LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Six years ago, Lanto Griffin had less USD200 in his bank account, so he decided to caddie for his friend and fellow pro golfer Willy Wilcox.
The move paid off as the pair became a successful team and Griffin was able to replenish his savings and continue his dream of playing full-time on the PGA Tour.
Fast forward to yesterday as the 31-year-old Griffin claimed his maiden PGA title, two-putting 18 to close with a three-under 69 and win the Houston Open by one stroke.
“I just knew that even if I made bogey I would still have a job out here next year,” said Griffin, of Mount Shasta, California. “I am so proud of the way I hung in there.”
Griffin came into the fourth round with a one shot lead and made five birdies yesterday to finish with a 14-under 274.
He told his mother, Julie, that he would buy her a new car if he won this week – and after earning USD1.3 million in first-place prize money, he will make good on that promise.
“There’s too many people (to thank). My entire team,” said Griffin, who lost his father when he was 12 to brain cancer and likes to say it took an entire village to raise him.
“I learned you don’t have to win. If you put all that pressure on yourself it can backfire. Thinking like that helps me take the pressure off.”
Griffin finished one stroke ahead of Scott Harrington and Mark Hubbard, who shot 67 and 69 respectively.
China’s Zhang Xinjun and Austria’s Sepp Straka were part of a group of five who tied for fourth. Zhang shot 66, Straka a 69 to finish at 11-under along with Harris English (66), Talor Gooch (69) and Carlos Ortiz (69).
Griffin is the only player to finish in the top 20 in every PGA Tour tournament since the new season started last month and now leads the FedEx Cup standings.
Griffin, who earned a two year exemption on the Tour with his win, was forced to play on the lower Korn Ferry Tour last year in an attempt to earn his PGA card. He won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018 and 2017 but never won an event as a college player.
Yesterday, he was locked in a battle in the back nine. He drained a 33 foot birdie putt on number 16 to take the lead. He also made a par save on the 14th hole and two-putted up a ridge on 17 for another clutch par.
“I just felt calm. I don’t know why,” said Griffin of his first win.
Stewart Cink closed with a 69 to finish in a tie for ninth at 10-under 278.