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First PGA Tour victory eludes An Byeong-hun

June 05,2018
Korean golfer An Byeong-hun finished just shy of his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday, losing to American Byson DeChambeau in the second playoff hole at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

An, who started the final round two shots behind DeChambeau, got off to a slow start with bogeys on the par-4 first and par-3 fourth. Right when An seemed to have blown his chance for his first PGA Tour victory, he clawed his way back. An made five birdies in the remaining rounds and tied for the lead at 15 under par with DeChambeau and Kyle Stanley of the United States.

In the first three-way sudden-death playoff, Stanley was eliminated after making a bogey on the par-4 18th. Though An didn’t hit the green, he successfully made an up-and-down for a par to extend the playoff with DeChambeau.

During the second playoff hole, still on the 18th, An hit his tee shot on the fairway but pulled his second shot into the gallery.

An once again made an up-and-down for a par, but as DeChambeau made a birdie, An had to walk away with a runner-up finish. DeChambeau won his second career PGA Tour title and first since the John Deere Classic in July 2017.

“I wasn’t expecting to be in the playoff, but that was a bonus,” An said, according to Yonhap. “I did what I could and then couldn’t have done better. Overall, tied for second is pretty good.”

A runner-up finish allowed An to make a big jump in the world ranking, moving up 29 spots to 56th. The highest ranking An has ever reached was 24th in 2016.

“All week, I’ve been hitting it really well,” An said. “Off the tee and [the] approach to the green was one of the best so far this year. The putting was definitely better than the last couple of weeks, so that’s why I can see myself at the top of the leaderboard.”

An played in the United States throughout his junior career, where he still remains the youngest-ever player to win the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2009 at the age of 17. Before playing full time on the PGA Tour, An started on the European Tour, where he won the BMW PGA Championship in May 2015. With the win, An won the 2015 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award. He started playing on the PGA Tour in 2016.

Though An is now in his third season on the PGA Tour, he hasn’t yet won a PGA Tour event.

This is his second runner-up finish of his career, as his first was the 2016 Zurich Classic. At the Zurich Classic, An lost in the second playoff hole against Brian Stuard of the United States.

“This is a big boost of confidence for me this week, because I hit it really well and I was really proud of myself,” An said. “I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Tiger Woods, who won the event five times throughout his career, shot an even par to finish tied for 23rd at nine under par.

Korean golfers Kim Si-woo and Whee Kim finished tied for 29th at eight under par.

BY KIM DU-YONG, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]