The Honda Classic: Sepp Straka makes history with shock success at PGA National

The 28-year-old became the first Austrian to win on the PGA Tour after coming from five back on the final day in Florida.

Sepp Straka wrote himself into the record books after a fast finish ensured a surprise and dramatic win in The Honda Classic, the first leg of the Florida Swing.

Straka's total of 10-under 270, achieved thanks to a closing 4-under 66, gave him a one-shot victory over Ireland's Shane Lowry.

And as well as delivering his own breakthrough success at this level, it also meant he became the first Austrian golfer to win on the PGA Tour.

Starting the day in tied second place, it seemed a tall order for Straka and the rest of the chasing pack to reel in five-shot leader and local favourite Daniel Berger.

But Berger needed seven swishes at the par-5 3rd hole and dropped further shots at 5 and 6 to see his healthy advantage wiped out in a flash.

Lowry looked to be the one taking full advantage and the 2019 Open champion had a two-shot lead after early birdies at 1 and 4 along with another gain at 11.

But Straka wasn't done with yet and while Lowry parred his final seven holes to record a 3-under 67, the 28-year-old from Vienna hit the gas with birdies at 14, 16 and 18 to sneak through and pinch victory.

Kurt Kitayama took third place on 8-under, two shots back, while Berger slipped to fourth via a final-round 4-over 74.

Alex Noren made it three Europeans in the top five after a 2-under 68 gave him tied fifth alongside Gary Woodland.

Another Austrian, Matthias Schwab, shared seventh place with American Chris Kirk.

Straka's first PGA Tour win also secured his debut at The Masters in early April.

He said later: "It's crazy. It's a lifelong dream of mine just to be heading to Augusta in a month or so. It's still surreal. I'm sure it'll sink in here before long, but yeah, it's just crazy."

Talking about coming from five back, Straka added: "I knew going into the round that I had a chance. This course is crazy. There's no gimme holes at all. You've got to be on it.

"And there was only one guy I thought ahead of me, so I knew if I just kept my head down and just tried to score maybe the best score I could on every hole, just try to make the best swing I could, in the end there was a good chance of being there."

Tee To Green stats prove key

On the stats, the top six finishers all ranked in the top 10 for Strokes Gained: Tee To Green (Straka 4th, Lowry 2nd).

Straka was 1st for SG: Off The Tee, with Lowry 3rd in that category.

Adam Svensson, who slid back to finish tied ninth, ranked 1st for SG: Tee To Green but was 73rd in SG: Putting, losing 4.603 strokes to the field on PGA National's Bermuda greens.

Straka was 4th for SG: Putting (6.008); Lowry 17th (4.016).

Rain plays decisive factor

Mother Nature usually has her say in this event and did so again on Sunday.

However, rather than high winds, this time it was an extreme downpour in the very closing stages that may have helped decide the outcome of the trophy.

Straka had already boomed a huge 334-yard drive down the par-5 18th when the skies suddenly opened.

That left him 192 yards to the green which he found with a six-iron and then two-putted for what would prove the winning birdie.

Lowry needed one of his own to tie but had to play the entire hole in horrid conditions as the rain pelted down.

A scratchy drive into the left rough meant Lowry was forced to lay up and his modest wedge left a 43-foot birdie try which dribbled right.

Eleven Open champions had previously put their name on this trophy.

Lowry's bid to become the 12th proved unlucky and, ironically, the grotty links-style weather was a decisive factor.

"That's the game unfortunately," he said later. "I played the golf, good enough golf I felt to win the tournament. That bad weather came in just as we were hitting our tee shot on 18, which was as bad a break as I've got in a while.

"It's hard to take, to be honest. Feel like I've got the tournament stolen from me today. You know, he's gone 3-under the last five on this course. I played the golf perfectly to win the tournament, and that's this game sometimes and that's this level.

"He finished well. Yeah, the last hole was as bad a break as I've ever got. You know, especially when you're standing on the tee and you see him over that left bunker, which I would've been able to do if there was no rain, because I need a drive and a 4- or 5-iron.

"Look, it is what it is. It's a great week for me. I'm very happy where my game is at."

Fate of the big guns

Sungjae Im, the winner here in 2020, was the pre-tournament favourite going into the event but missed the cut after rounds of 74-70, as did last week's Genesis champion, Joaquin Niemann (70-73).

Sungjae Im putting at the 2021 PLAYERS Championship

Berger was second in the betting and for so long it looked as if would put his name on the trophy, especially after shooting five clear after 54 holes. His fourth place gave him a third top four on this course.

Brooks Koepka and the well-backed Billy Horschel never threatened to win but both can be reasonably content with solid tied 16ths.

Runner-up Lowry did his very best to maintain the tradition of Open winners excelling in this event while another Claret Jug winner, Louis Oosthuizen, never quite recovered from a slow start and posted tied 30th.

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