Pro Golf Weekly

Kevin Tway Wins First Career PGA Tour Title at Safeway Open

He won eight PGA Tour events, including the PGA Championship; he was awarded the PGA Tour Player of the Year award in 1986, and the PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year award in 1995; but if you asked him, he would probably say his proudest moment came this week, when his son won the Safeway Open to begin the 2018-19 PGA Tour season.

Kevin Tway Wins Safeway Open
Kevin Tway celebrates with caddie Marc Sambol after winning the Safeway Open in a playoff at the North Course of the Silverado Resort on Oct. 7, 2018 in Napa, Calif. Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images

The former was referring to Bob Tway, while the latter was talking about his son, Kevin, who outlasted Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker to win the season-opening Safeway Open in a three-hole playoff.

He might have been the underdog when the playoff started against two players who’d won a combined 14 PGA Tour titles, but Tway was the last man standing after going birdie-birdie-birdie in the three sudden-death holes.

In a little less than a year from now, we’ll probably be reporting on his performance at the Tour Championship, but for now, nobody is higher in the FedExCup Standings than the 30-year-old Oklahoma State product, who impressively birdied five-straight holes to notch his first career victory on the most prestigious circuit in the golf world.

FINAL TOP 10

1. Kevin Tway -15
2. Ryan Moore -14
2. Brandt Snedeker -14
4. Luke List -13
4. Troy Merritt -13
4. Sam Ryder -13
4. Aaron Baddeley -13
4. Sungjam Im -13
9. J.B. Holmes -12
10. Danny Lee -10
10. Jim Knous -10
10. Chase Wright -10
10. Bill Haas -10

OTHER NOTABLES

14. Harold Varner III -9
17. Patrick Cantlay -8
17. Phil Mickelson -8
33. Chez Reavie -6
41. Emiliano Grillo -5
41. Fred Couples -5
46. Bud Cauley -4
53. Brendan Steele -3
53. Jhonattan Vegas -3


HOW KEVIN TWAY WON THE SAFEWAY OPEN

Kevin Tway started the final day of the PGA Tour’s first event in second place, but despite three top 10s last season, Kevin was still an afterthought, with nine-time PGA Tour winner Brandt Snedeker ahead of him.

Kevin Tway Wins Safeway Open
Kevin Tway plays a shot from the first tee during the final round of the Safeway Open at the North Course of the Silverado Resort on Oct. 7, 2018 in Napa, Calif. Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Beginning the final day three strokes back of Snedeker, Tway fell even further back after bogeys on hole Nos. 2 and 4, and it looked like his first victory would take even longer than he’d hoped.

But then Snedeker, who shot a first round 59 in his August victory at the Wyndham Championship, finally showed signs of mortality, with bogeys on Nos. 10, 11, and 12 to bring several players back into the chase.

Ryan Moore was seven strokes behind to start the final day, but a 5-under 67 was enough to force a three-way playoff.

The former amateur superstar at UNLV was something of a favorite going into extra holes, as he’d birdied three of his final four holes in regulation.

In overtime, however, Snedeker was eliminated after a par on the first hole, as Moore and Tway posted matching birdies. Both of the survivors also carded birdies on the second extra hole, with both setting up birdie attempts on the third as well.

Moore’s was from 60 yards away, a putt he was less than two feet away from actually holing, before Tway sunk his from roughly half the distance.

For the week, Tway played the final three holes at Silverado in 8-under par. He was third in the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green and tied for the field lead in scrambling.


WHAT IT MEANS FOR KEVIN TWAY

Tway has been notoriously streaky in the past, contending a number of times over the past two seasons, but never quite being able to close the deal. Now that he has finished one of these tournaments off, the sky could be the limit who won the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur.

Kevin Tway Wins Safeway Open
Kevin Tway poses with the trophy after winning the Safeway Open in a playoff at the North Course of the Silverado Resort Oct. 7, 2018 in Napa, Calif. Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

In 2017, Tway played well enough to make the Dell Technologies Championship, the second round of the FedExCup Playoffs. He had made 13 of his final 14 cuts, and posted all three of his top tens after the beginning of May. His best work had been off the tees, finishing 2018 at 13th in driving distance and 50th in strokes gained: off-the-tee.

In consecutive years, Tway had posted finishes inside the top 10 in three of five or fewer events. Now that he has shown the ability to finish at event off, it would not be shocking to see him in the winner’s circle with much more frequency.

For the win, Tway earned $1,152,000 and 500 FedExCup points. He also scored 28 world-ranking points, which will move him to No. 85 in the world – the first time he’s cracked the top 100 in his career.

Additionally, the win provides Tway with the security of a two-year PGA Tour exemption – through the 2021 season, as well as invites to the more exclusive events, including a trip to Kapalua in January for the 2019 Tournament of Champions.


SUNDAY STARS

Tway’s fourth-round 71 was his worst round of the week by three strokes, so it should not be surprising to hear that there were quite a few players to perform better on Sunday.

Ryan Moore
Ryan Moore hits a shot from the first tee during the final round of the Safeway Open at the North Course of the Silverado Resort on Oct. 7, 2018 in Napa, Calif. Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Moore’s final-round 67 was the co-lowest round of the final day, as he vaulted from ninth to first through 72 holes. The 36-year-old’s worst hole was a bogey on the first, and he was nearly perfect from then on. Moore was exceptionally accurate for the week, finishing first in driving accuracy, and finished T2 in greens in regulation. He also gained nearly six strokes on the field putting.

Tying Moore on Sunday however, was bomber Luke List, who shot his best round of the week in moving from 15th to just one stroke off the lead. List was especially strong down the stretch, posting birdies on 14 and 16, and then notching an eagle-3 on the 18th. List is still looking for his first career victory, but did manage five top 10s in 2018, including a best of second place, when Justin Thomas barely got the best of him at a Honda Classic playoff.

Troy Merritt won an opposite-field event late in the year, but with a blistering finish, he came within a stroke of career victory No. 3.

The 32-year-old had struggled mid-round on Saturday, but with Sunday birdies on 13, 15, 16, 17, and 18, he was just a stroke out of the three-man playoff. Merritt had the second most birdies of anyone in the field for the week.


SUNDAY STUMBLES

Snedeker had the most significant fall of the final day, posting four back nine bogeys in a 2-over 74, but several other players saw a further drop on the final leaderboard.

Brandt Snedeker Safeway Open
Brandt Snedeker prior to his second shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the Safeway Open at the North Course of the Silverado Resort on Oct. 7, 2018 in Napa, Calif. Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

One of those was 59-year-old, 15 time PGA Tour winner Fred Couples, who posted a final-round 3-over 75.

Couples bogeyed the first four holes of his final round, and two late birdies was not enough to get him higher than a tie for 41st place.

Also dropping 26 spots down Sunday’s leaderboard was J.J. Spaun, who could not shake four front-nine bogeys while attempting to score his first victory. The 28-year-old product of San Diego State University was only able to card two birdies in his final round.

The worst Sunday came from a bomber, Brandon Harkins, who shot an embarrassing 11-over 83 to land in the worst position (74th) among those who made the cut. Harkins failed to card a single Sunday birdie, and hit just two of 14 fairways.


QUOTABLE

“I think he’s probably crying, to be honest, he’s pretty proud of me. It has been a long road, but this is why you work hard, right here.”
-Kevin Tway, Safeway Open Champion


FINAL SCOREBOARD: SCORES, EARNINGS, POINTS

Joel Cook

Joel Cook is Pro Golf Weekly's Lead Writer. He is a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America.

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