TPC Scottsdale to share second place with co-overnight leader Xander Schauffele (71) as they ended a stroke back of Koepka, who secured his eighth PGA Tour title with a closing 65, highlighted by a spectacular chip-in eagle on the 17th hole.
Jordan Spieth, who led into the last round with Schauffele, carded a 72 to settle for tied fourth position alongside veteran star Steve Stricker (67) and Carlos Ortiz (64).
Starting the day three behind the co-leaders, Lee hung around the leaderboard all day and briefly tied for the lead with a birdie on the 15th hole. However all hopes of a maiden PGA Tour victory were dampened when Koepka pulled ahead with a spectacular chip-in eagle from 97 feet on the penultimate hole.
Lee, who has won four times in Asia, had a 33-foot birdie attempt on the 18th hole to force a playoff but agonisingly missed the target. Still, the Korean was beaming with pride as his previous best individual performance was a tied fifth finish at the 2019 RSM Classic while he was equal third with partner Matt Avery at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, also in 2019.
“It was very exciting this week. Everything was good … from my irons, driver and putting. I also had a lot of saves, so I learned a lot of things. I’m very happy,” said Lee, who notched his fourth career top-10 on Tour.
“I was a little nervous and hopefully the next time when I’m in the same situation, I will take the chance and hopefully win." – K.H. Lee
He was thrilled to hit nearly 85% of Greens in Regulation and said the hard work put into his swing during the tournament had paid off. He believes this week’s experience will help in his pursuit for a first victory.
“I was a little nervous and hopefully the next time when I’m in the same situation, I will take the chance and hopefully win,” said Lee, who moved up to 48th position on the FedExCup points list after earning 245 points.
Koepka was relieved to return into the winner’s circle after a difficult year marred by injuries. He made three straight birdies from the 13th hole before chipping in for eagle on 17 which ended his win drought dating back to July 2019.
“I love this place, this golf course is always fun. It feels good,” said Koepka, who triumphed in Phoenix in 2015 for his first Tour victory. “I like the way in how I finished it off. I hit some quality shots down the stretch. I’ve not been in contention in God knows how long. To hit those golf shots like I’m accustomed to seeing when the pressure is on, it’s a good feeling. I missed that pressure, I missed the atmosphere of the fans and I am excited to have them back.”
Schauffele was bidding to lift a fifth PGA Tour victory and his first in nearly two years but fell one shot shy. “It was a good day to learn from some mistakes. Have to continue to stay patient until I can win again. Winning is tough, I’ll lick my wounds and come back,” said Schauffele, whose third runner-up finish this season sees him taking over the lead in the FedExCup points list.
“Congrats to Brooks. He's a great example. Won four majors, true champion and it shows. He hasn't been in great form, comes out here, and wins a tournament. There is a lot to be said for him and his recipe for winning. Me and my team are trying to figure it out ourself.”