The final RBC Heritage leaderboard 2018 leaderboard:
This really shouldn’t be a surprise, but it feels like one. Satoshi Kodaira is ranked inside the world’s top 50, has won seven times as a professional, and finished 28th at The Masters only last week.
Despite this, many probably haven’t heard of him. This is a player that has established himself as one of the best on the Japan Golf Tour, but has only made fleeting appearances in majors and WGC events.
In truth, when the Japanese finished up his round on Sunday, he would have probably been happy with his 66 to surge through the field, but making a playoff would’ve been at the back of his mind. He only needed a top-10 finish to get an exemption in next week’s Valero Texas Open – that was more than likely the goal at the start of the day.
But when the leader, Si Woo Kim, started to falter in the testing afternoon conditions, the probability of winning outright started to increase. The Korean had a two-shot lead at one stage, but last year’s Players champion missed putts of four, seven, five and six feet over the last four holes to finish up tied with the clubhouse leader Kodaira, sending the tournament to extra holes.
The two traded pars at the first two holes, but when Kodaira rammed in a 20-footer for birdie at the 17th – the third playoff hole – the demoralised Kim had no response.
The result? Kodaira becomes the fifth Japanese player to win on the PGA Tour, and jumps inside the top-30 in the world for the first time in his career. He also takes up full-time PGA Tour membership – this is a truly life-changing victory for the 28-year-old.