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2024 PGA Tour: Peter Malnati Wins Valspar Championship, Ends 9-12 months Victory Drought

2024 PGA Tour: Peter Malnati Wins Valspar Championship, Ends 9-12 months Victory Drought

The stats were overwhelmingly against Peter Malnati at the start of the 2024 Valspar Championship. The man had not won on the PGA Tour in almost nine years — a long drought that led him to question his decision to be a professional golfer. But in a twist ending worthy of a movie script, Malnati rose to the challenge at the tournament that took place from March 21 to 24, and finally emerged triumphant.

After announcing his arrival at the 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship, Malnati kept believing that similar winning moments would dot his career regularly. Whether he was hard at practice or setting off for a tournament week, the thought of holding aloft the trophy on a Sunday is what drove him.

Like life, golf can be unpredictable and often brutal. But despite those numerous bouts of self-doubt and knocks on the golf course, his career stats are proof that sometimes it takes faith — and a little bit of luck — for things to change.

In 258 starts prior to this week, Malnati made the cut only 125 times, but never gave up. Up against fitter, better-informed youngsters knocking it off the tee, Malnati’s driving distance, which ranked him 135th on the PGA Tour, put him at a distinct disadvantage. But the man refused to dwell much on this perceived weakness.

What went through Peter Malnati’s mind at the Valspar Championship?

At 36, and with an Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) of 184, Peter Malnati’s thought process was the same as he teed off at the Valspar Championship, held at the Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course. Never mind if he had missed cut in six of his first seven starts here, and had a T60 in 2019 as his best show.

Telling himself he “would give his best on every shot”, Malnati, with a sole top-10 at the Cognizant Classic this season, got on the job. Yes, the doubts if he could win again gnawed at him, but Malnati chose to focus on his hard work on the driving range, and the efforts of his wife Alicia, who ensured all was well on the home front as the family’s hero chased his dreams in golf.

The pre-event odds at +40000, the start was far from perfect for Malnati on Thursday, with the opening five holes seeing him go over-par. But telling himself what he had repeated throughout those 3,059 winless days — “Don’t worry, you’re playing well” — Malnati finished the day with a 66. Following up with rounds of 71, 68, 67, he became only the second player in the field to finish with a double-digit under-par score.

Coming down the stretch for the final time on Sunday, Malnati found himself thinking that a victory could be on the cards for him — a thought that hadn’t crossed his mind in a long time. And this showed in some of the nervous shots he took. Malnati was negotiating the ‘Snake Pit’, the closing three holes (16th, 17th, 18th) of the Copperhead Course, where tournaments have been lost, and a steady hand was imperative.

Malnati steadied his mind, and as a result the birdie on the 17th was critical and gave him the lead. With par on the 18th, he silenced the doubt within, which had often threatened to overpower him. If he survived the phase on Sunday, it would be all thanks to his belief and Alicia’s rock-solid support.

Free-flowing emotions

At 12-under 272, Malnati scripted a two-shot win over Cameron Young (10-under 274) — finally ending his PGA win drought after nearly a decade. There were no apologies for his free-flowing tears as Malnati, clutching his son Hatcher tightly, gave an emotional victory speech.

His family was on hand to be a part of his epochal moment, and were equally overjoyed. Malnati said in the interview room later that having watched other players and their families celebrate by the 18th green over all the past years, he had always dreamt of having that same moment for himself.

“That moment of winning a tournament and having your family come out on the green and the big hugs and all that, that’s something that I’ve seen other families have and that has been my dream. There’s been a lot of stretches of golf in the last nine years when I wondered if I would ever have that experience,” he said.

“When my son Hatcher was born in 2019, I removed all my social media from my phone. So, I don’t do social media anymore and I’m a happier person because of it. Not that it’s bad, social media’s not bad, but for me, I didn’t use it particularly well because I would always read comments…it wasn’t healthy for me,” said Malnati.

‘Major’ dream comes true

As is often the case with weeks like these, Malnati’s schedule on the PGA Tour stands redrawn. An invite to The Masters is probably on the way for the first time, and the man in the floppy Titleist hat “will probably accept it” when the season’s first Major comes calling next month.

But what excites him more is teeing off at the Travelers Championship, now a Signature event with an enhanced USD 20 million prize purse. For Malnati, when the TPC River Highlands, Connecticut, throws open its gates in June, he will aim to notch his second win as a father to two doting sons.

“Everyone else is peaking for all these others (Majors), but the Travelers, that’s my Major. So now I’m in, I’m in my Major (give it’s a limited-field event now),” he gushed.

Malnati’s fondness for the venue stems from this. “I want to be a member at TPC River Highlands when I’m 75. It’s just fun to play. I love the course. I’ve always joked with Nathan (caddie) that the Travelers is my Major.

Perennial runner-up

Cameron Young was the lone name to shoot scores of 60s in all four rounds at the Copperhead Course, and yet not win. At 10-under 274 (69, 69, 68, 68,), the 26-year-old will have to bide his time for a first win on the PGA Tour.

Young’s potency on the greens can be gauged from this; even without a win he ranks No 23 in the world. The strong ranking stems from the stats since he joined the PGA Tour in 2022. In 60 starts, he has missed cut just 13 times, finished top-10 15 times, top-5 10 times, has 2 third-place finishes, and more importantly, after Sunday, March 24, has finished second-best 7 times.

It was ironic, but closing the week with a bogey perhaps was a sum-up of Young’s career of near misses. Though proud of how he held himself mentally, Young didn’t hide his disappointment when asked about his emotions on a sole second finish again. “I realised I wasn’t going to win, and now I have a four-hour drive home with a one and two-year-old, so whatever emotions are attached to that,” he said.

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Recipe for success

Carl Yuan’s tee off on Thursday coincided with his 27th birthday, and his wife Cathy sent him a message reminding him to have fun on the golf course, instead of worrying too much about the intricacies of his golf swing.

Hailing from Dalian, China, Yuan has been trying to live his PGA Tour dream since last year, but his confidence took a hit after a strong start to the 2024 season, which began with a T4 at the Sony Open. A string of missed cuts leading to the Valspar Championship wasn’t the script Yuan was looking for as he searches for that elusive win. After the T5, his second top-5 of the season, his wife’s advice to have fun on the golf course might be the recipe for success going forward.

Yuan admitted it was easier said than done. “It’s challenging out here. You see pretty much everybody go on the range, work on stuff, you see coaches out here. It’s constant for a player to strive to be a better, just a better golfer in general, so definitely on the technical side we all want to be better, be more consistent, but it may not work for everybody. Probably, particularly for me, that when I try to be too technical, like it just really takes my mind down a bad route…But I did a good job just keep myself entertained, just have fun, not making golf swings, just hitting golf shots,” he said.

(Main and featured images: PGA Tour/ Instagram)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who won the 2024 Valspar Championship?

Peter Malnati won the 2024 Valspar Championship with a two-shot margin for his second PGA Tour title.

What is special about Peter Malnati’s win?

Peter Malnati won again on the PGA Tour after a gap of 3,059 days, since his breakthrough win on the PGA Tour at the 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship. He is also set an invite to The Masters, the season’s first Major in April, for the first time.

What did Peter Malnati gain after the Valspar Championship win?

In a tournament week that offered a total prize purse of US$ 8.4 million, Peter Malnati won USD 1.512 million, 500 FedExCup points and a significant climb on the OWGR from his current rank of 184.

Source: Prestige Online

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