Weekly PGA Recap: Pavon Paves Path to Victory

Weekly PGA Recap: Pavon Paves Path to Victory

This article is part of our Weekly PGA Recap series.

Matthieu Pavon was a 30-year-old journeyman golfer meandering along on the DP World Tour last year sitting well outside the top 200 in the world rankings. Representing the golf hotbed of France, he had spent some seven years going nowhere fast.

He had had one top-10 in six months when he tied for sixth at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October, so it didn't even register on the golf Richter Scale. But then something far bigger happened the very next week: Facing a field that included Jon Rahm, Pavon went wire-to-wire to capture the Spanish Open for his first DP World title.

The Frenchman has not slowed down since, and on Saturday night outside San Diego, he grittily hung on to capture the Farmers Insurance Open for his life-altering first PGA Tour title. Pavon's one-stroke win over European Ryder Cupper Nicolai Hojgaard vaulted him to No. 34 in the world rankings.

It also landed him in next week's $20 million no-cut Signature event at Pebble Beach, the six remaining 2024 Signature events, all four majors this year and a PGA Tour card through the 2026 season.

"That is special," Pavon told reporters at Torrey Pines. "I can't thank the PGA Tour enough to give us the opportunity to come from Europe and compete here in America against the best players in the world. That's always been the dream for me. I got finally a shot and I took it. I mean, it's a dream come true and it's a little bit hard to believe."

Pavon ended 2023 with two more top-10s, including an impressive tie for fifth at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. His late-year burst made him one of the 10 DP World Tour players to get PGA Tour cards for the next year based on a new agreement between the two circuits. Pavon then kept it going in his first event as a PGA Tour member, tying for seventh at the Sony Open.

His rise has been nothing short of astonishing, and he's the fourth player in four PGA Tour events in 2024 to win at odds great than 100-1, though he was the shortest at 125-1. Both those first three were all birdie-fests, where almost anything can happen. Pavon gutted it out with a 13-under winning score.

Leading by two heading into the closing two holes at the brutally hard Torrey Pines South course, Pavon looked like who he always had been in missing a 5-footer for par on No. 17, cutting his lead to one. He then hit his tee ball on the par-5 18th into a fairway bunker. He barely wedged out and left himself far back in thick rough. The complete collapse, while not on the level of fellow Frenchman Jean van de Velde, appeared imminent.

But just like his career turnaround last fall, he stuck a 145-yard approach from that thick rough to inside eight feet and, with Hojgaard looking at a certain birdie, needed to drain that birdie attempt to win.

He did.

Pavon took us through his final two strokes.

"Then we see Nicolai hitting the green [in two] and my caddie was like, OK, we should probably lay up and get ourselves a wedge and kind of try to make par and get a playoff or something. I was like, listen, Woody, like the lie doesn't look too bad, I feel like I can do it. He said okay, but it's your call."

At that point in the interview, Pavon laughed, then continued.

"It's my call. And I was so pumped at that time, I know I had the energy to lift that ball up on the green. I kind of aimed to the middle of the green knowing the face would close a little bit because it's quite deep and thick. That ball came out like a butterfly and it really feed the slope on the green and left myself a nine-footer or something. That was the right time to prove I have the guts to finish that tournament and I did it so I'm so happy about that last hole."

For a tournament with hardly any big names on the top of the leaderboard, Pavon authored a big-time finish for a tournament badly needing some excitement.

He is the first player representing France to win on the PGA Tour since 1907. And even then it was at the Open Championship (Arnaud Massey).

Sacre bleu!

SUNDAY BACKSPIN

Nicolai Hojgaard
The budding star and new PGA Tour member showed he will be able to hold his own on the big circuit, not that he needed to prove anything after his strong Ryder Cup and then victory at the DP World Tour Championship. Hojgaard's solo runner-up moved him to No. 30 in the world. He had already qualified for Pebble Beach and should be in every big event this year.
 
Stephan Jaeger
Jaeger was bidding for his first win and, if not for three bogeys on the back nine, including a killer on No. 17, he might've had it. But he's clearly on the rise, having finished in the top-25 in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green on Tour last year. He's up to a career-high world ranking inside the top-70.
 
Nate Lashley
Lashley had missed his last cut on 2023 and first two of 2024, so naturally he tied for third at the Farmers. We see this periodically from Lashley and many players of his caliber – a great finish one week out of many. For the DFS and betting communities, they are impossible to time. 

Jake Knapp
Playing in just his seventh career PGA Tour event, Knapp had never finished inside the top-70. So naturally, the recent Korn Ferry grad tied for third. It was a great tournament by a guy who strung together lots of top-10s but no wins on the KF Tour last year. But Knapp was a three-time winner in Canada, with two more runners-up there. Still, we'll have to wait and see whether the nearly 30-year-old Californian can repeat his high finish from Torrey Pines.

Tony Finau
Finau was the lone top player anywhere near contention, though based on his recent play he might've been the least likely to play well this week. But he does love himself some Torrey Pines, and he tied for sixth. Whether this can shake Finau from a slumber in which he had done next to nothing since winning the Mexico Open last April, we shall see. He is too good to have played this mediocre for this long.

Kevin Yu
Yu tied for sixth a week after tying for third at the Amex, a burst that got him into Pebble Beach. That's nothing to dismiss, but the 25-year-old Arizona State alum is about to enter much tougher fields.

Xander Schauffele
Three events in 2024, three top-10s. Schauffele tied for ninth and is off to a great start to the season.

Ludvig Aberg
Aberg opened 2024 with two so-so results at the Sentry and Sony Open in Hawaii. A tougher course with an emphasis on driving figured to better suit him, and he tied for ninth.

Max Homa
Homa defended his title admirably with a quiet tie for 13th.

Will Zalatoris
Zalatoris continues to show he's rounding into past form after missing most of last year following back surgery. He tied for 13th, by far his best showing since returning to action late last year at the Hero World Challenge.

AON SWING 5

The PGA Tour wants to give lesser players a shot at the huge-money Signature Events. The Aon Swing 5 offered non-exempt golfers three tournaments – the Sony Open, American Express and Farmers – to play their way into Pebble Beach. The five with the most FedEx Cup points in those three tournaments would get in.

Those five are: Pavon; Amex winner Grayson Murray; Amex runner-up Christiaan Bezuidenhout; Kevin Yu, who finished top-6 at both the Amex and Farmers; and Stephan Jaeger, who tied for third at the Farmers. But 

The top five players not otherwise exempt at those three tournaments plus the Phoenix Open in two weeks will get into the following Signature event, the Genesis Invitational, the week after Phoenix.

Others who qualified for Pebble Beach at the last minute to fill out the 80-man field were Keith Mitchell, Alex Noren, Thomas Detry, Mark Hubbard, Erik van Rooyen, Brandon Wu, Davis Riley and S.H. Kim.

MISSED CUTS

With 156 players in the field, there were bound to be some big names missing the cut. Among them: Sungjae Im, Jason Day, Eric Cole, Gary Woodland and Daniel Berger. Im and Day MCing were a big surprise based on their Torrey Pines track record. … Cole finally had a bad week and probably needs to take a week off, though it won't come next week at Pebble Beach. … Woodland (brain surgery) and Berger (back injury) are not anywhere near their prior form. Berger tied for dead last in the field.

KORN FERRY TOUR

Aldrich Potgieter became the youngest KF winner ever, at 19 years and 4 months, in capturing a tournament in the Bahamas on Wednesday. Day had been the youngest KF winner (19 and 7). Potgieter's win came just days after 20-year-old amateur Nick Dunlap won on the PGA Tour. Potgieter is a South African who won the 2022 British Amateur. He's played in three of the four majors, making the cut at last year's U.S. Open. There's a good chance Potgieter will make the jump to the PGA Tour next year, if not sooner.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for nine years. Len is a three-time winner of the FSWA DFS Writer of the Year Award (2020, '22 and '23) and a five-time nominee (2019-23). He is also a writer and editor for MLB Advanced Media.
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