Literally a career-changer. And apropos, at the aptly named CareerBuilder Challenge.
Swafford played for UGA Men’s Golf Coach Chris Haack from 2008-11, and has made a nice living playing golf. But things will change shortly for the big boy from Lakeland, Florida. He officially joins the list of former UGA golfers who have won on the PGA Tour.
Swafford opened up with a 65 Thursday in the Palm Desert, California area, and was just 1 off the lead. He followed up Friday with another 65, but this vaulted him into first, but with a bunched up leaderboard behind him.
Saturday wasn’t quite as kind, as Swafford was slow out of the gate, then got hot after the turn, only to give 3 shots back on 16 and 17. Historically in his short PGA Tour career, this was typical: a nice opening 36 holes but pressure or some bad breaks kept him from getting into the winner’s circle. In his 3 previous years on the big circuit, he has a single top 10 each year, but no top 3’s or wins. No matter, as his 1 under par 71 left him just a couple of strokes behind the leader.
Sunday didn’t start out great as he carded an early bogey. But all other players also had trouble, as anyone who got out in front immediately came back to the pack. Swafford again got his putter rolling and birdied 7, 8, and 9. Lots of back and forth for the leaders, and Hudson kept steady while others fell away. Then a great birdie on the par 4 15th, a 2 putt birdie on the par 5 16th, a kick-in birdie on the par 3 17th (almost holed it from the tee), and a rock steady par on the finishing par 4 18th. He closed with a 5 under par 67, 20 under par total. And can now be called a PGA Tour winner. He has definitely overcome any mental blocks to winning.
Some stats: He’s made 19 cuts in a row, and all 6 in this season’s campaign. So his consistency was starting to pay dividends. Here’s what I said in the season preview:
“Hudson Swafford: 221st OWGR. Made all four cuts so far this season, but only for $104,948. This places him 91st in FedEx Cup standings, and he had his best year ever last season, so maybe this portends for continued success.”
His 93rd PGA Tour event ends up with his first win. Swafford is now the 9th Bulldog to win on the PGA Tour since the year 2010. His career earnings (since 2010) were $2,708,393. He can now add over $1,000,000 to that total . He jumps up 60+ spots in the FedEx Cup race to 6th, and is almost assured of making the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs. Not to mention an invitation to play in the Masters this April, and probably the other three majors.
Brian Harman was tied for the lead late, but got passed by Swafford. He shot 69 and tied for 3rd at 18 under par. Chris Kirk was in the top 10 virtually all day until a double bogey, double-bogey finish on 17 and 18 drops him down to T21. Kevin Kisner shot 68 and jumped up to a tie for 25th.
Congrats Hudson, and as always...