Dallas — Cape Town-born American Aaron Wise was the youngest winner on the PGA Tour in more than a year when clinching a three-shot victory at the Byron Nelson in Texas on Sunday.
The 21-year-old, playing with a poise beyond his years in only his 26th start on tour, eased away from Marc Leishman and carded a closing six-under-par 65 to take his maiden title.
"I was super calm. I was more nervous yesterday, oddly enough," Wise said in an interview at Trinity Forest in Dallas.
In the tournament’s first edition at the new par-71 layout south of Dallas, Wise’s 23-under par total of 261 crushed the previous scoring record of 19-under set by Rory Sabbatini at the par-70 TPC Four Seasons in Irving in 2009.
Trinity Forest, a links-style layout with neither trees nor water hazards, offered up a birdie bonanza when softened by rain.
Two weeks after finishing equal second in Charlotte, Wise started the final round tied with Leishman but notched six birdies in a seven-hole stretch from the fourth in front of a gallery including former US president George W Bush.
He was never challenged thereafter and finished well clear of Australian Leishman whose final-round 68 was only good enough for second place.
PGA Tour rookie Wise, who moved with his parents to the US at the age of three, had an outstanding amateur career and won the American collegiate championship in 2016 before turning pro.
He said his runner-up finish in Charlotte had boosted his self belief and helped him deal with the pressure down the stretch on Sunday.
"I felt oddly calm all day long and to pull that off and play as good as I did, bogey free, was awesome," Wise said. He is the first 21-year-old to win on tour since Kim Si-woo at the 2017 May’s Players Championship.
Wise’s performance certainly impressed six-times Major champion Nick Faldo, who offered some free advice.
"With a swing like that, don’t mess with it," Faldo said during the CBS coverage.
Scores on Sunday were low after the heavy morning rain took the fire out of the course and delayed the start of play by four hours.
SA’s Branden Grace took full advantage of the conditions to match his career-low round of 62 on his 30th birthday.
"To come in with nine under is pretty special, a great birthday present," said Grace, who tied for third on 19-under.
Grace made history at the British Open at the Royal Birkdale course in 2017 when he became the first player to shoot 62 in a Major championship.