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PGA TOUR: Stroud came oh-so-close to second PGA win

Deuces were wild for Chris Stroud late Sunday afternoon in the Dominican Republic but Graeme McDowell still managed to wind up with the winning hand.
With two holes to play in the PGA Tour Corales Golf Club Puntancana Resort and Club Championship, Stroud needed two pars to win his second PGA Tour event and earn a two-year exemption. Unfortunately, he made two bogeys and had to settled for a tie for second.
McDowell closed birdie-bogey to finish at 271. Stroud shot 69 for 272 and wound up sharing second place with Mackenzie Hughes. The upside was a leap from 110 to 73 in Fed Ex points, a check for $264,000 and optimism that his third top 10 of the season portends good things for the rest of the season.
The downside is likely being haunted by the two-year exemption that got away. Though he’s moved way up in Fed Ex points, the Port Neches-Groves ex must still finish in the top 125 to keep his playing card for next year.
Stroud played some amazing golf to hang with and eventually overtake McDowell during the final round. Trailing by one to start the day, he refused to go away, despite a birdie-birdie start by McDowell that was followed by two more birdies on the sixth and seventh holes.
Unfazed, Stroud answered with four consecutive birdies from the fourth through the seventh holes to remain one back. It stayed that way until the PN-G ex rolled in back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 to seize his first lead, a lead that nearly became two shots when his birdie bid on 16 stopped inches short of the cup.
McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion but winless since 2015, tipped his cap to Stroud at the end.
“Chris Stroud played so well today,” said the victor. “He hung in there, he made putts. He was a tough guy to shake off.”
The tournament pretty much got away from Stroud on the par 3, 17th. He pushed his 6 iron well right of the green, left his chip 15 feet short, then two-putted for a bogey. Meanwhile, McDowell stuffed his tee shot to six feet and sank the birdie for two-stroke swing and a one-shot lead.
Neither player came close to making a par on the rugged, 501-yard, par 4, 18th that was playing uphill and into the wind. Stroud missed from 20 feet, then McDowell lagged to inches from 18 feet.
In the aftermath, Stroud said McDowell deserved to win and that he didn’t have anything close to his A game after shooting a 64 on Saturday.
“I hit the ball really poorly today and did a pretty good job of making some awesome pars and making some birdies when I had a chance,” he said. “To have a chance to win hitting it that poorly makes me feel pretty good.
“I hit a poor chip on 17 after hitting a horrendous 6-iron. That is a perfect 6-iron for me. To be honest, Graeme earned it. He hit some great shots and 17 was a perfect example.”
One he gets over the disappointment of how it ended, Stroud figures to draw considerable satisfaction from his overall play, and a winning bid that pretty much came out of the blue.
He arrived in the Dominican Republic having posted a score of 71 or higher in his previous seven rounds, with a stroke average in that stretch of 75.0. Two of his last three tourneys had been missed cuts. In the third he finished T68.
Adding to the luster of the near miss was the fact he had to overcome a triple bogey 8 on the 13th hole of the first round. After that, however, he played masterful golf until those fateful final two holes.
Stroud went 49 consecutive holes without a bogey following the triple and, over a 56-hole stretch, record 18 birdies, an eagle, 36 pars and a lone bogey.
During a Sunday round when he claimed to be hitting the ball poorly, he still made six birdies.
Next stop for Stroud is the Valero Texas Open starting Thursday in San Antonio. Fellow PN-G grad Andrew Landry is the tournament’s defending champion.