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Austin Eckroat Turns into Fourth First-Time Winner on the 2024 Cognizant Basic

Austin Eckroat Turns into Fourth First-Time Winner on the 2024 Cognizant Basic

Just nine events into the 2024 season, it has become clear that this year is to be a celebration of first-time winners on the PGA tour. The latest winner: Austin Eckroat, whose win at the 2024 Cognizant Classic on March 4 has made him the fourth first-time winner of the year.

This past Monday saw Eckroat putting a grudge to rest, which had been in place since his college days at Oklahoma State University. A past failure to clinch the win at a 2019 event has haunted the 25-year-old golfer for five years. To this end, Eckroat turned professional in 2021, remarking that he did it “just to win on the PGA Tour”.

Austin Eckroat wins the 2024 Cognizant Classic

Sleeping over the lead after the week spilt over for a Monday finish in the aftermath of a torrential Sunday at the PGA National Resort, Eckroat handled himself well despite “shaking in the boots”. On his heels were Erik van Rooyen, Min Woo Lee, Jake Knapp, and KH Lee, all winners on Tour; however, Eckroat proved to be uncatchable in his path to victory. With his final round spread over two days, Eckroat made it a mission to keep both mind and body in optimum form. His efforts proved effective; his 4-under 67 for the three-shot win at 17-under 267 (65, 67, 68, 67) was proof that he was worthy of his eventual win.

“I kept telling myself, ‘I’ve put myself in this position for a reason… This is what I want to do,” said the champion. Frequent glances at the leaderboard served as reminders that he wasn’t safe, giving him the necessary encouragement to pull away in the closing stretch with three birdies against the lone bogey.

Learning from experience

As good of a story as it is, Eckroat’s burning desire to end his winless streak was not the only element in play. The golfer’s relentless pursuit of redemption was not without method, and he took to learning from his past to propel himself to victory.

Last year’s AT&T Byron Nelson was a vital stopover, providing a particular lesson in the form of a near-victory. Eckroat had almost won the event; however, Jason Day pipped him to the post in a come-from-behind win.

“I didn’t come on top but it told me I can handle the situation,” Eckroat had said after claiming his career’s second 54-hole lead earlier in the week. Up against a quality field on a golf course notorious for wiping out leads in no time at all, Eckroat drew wisdom from his past experience, and attributed his performance to his ball striking.

“From tee to green I was able to stay out of trouble, and that’s the hard part about this golf course. There’s so much trouble, you’re bound to make a double. You’re bound to hit a ball in the water and have a disaster on a hole, but I avoided that all week,” he said.

Having experienced the pain of finishing second, Eckroat’s emotions were dulled when he eventually rolled in the final putt at the PGA National Resort. “I knew finishing second was heartbreaking. I still don’t think I’m sure how I feel yet. I know I’m excited.”

A change in schedules

With Nick Dunlap, Matthieu Pavon, and Jake Knapp all reworking their schedules to accommodate their status as first-time winners, Eckroat, likewise, is set to follow in their footsteps. Last season, Eckroat had endured the challenges of trying to get into limited-field elevated events; now, he is set to play in the current season’s remaining Signature events on Tour, The Masters, and PGA Championship.

This is the time for thanksgiving, and Eckroat acknowledged the hand that shaped his golf swing — his father. “He (father) is the one who got me involved in the game. He’s been my swing instructor since. I’m the second most excited person in the world right now. He’s definitely the first. It’s just been our dream, his and mine together, since I was three, playing professional golf and winning on the PGA Tour,” Eckroat shared.

Capping off a dream week

Despite his long-awaited win, Eckroat isn’t the only player on the greens who is coming to terms with the future and the job security of spending a solid week on Tour. While he has been a travelling pro since 2005, David Skinns had a career strewn with disappointments. However, that all came to a halt when he secured a T4 finish on the 2024 Cognizant Classic, an achievement that bears the hallmarks of a crowning glory.

The 42-year-old Englishman did not blame nerves for the final round 71 that left him four shots short of Eckroat at 13-under 271. Instead, he claimed that he was comfortable in the uncomfortable position of holding on when in contention, and later shared that this is something he wants to get better at.

With 32 starts on the PGA Tour, Skinns’ best show up to this point had been T29. With two assured starts at the Puerto Open and Valspar Championship this month, Skinns is keen to make the most of the space he now finds himself in. “I’ve been waiting a long time to be in this spot… I’m trying to make every moment as good as it can be,” he said.

Faith pays dividends

In 2018, Bud Cauley was engaged in some steady golf when a car accident almost cut short his dreams. With a fracture in the left leg, a collapsed right lung and six fractured ribs, Cauley had enough reasons to call time on his PGA Tour career, which he had begun in 2011. However, what prevented Cauley from walking away was the belief that he could contend again on Tour. His three year absence has been pepperd with rehabilitation and frequent visits to the hospital; however, he did not let go of hope.

Cauley’s faith was rewarded when he got the chance to test himself last month, on his return to the PGA Tour. The WM Phoenix Open tested his body, but Cauley stood the grind. On making the cut, Cauley proved his skill, earning praise from close friend and fellow pro Justin Thomas, who said he was good enough to win on Tour.

As Cauley puts it, he had found himself in a position where “you don’t have any stats to look at, you go day by day.” When he held the 36-hole lead after Day 2, he stood, vindicated. The confidence was visible in his play and choice of words. “I’ve played golf my whole life. Obviously, I’ve been out for a long time, but I feel like there are plenty of situations I can draw on in the past for this weekend that’ll make me feel comfortable.”

After that high, Cauley would have hoped for a better finish to the week than the T21 he eventually earned, but his game is trending in the right direction. “I’ve been hitting the ball solid. The short game has been sharp around here, which you need. You’re not going to hit every green but I’ve been holing a lot of nice putts, which has been a lot of help,” he said.

The Woods angle

Between the layers of some superlative performances at the 2024 Cognizant Classic lies the moving tale of 15-year-old promising golfer and his attempt to step up among the big boys of pro golf.

Bearing the surname Woods, Charlie certainly has the genes for success. Partnering with his father Tiger, Charlie has seen some strong team finishes over the past few seasons on the PNC Championship, an official father-son event on the PGA Tour. With a golf swing that led to rave reviews when the cameras first rested on him, Charlie promises to carry forward the Woods legacy, but will need to wait a while longer.

pga tour 2024 cognizant classic
Charlie Woods, son of Tiger Woods, hits a tee shot during pre-qualifying for The Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches at Lost Lake Golf Club. (Image: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Charlie teed off in the pre-qualifier for the 2024 Cognizant Classic. Sadly, he failed to progress for the Monday qualifier after shooting a 16-over 86 at the Lost Lake Golf Club, which is one of the four pre-qualifying venues.

Three weeks ago, the son and father duo pulled out of the Genesis Invitational, which would have hosted Tiger’s comeback attempt after surgery.

See Also

(Main and featured image: Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– Where is the Cognizant Classic staged?

A regular on the PGA Tour calendar since its inception in 1972, the Cognizant Classic travelled across golf courses in the US before finding a home at the PGA National Resort’s Champion Course in Palm Beach, Florida, in 2007.

– Who won the 2024 Cognizant Classic?

Austin Eckroat won the 2024 Cognizant Classic in his second season on the PGA Tour. A tied second at the 2023 AT&T Byron Nelson his best finish till now, the win at the PGA National opened many doors for 25-year-old Eckroat.

– What were Austin Eckroat’s gains after the 2024 Cognizant Classic win?

In a week that had a total prize purse of US$9 million, Austin Eckroat’s share as winner of the 2024 Cognizant Classic is US$ 1.62 million and 500 FedExCup points. As champion, he gets into the remaining Signature events of the 2024 PGA Tour season, The Masters Tournament, PGA Championship and is exempt on Tour till 2026.

– How many first-time winners has the PGA Tour witnessed in 2024?

Cognizant Classic winner Austin Eckroat became the fourth first-time winner of 2024 on the PGA Tour after rookies Nick Dunlap (The American Express), Matthieu Pavon (Farmer Insurance Open) and Jake Knapp (Mexico Open).

Source: Prestige Online

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