The Upshot: Cody Gribble cards first win

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JACKSON, Miss. – Notes and observations from Sunday’s final round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where rookie Cody Gribble fired a 7-under 65 to win by four. For more from the Country Club of Jackson, check out the Daily Wrap-up.

Gribble Earns First Win

It’s not unusual for the Sanderson Farms Championship to produce a first-time PGA TOUR winner. In fact, Gribble’s four-shot win marked the third straight year and fourth in the last six seasons that has happened.

What was unusual is the route the left-hander traveled over the course of four days, from struggling to a 1-over 73 on Thursday, to hoisting the championship trophy on the 18th green on Sunday after running away from the field with a sizzling 31 on the back nine.

The former Texas Longhorn followed that 73, which left him T101 in the 132-player field, with a bogey-free 63 on Friday, a 67 on Saturday, and a bogey-free 65 on Sunday.

He made one bogey over those final 54 holes, and on Sunday he broke away from a crowded leaderboard by making birdies on holes No. 11, 13, 15, 16, and 17 to cement his first TOUR title and win the $756,000 first-place prize from the $4.2 million purse.

Gribble started the day one shot back of co-leaders Chris Kirk and Luke List, playing in the final threesome.

“Chris and I had similar rounds, we just couldn’t get anything going,” said List, who shot 70 and finished T2 with Kirk (70) and Greg Owen (68). “But Cody was unbelievable. … He played flawlessly, so he deserved to win for sure.”

Gribble credited a phone call to his coach, Randy Smith, and the ever-present counseling of his caddie, good friend and former Longhorn teammate Bobby Hudson for getting his mind right and his game on track after that 73, which included three bogeys and a double.

During the final round, he said, Hudson was in his ear the whole time – and the conversation was rarely about yardages or club selection.

“He helped me mainly just stay in the present,” said Gribble. “Not really looking forward to the next hole, or looking at scoreboards. He just was able to keep me patient and keep me motivated.”

They talked about football and Las Vegas and baseball and anything else that came to mind.

“It was like we were back home,” said Hudson, who played for Texas from 2007-11. “I kept telling him, ‘it’s just us out there,’ and we were trying not to pay attention to anything else except what he was focusing on. We felt if he did that it would be good enough to win, and he played unbelievable.”

Taking Control

Gribble took control with birdies on the drivable par-4 15th, the difficult par-4 16th, and the par-4 17th. On 15, he chipped to five feet. On 16 and 17 he hit wedges to 7 and 11 feet, respectively.

Asked how that stretch of holes ranked in his career, he broke into a big smile.

“It’s up there,” he said. “To be under that circumstance, it’s probably one of the best. I think that I put in a lot of work with my wedges in the last year and a half, and to finally see that really pay off the way it did something I’ll hold for a long time.”

The Flat Stick Rules

Gribble ranked T29 in greens in regulation (52 of 72) and T38 in fairways hit (29 of 56), but his putter was on fire, especially over the final three rounds.

He needed 31 putts during Thursday’s 73, but just 24, 24 and 26 over the final three rounds. His 105 putts led the field, and he ranked No. 1 in strokes gained: putting with 2.2 per round.

Longhorn Connection

Gribble played the Tour the last two seasons, earning limited status on the PGA TOUR as a top-40 finisher in the 2016 Tour Finals money list. He was the second player from Texas’ 2012 NCAA national championship team to earn his TOUR card. The first? Jordan Spieth.

Long Time Coming

Asked by a reporter on Saturday when was the last time he won an individual title, Gribble was stumped. He thought for a moment and said, “probably the Western Junior.”

That was in 2007, as an amateur, aged 17.

Five months ago, he came close in the Tour’s United Leasing & Finance Championship, leading by one with two to play, but he closed bogey-bogey and lost by one to Seamus Power. That one was especially difficult to watch as Gribble hit what appeared to be a perfect second shot on the final hole, only to see the ball take a hard bounce and roll off the green and into a water hazard.

Lefty Power

Gribble is the first left-handed TOUR winner since Greg Chalmers won the 2016 Barracuda Championship in Reno.

Chip Yips Strike Again

Graham DeLaet, who withdrew from the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide in May and took a break from golf to deal with “incredible anxiety while chipping/pitching,” was struck again Sunday with the chipping yips.

DeLaet had made a move with three birdies on the front to jump to 16 under and into the lead before disaster struck. The Canadian hit his second shot on the par-5 11th into a greenside pond. He took a drop next to the green, and then shanked his chip. The ball stayed out of the water but was inside the hazard line. He managed to get his next shot on the green, but then two-putted for a double-bogey, dropping out of the lead. He bogeyed the next hole and never challenged for the lead again. He shot 72 and finished T8.

Holing Out and Chipping In

Rookie Xander Schauffele used a pair of hole-out eagles to make one of Sunday’s biggest moves on the leaderboard. He made it from 131 yards on the par-4 second hole, and then holed out from a greenside bunker from 47 feet on the 316-yard par-4 15th to briefly move into a tie for the lead.

Schauffele had the day’s second-lowest round, 66, and finished T5 at 15 under.

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