Nate Lashley makes PGA Tour breakthrough with huge win in Detroit
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 01/07/19 12:19am
Nate Lashley cruised to the "life-changing" victory he cherished as he completed a wire-to-wire win amid emotional scenes at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.
Lashley's overnight six-shot lead was never seriously under threat throughout the final round at Detroit Golf Club as he compiled a solid closing 70 to claim his maiden PGA Tour title with a winning score of 25 under par.
The 36-year-old also booked a place in the field for The 148th Open and will be joined at Royal Portrush by runner-up Doc Redman, with Rory Sabbatini and Wes Roach missing out by one shot.
But Lashley was the star of the show in the first PGA Tour event to be held at Detroit Golf Club, producing a remarkable display of front-running from the moment he opened with a nine-under 63 on Thursday before matching that effort on day three to establish a commanding lead.
The headlines, however, will be dominated by how he overcame huge personal tragedy early in his career, having to deal with the death of his parents and girlfriend in a plane crash as they flew home after watching Lashley compete in the 2004 NCAA West Regional tournament in Oregon.
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland
Lashley has spoken at length about how he came close to giving up the game as he toiled away on the mini Tours after turning professional in 2005, while he also worked as a real estate agent to help finance his career.
His six-shot win was all the more astonishing considering he was the last player to be added to the field this week, and he had previously recorded only one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour while being sidelined for much of the 2018 campaign by a knee injury.
Any hint of nerves on the final day were banished when Lashley rolled in a confident 15-foot putt for birdie at the opening hole, and his putter was on target again at the third to consolidate his already-healthy lead.
Lashley did falter at the sixth and again at the ninth, where he three-putted from 40 feet to offer a glimmer of hope to the chasing pack, but he steadied himself with a run of three solid pars before giving himself extra insurance with his third birdie of the day at the 13th.
And, with nobody able to apply significant pressure down the stretch, Lashley pulled off a classy up-and-down from the greenside rough at the long 17th for another birdie, and a stress-free par at the last closed out his breakthrough triumph which ensured not only a place at The Open, but also a debut at The Masters next April.
Redman won the race for second place and the other Open place on offer as he returned his third consecutive 67 to finish on 19 under par and one ahead of Sabbatini and Roach, who both produced a flurry of late birdies to fire 68s.
Patrick Reed was expected to provide the most serious challenge to the long-time leader, but the former Masters champion laboured to an erratic 70 and slipped into a share of fifth place on 17 under par.