Taylor Pendrith wins 2024 CJ Cup Byron Nelson after wild finish for first PGA Tour victory

McKINNEY, Texas — Taylor Pendrith stepped on the 18th green trailing by a shot. He walked off of it a winner of his first PGA Tour event.

Pendrith, the 32-year-old Canadian, captured the 2024 CJ Cup Byron Nelson title on Sunday at TPC Craig Ranch thanks to a 4-under 67 effort, but also in part due to a major mistake by one of his playing partners, Ben Kohles. Kohles carded consecutive birdies on Nos. 16-17 to take a one-shot lead into the 72nd hole, but a duffed chip and missed par putt from 5 feet, 6 inches resulted in the lone bogey of the day on the par-5 18th and gave Pendrith a chance to win it outright, which he converted.

“It was wild,” Pendrith said. “I hit a really nice shot in there 35 feet probably for eagle and Ben was in a little bit of a tricky spot. He’d been playing so good all day. I expected him to have a putt at birdie, so I was fully prepared to try and make that putt. I didn’t hit the best putt. I was a little disappointed that I left it short, but then when he missed his par putt and I realized I had a putt for the win, it was all a blur really.

“I’ve never had a putt to win a PGA Tour event, so my caddie said this is the straightest putt we’ve had all year and just knock it in. It managed to slip in the left. I’m pretty happy.”

Fellow Canadian Mackenzie Hughes celebrated greenside with Pendrith, along with wife Meg and son Hayes. Pendrith said he was at Hughes’ first win at the RSM Classic in 2016, so for Hughes, also a former teammate at Kent State, to be the first player to congratulate him was special.

The win is pivotal for many reasons. One, it gets Pendrith into next week’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina. It also gets him one step closer to representing Canada in this year’s Presidents Cup, to be held at Royal Montreal.

However, as much as Pendrith drilled the 3 footer for his first Tour victory, Ben Kohles painfully gave him an avenue for an outright win.

Kohles, a 34-year-old who was also in the final pairing earlier this year at the Puerto Rico Open, stuffed his approach shot to 2 feet, 4 inches on the par-4 16th, then he drained a 20 footer for birdie on the par-3 17th hole, giving him a one-shot lead walking to the 18th. 

His tee shot drifted left into the rough, but his second ended up in a patch of rough in front of the 18th green. He had 51 feet to the hole for his third shot, which seems like a routine greenside pitch. It went 23 feet and ended up in a worse lie. 

“It was sitting up a little bit, but honestly hadn’t seen any rough like that all week,” Kohles said. “Just didn’t hit a great shot. Just needed a little bit more umph on it. I maybe deceled a little bit, but you live and you learn.”

His fourth shot landed and kicked hard left off the slope, leaving him a 5 footer for par. He missed it, opening the door for Pendrith to pounce.

And he did.

Pendrith said he thought an eagle was needed just to get into a playoff on the final hole, and he pounded what he called his best drive of the week on the closing hole. Then his approach found the back of the green, and he lagged his eagle attempt to 3 feet.

Kohles, who earned the best finish of his Tour career with a solo second, then missed his par putt, one he said was a good putt, just the wrong line. Pendrith then stepped up, knocked in the winning birdie to finish at 23 under, the same winning score as Jason Day last year, and the celebration was on.

Pendrith is the fifth first-time Tour winner this season, the first since Stephan Jaeger at the Texas Children’s Houston Open, and it came in his 74th career start.

Byron Nelson is a special name, and for my name to be on that trophy is super special,” Pendrith said. “You know, it feels unbelievable, and to see some of those names on this trophy, it’s crazy. I still can’t believe that I’m a winner of this tournament. But I’m sure it’ll kick in soon. Yeah, feels great.”

Jake Knapp, the 36-hole leader and winner of the Mexico Open earlier this year, was stuck in neutral most of the day after starting Sunday a stroke off the lead. He finished solo eighth. Alex Noren signed for a 65 and a solo third finish at 21 under.

Kris Kim, the 16-year-old amateur from England who became the fifth-youngest player to make a cut in a PGA Tour event, shot 2 over in the final round to finish at 6 under for the week. 

“I think just playing in front of the fans this week,” said Kim on what he’ll remember most. “It’s been quite a bit of adrenaline and everything. It’s been really good. Just makes me want to come back even more.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek