Knapp Claims First PGA Tour Victory by Two Shots Over Valimaki in Mexico Open

Rookie Jake Knapp lost his four-stroke lead on the first seven holes, yet wound up winning the tournament.

The 29-year-old Knapp, of Costa Mesa and UCLA, shot even-par 71 in the final round and claimed his first PGA Tour victory by two strokes over Sami Valimaki of Finland in the 80th Mexico Open at Vidanta at Vidanta Vallarta Golf Club in Nuevo Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.

“I didn’t have my best stuff today, that’s for sure,” said Knapp, whose only three previous professional victories came on the PGA Tour Canada. “I knew I was going to be a nervous wreck. I knew it was going to be tough. I’m super pumped with how I played the finishing stretch. I just grinded it out.

“I woke up in the middle of the night and I could feel my heart racing. I was more excited to get things going. I wasn’t worried about performing, but maybe I should have been. … We talked about it last night … if the ball-striking is off, we’re going to have to trust our hands. And we did that, grinding out some pretty tough pars,

“It was great to get the win.”

Knapp, who earned exemptions into the Masters, the PGA Championship and the Players Championship, made bogeys on two of the first three holes, but none the rest of the way and made a key birdie at No. 14 while finishing with a score of 19-under-par 265.

Valimaki, who also was seeking his first PGA Tour victory, pulled even with Knapp by sinking a six-foot eagle putt on the sixth hole and they tied until he made a bogey on the 13th hole on his way to a 69.

“Maybe I needed just a couple more putts drop in,” said Valimaki, who has won seven times as a pro. “I feel like I have the game to win over here. It just wasn’t this Sunday. I mean, I was four behind, yesterday was Jake’s day and he kept it going on the back nine today, so I feel like I didn’t lose it today.

“I enjoyed the whole week and I feel like I have the game to win over here, but it just wasn’t meant to be today.”

C.T. Pan of Taiwan made three straight birdies on the back nine in a 65 and finished five shots behind in a tie for third with Stephan Jaeger of Germany, who birdied four of the first seven holes in another 65, and Justin Lower made two late birdies in a 68 and finished five shots back in a tie for third with had two late birdies in a 68.

Patrick Rodgers of Stanford had two birdies on each nine in a bogey-free 67 and wound up six back in a tie for sixth with Robert McIntyre of Scotland, who made the last of his five birdies on the final hole to cap a 69.

Carson Young holed out for an eagle from 29 feet on the last hole to complete a 66 and finished seven strokes behind in a tie for eighth with Doug Ghim, who birdied the last hole for a 67; Andrew Novak, who birdied three of the first seven holes in a second straight 69; first-round leader Erik van Rooyen of South Africa, who made a two-foot eagle putt at No. 5 in a second straight 70, and Chan Kim of South Korea, who had two birdies on each nine in a 71.

Defending champion Tony Finau, who also finished second two years ago in Mexico, birdied the last hole for a 68 to tie for 13th.

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