RBC Heritage

Satoshi Kodaira wins 50th RBC Heritage in sudden-death playoff

Satoshi Kodaira reacts as his tournament-winning putt drops into the hole on No. 17 during the final round of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing golf tournament on Sunday at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C. The putt, on the third playoff hole with Si Woo Kim, delivered the tournament championship to Kodaira.
Satoshi Kodaira reacts as his tournament-winning putt drops into the hole on No. 17 during the final round of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing golf tournament on Sunday at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C. The putt, on the third playoff hole with Si Woo Kim, delivered the tournament championship to Kodaira. jkarr@islandpacket.com

Satoshi Kodaira worked under a tight deadline on Sunday afternoon.

The weather radar showed a line of storms along the interstate just outside Hilton Head Island as the final round of the 50th RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing went to extra holes. Kodaira had finished early and sat in a rocking chair to wait and see if his round was good enough.

Then he rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 17, the third sudden-death playoff hole, to beat the weather and Si Woo Kim at Harbour Town Golf Links.

"I hit it exactly where I aimed and it rolled in beautifully, exactly where I aimed," Kodaira said.

Kodaira's 5-under-par 66 in breezy conditions was good enough to overtake Kim, who missed several chances to close a third PGA Tour victory down the stretch. Kim missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to slip into the playoff.

After twice playing 18, Kodaira finished Kim on the par-3 17th.

"I didn't have the momentum going obviously on the final hole in regulation," said Kim, who made bogey on 17 before missing the birdie to win in regulation. "I missed a short one. But I give props to my opponent, he made a great putt on the last one."

The victory was the Japanese professional's first on the PGA Tour and earned him $1.2 million and membership on the U.S. circuit. He earned the RBC Heritage invitation as one of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking — he was No. 46 to start the week.

Kodaira tried Web.com Tour Qualifying School in 2014, winning an early stage. He also made the cut in his debut at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in 2017 and has won seven times on the Japan Tour.

But he had not secured PGA Tour status until Sunday.

With the time difference, it was the middle of the night in Japan when Kodaira's final putt fell. The calls and texts from home would probably come after everyone wakes up, he said.

Kodaira outlasted Kim, who has two victories the past two years, and a field that included World. No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Johnson finished 7 under in his first appearance at Harbour Town Golf Links since 2009. He plans to return next year.

Ian Poulter, who led after 54 holes and was trying to win his second tournament this month, faded on the back nine to shoot 4-over 75. Kodaira started the day six shots back, the sixth consecutive year someone has come from more than three shots behind to win on the final day.

Luke List also struggled on the way in but still had a chance to reach the playoff. He missed a 10-foot birdie putt on 18 to keep him out of the playoff.

The final round finished early ahead of anticipated storms Sunday afternoon. Players played in groups of three and started on Nos. 1 and 10 to ensure a Sunday finish.

Kodaira said he was just trying to play well enough to finish in the top 10 and earn another PGA Tour start next week. Harbour Town's tree-lined fairways and small greens reminded him of the course he grew up playing, he said.

Kodaira has followed the progress of countryman Hideki Matsuyama, who has five PGA Tour victories and is No. 8 in the world. He said he wants to model Matsuyama's course management and the way he prepares for major championships.

Kodaira fired a 63 in Round 2 after a slow start to the tournament and was only two shots back by the time he finished off his 66 Sunday.

He waited from a chair near the Harbour Town clubhouse. And when Kim's lead was only 1, Kodaira headed to the driving range to warm up for a possible playoff.

Kodaira and Kim played 18 twice before the playoff backed up to 17. The champion received the winner's traditional plaid jacket in a ceremony with Gov. Henry McMaster in the clubhouse ballroom to avoid the rain.

"I will probably not wear it every day," he said later. "But it is special."

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