Once just a trick-shot star, Bryan rising fast on PGA Tour

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Wesley Bryan hadn’t played in a PGA Tour sanctioned event 15 months ago. Now, he’s a tour winner.

What’s changed?

“I do not know,” Bryan said Sunday after winning his first tour title at the RBC Heritage, choosing to cite Will Ferrell’s line from the movie Anchorman: “That escalated quickly.”

Bryan got some attention for his internet trick shots, but had not done much in his mini-tour career after playing college golf at South Carolina until making the Web.com Tour and winning three times in his debut season last year. Bryan earned a promotion to the PGA Tour, and now he’s got a trophy, the first South Carolinian to win the tour’s lone stop in the Palmetto State.

“Honestly, I’ve got no idea,” Bryan said. “It’s still kind of surreal. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and kind of realize what’s gone on the last 15 months or so.”

The capper came on Sunday when Bryan rallied from four strokes down when the round began for his breakthrough victory. He used four straight birdies on the front to get in the mix, then moved to the top with a birdie on the 15th hole.

Bryan made three steady, championship two-putt pars on the way in to maintain a one-stroke lead over Luke Donald.

Bryan, 27, steadied his nerves on the 72nd hole — the iconic, 18th lighthouse hole — and tapped in the final putt for the victory.

“It’s one that I grew up dreaming on the practice green late at night when I was a kid,” Bryan recalled. “Like this putt’s to the win the Heritage. And to get it done here is one of the coolest experiences ever.”

___

Other things to take from the RBC Heritage:

MAGIC MCGIRT: William McGirt followed up a solid showing at the Masters last week with his best-ever finish at the RBC Heritage. McGirt shot four rounds in the 60s to finish at 11 under 273, two shots behind champion Wesley Bryan. Like Bryan, McGirt is a South Carolina native who grew up in Boiling Springs near Spartanburg. He was tied for 22nd in his first-ever tournament at Augusta National.

LUKE, I AM YOUR RUNNER UP: It was another close call at Harbour Town for Luke Donald, who finished runner up here for the fifth time since 2009. Throw in a pair of third place finishes and that’s seven top threes in his last nine visits here. While he’s won $3.7 million in career earnings here, Donald would desperately like to break through to victory. This time, it was Donald’s 1-over 72 on Saturday that cost him.

KUCHAR’S CHARGE: Matt Kuchar used a Sunday charge two weeks in a row to make some noise on the leaderboard. Kuchar shot a 5-under 31 on the final nine holes at Augusta National to finish in fourth at the Masters. This time, Kuchar shot a 7-under 64 as an early starter Sunday at Harbour Town to climb to 11th — an improvement of 52 positions from where he ended Saturday.

POISED YOUNGSTERS: Wesley Bryan wasn’t the only 20-something to show he’s ready to take off on the PGA Tour. Ollie Schniederjans, 23, held the lead for much of the final round and his tie for third was his best PGA Tour finish. Patrick Cantlay, 25, played Harbour Town for the first time and shot under par in all four rounds to finish alongside Schniederjans and William McGirt in a tie for third.

Bud Cauley, 27, had the tournament’s best round with his 8-under 63 on Thursday and wound up tied for ninth, his second top-10 finish this year.

POULTER CLOSES IN: England’s Ian Poulter finished tied for 11th at 8 under and earned $114,045 toward the $145,000 total he needs this week and next to earn back his playing privileges as he finishes competing on a major medical extension. Poulter is entered at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio next week.

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