JACKSON, Miss. — Cody Gribble hadn’t ever won a tournament on the PGA Tour. In fact, he’d only played in one before this weekend.
But you never would have known it the way the 26-year-old Texas grad approached the tee box on the 505-yard 18th hole at Country Club of Jackson Sunday afternoon.
And you certainly wouldn’t know after watching him pipe his drive 320 yards down the right side and then hit a workmanlike 174-yard shot into the green to set up a routine par.
But that par put the cap on a final day 65 and a four-round score of 20-under par, which was more than enough for Gribble to claim his first PGA Tour win.
“I was making (my caddy) Bob speak a lot,” Gribble said, still grinning with one hand on the Sanderson Farms trophy. “I knew I was in a good spot, and I knew I was playing well. It’s hard not to sit there and look up at the scoreboard and see where you’re at and see what you’re doing.
“But I was talking to Bob about anything — about our game last night, about Charlie Strong, about the Cubs in the World Series, anything. We were just trying to keep my mind off the situation as much as possible.
That “situation” was his position atop a tight field on championship Sunday. Chasing him were players who had already shown a proclivity for going low — guys like Luke List and Chris Kirk, both four years Gribbles’ elder who had turned in a pair of 65s on Saturday.
Both had their moments Sunday too, but neither could take advantage of Gribble’s mistakes, frankly because there weren’t many of them.
The Dallas native played a bogey-free round, despite missing five out of 14 fairways. He hit 15 out of 18 greens and scrambled for par on all three he missed.
And that wasn’t the best part of his game Saturday.
“He was holing his putts,” List said. “And that’s really what it takes to win a tournament on a Sunday like this one.”
And while Gribble played near-flawless golf, the rest of the roughly 20 golfers who entered Sunday with a chance to win faltered.
Greg Owen, who finished tied with List and Kirk for second at 16-under, birdied six holes but bogeyed the par-4 eighth hole and the par-4 12th.
His playing partners didn’t fair any better.
List recovered from a bogey on the par-5 third hole with an eagle at No. 5, but only found one birdie on the back nine. Kirk turned in a bogey-free round but couldn’t get anything going. He was even through the front nine and birdied a pair of holes on the back but couldn’t get enough putts to drop.
And if Owen’s 68 wasn’t good enough, List and Kirk’s 70s definitely weren’t going to be good enough to beat Gribble either.
“I think Chris and I had similar rounds,” List said. “We didn’t play poorly, but we just couldn’t get anything going on the back, at least not the way Cody did.”
“Yeah, I felt like I rolled a bunch of putts right over the edge on the front nine,” Kirk added. “I got aggressive on the back and started putting a little too much pressure on my putter. Obviously I was trying to go deep and win a tournament, and it just didn’t happen today.”
But it did happen for Gribble, who continued the tradition set by guys like Kirk, Peter Malnati and Nick Taylor of young players getting their first win at Mississippi’s only PGA event.
When it was all over, a reporter asked what made him so comfortable at Country Club of Jackson over the past four days. He talked about the Bermuda grass and how it helped him chip and the work he’d put in with his swing coach, Randy Smith.
“But really that, and just the Southern hospitality,” he said. “Great food, great people. Reminds me a lot of home.”
Tyler Cleveland writes for the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, part of the USA TODAY Network.
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