For a while there on Sunday, with Robert Karlsson in the lead and followed in various degrees of closeness by Justin Leonard, Rory Sabbatini and Robert Allenby, among other veterans, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba was on the verge of partying like it was 2008. But when the dust settled, and after the rain finally stopped on the eastern tip of Mexico, a fast-rising young gun was the last hombre standing.
Harris English made a methodical charge through the El Camaleon Golf Club course in Playa del Carmen on Sunday to become a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. The only under-25 golfer with more Tour victories is Rory McIlroy.
English had followed his career-low-tying 62 in the second round with an agonizing Saturday - losing a share of the lead may have been only the second worst thing that happened to him all day, as his beloved Georgia Bulldogs were stunned by Auburn's miracle last-minute win. He shot 65 on Sunday to win by four strokes over Brian Stuard.
After this, the final event in the 2013 portion of the 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule, English has positioned himself as an emerging star with significant fantasy value. He's won twice in five months, taking the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. And, while neither of his wins came in a top-flight tournament, he finished 19th in the FedEx Cup standings last season before faltering in the playoffs to miss the Tour Championship by one spot. English was 14th on Tour in strokes gained-putting in 2013. He won't turn 25 until the Open Championship next summer.
By then the Georgia native will have played in his first Masters; he is 3-for-3 so far in major cuts made, the last two Open Championships and the 2013 PGA Championship. Sunday's win also qualified him for next year's PGA and vaulted him to 54th in the world.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Karlsson, trying to regain his Tour card after beginning the week at No. 287 in the world, led for much of the tournament, and he completed the rain-delayed third round Sunday morning with a one-shot edge over English, Sabbatini and Kevin Stadler. He seemingly was en route to victory, having chipped in for eagle on No. 5 and for birdie on No. 8. He made the turn with the same one-stroke lead he began the final round with but collapsed amid a bogey-bogey-double stretch early on the back nine. Conversely, it was English who maintained his poise, following a bogey on No. 2 with seven birdies on his next 11 holes, cruising home with pars on the final five holes.
"I was a lot more comfortable out there than I was at Memphis," English told reporters. And look out: He'll be even more comfortable the next time he's in position to win.
It surely was a disappointing ending for the 44-year-old Swede, as he fell to a tie for sixth. But combined with a top-10 last week in the McGladrey Classic - his path to enter the Mayakoba field - maybe Karlsson has a bit more in the tank for 2014.
In his second full season on the PGA Tour in 2013, Stuard finished a respectable 78th in the FedEx Cup standings. With a solo second place to English on Sunday, he equaled his career-high finish, also achieved at Mayakoba, in 2010. He had three top-six efforts last season, but whether the 30-year-old is ready to take the next step in his career is debatable.
It's "only" the fall season, but what to make of Bohn? He added a T3 on Sunday to go with a T2 last month in the Shriners and finds himself seventh in the FedEx Cup standings entering the end-of-year break. Going back to last season, with a T2 in the RBC Canadian Open, Bohn has three top-3s in his last seven events (and aT9 the week before that). He hasn't been able to come close to recreating his 33rd-place FedEx Cup standing in 2010, but Bohn's recent stretch, even though it's a small sample size and not in big-time tournaments, warrants keeping an eye on him. And maybe taking a flier on him in your draft.
Stroud is coming off by far his best PGA Tour season, winding up 47th in the FedEx Cup standings. He's started this season with a pair of T3s in four events, including every round in the 60s at Mayakoba, so maybe 2013 was harbinger for the 30-year-old. He had four top-10s last year, losing in a playoff at the Travelers to sentimental choice Ken Duke after hitting one of the shots of the year, chipping in from 51 feet for birdie on the 72nd hole.
Sabbatini started the final round tied for second place but followed an opening bogey with a double on No. 5 to effectively end his chances, despite birdieing six of the next nine holes. He wound up T3. Sabbatini hasn't won since the 2011 Honda and, while he can occasionally contend - five top-10 checks last season - he no longer is consistent enough to be a major factor, either in real or fantasy golf.
Leonard birdied four of five holes on a front-nine stretch on Sunday to get within two. His round stalled, however, with only two more birdies (and a bogey) the rest of the way. Still, it was a very impressive T6 finish for the 12-time champion who is winless since 2008 (don't feel bad for him; he's made $32 mil in his career).
For the second week in a row, Stadler entered the final round in contention, only to implode. He shot one of the worst rounds in the field on Sunday, a 74, to drop from T2 to T12. Last week at the McGladrey, same thing: He began the final round in third place and finished T10. Nothing rankles a fantasy owner more than the inability of one of his golfers to close. Stadler is now winless in 237 career PGA Tour starts. On the other hand, he has three top-20 finishes in four events so far.
Allenby acquitted himself nicely as he returned to the scene of perhaps the most painful moment of his career. At the 2012 Mayakoba, he lost a two-stroke lead on the 72nd hole and dropped an eternal, eight-hole playoff to rookie John Huh. But he was in contention on the back nine on Sunday until bogeying three of the final four holes to finish T16.