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Knapp Notches 1st Career Win, Tavatanakit wins in Thailand | The Sunday Swing

Knapp Notches 1st Career Win, Tavatanakit wins in Thailand | The Sunday Swing

Knapp Notches 1st Career Win, Tavatanakit wins in Thailand | The Sunday Swing

February 26, 2024

The Sunday Swing 
February 25th, 2024 

Welcome back to another edition of the Sunday Swing presented by 2nd Swing Golf. This week in the world of golf, the PGA Tour traveled south of the border for the Mexico Open at Vidanta, and the LPGA Tour was in Thailand for the Honda LPGA Thailand.

Mexico Open - Tournament History 

While the Mexico Open has been around since 1944, it only just became an official PGA Tour event in 2022 when the first edition was played at Vidanta. With one of the smaller purses on tour, you’d expect the tournament's winners to potentially be less than “A-listers”, which has not been the case however. The first edition was won by Jon Rahm (over Tony Finau), and last year's edition was won by Tony Finau (over Jon Rahm). The duo were by far the biggest names to compete in Mexico the first two years, and they delivered each with a victory and a runner-up. Designed by Greg Norman, Vidanta Vallarta measures about 7,300 yards and plays as a par-71. The course features a lot of water hazards, but has plenty of birdie chances with four par-5’s and a driveable par-4, the 7th hole which played as the easiest par-4 on tour last season. Tony Finau headlined the field this season as the defending champion, and lots of young, inexperienced players hoped to dethrone him this week with a breakthrough victory. 

The Big Swing 

This week the Big Swing belongs to 29-year-old PGA Tour rookie Jake Knapp. Knapp, who played his college golf at UCLA, earned his way on tour this year after spending four years on the PGA Tour Canada, then two more years on the Korn Ferry Tour. He even worked as a bouncer at a nightclub because he needed time to practice during the day. Knapp is a name not many have heard prior to this season, but he has been showing up on leaderboards early in the season this year. Finishing T3 at the Farmers Insurance Open and T28 at the Phoenix Open, Knapp has been trending in the right direction. Averaging over 300 yards off the tee, Knapp bombs it but makes it look almost effortless due to the smooth nature of his long sweeping swing. 

Knapp opened the week with rounds of 67 and 64, putting himself in great position heading into the weekend. Another rookie playing well was Sami Valimaki, who was hoping to become the first player from Finland to win on the PGA Tour. Tony Finau, the defending champion, found himself lost in the middle of the pack, unable to show any consistency throughout the first couple rounds. 

Saturday’s third round is when Knapp took over the tournament. He opened his round with birdies at Nos. 1 and 2 before continuing the momentum with birdies on holes 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9 to card a front nine course-record of 28. The back nine included a few hiccups – four birdies and three bogeys in total. But when it was all said and done, Knapp had shot eight-under-par 63 to grab a four-shot lead over Valimaki heading into Sunday. 

Sunday was a different story entirely for Knapp. Nerves had set in, and it showed off the tee. After leading the field in strokes gained off the tee the first three rounds, Knapp only hit two fairways the entire final round. 

Bogeys at Nos. 1 and 3 opened the door for Valimaki to make a charge, which is exactly what he did, making birdie at No. 4 and driving it to six feet from the cup on the par-4 7th hole to convert an eagle. Suddenly, Knapp and Valimaki were tied. 

The pair remained tied, exchanging pars, for a few holes until Valimaki made bogeys at 10 and 13. Knapp continued to keep making pars, clinging to his lead as the day went on despite wayward tee shots. 

After making birdie at the par-5 14th, Knapp’s lead again grew to two, and the tournament was in his grasp with just four to play. Each of the players would par the remaining four holes, giving Knapp a two-shot victory for his first win on the PGA Tour.

Winner’s Bag - Jake Knapp

PGA Tour rookie Jake Knapp picked up his first victory on Tour Sunday thanks to a very mixed and unique setup in his bag. Starting at the top, Knapp games last year's generation PING G425 LST driver (9 degrees). Knapp doesn’t carry a fairway wood per say, instead he carries a TaylorMade BRNR mini driver (13.5 degrees), giving him the ability to reach long par-5’s in two while the average length hitters cannot. He also carries a Srixon ZU85 2-iron, which can be used off the tee or in the fairway on longer holes. Knapp also plays the PXG 0211 ST irons, one of the few players on Tour to play their equipment. Around the greens, he carries one PXG 0311 Sugar Daddy wedge (52 degrees), along with a pair of Titleist wedges including a Vokey SM9 (56 degrees) and a WedgeWorks lob wedge (60 degrees). It is worth noting that Knapp plays the Titleist Pro V1 left dot, a lower launching, lower spinning ball for players with extreme speed.

In the World of Women’s Golf 

This week the LPGA Tour was back in action in Thailand for the Honda LPGA Thailand at the Siam Country Club Old Course. For Patty Tavatanakit, 24-year-old major champ from Thailand, it felt like a home game with the crowds behind her the entire tournament. 

Tavatanakit was able to pick up just her second victory on the LPGA Tour, but it didn’t come easy. She played excellent golf the first three days, opening up a three-shot lead heading into the final round. But during the final round, 26-year-old Swede Albane Valenzuela surged up the leaderboard and challenged Tavatanakit. 

Valenzuela opened her Sunday with a 3-under front nine that featured an eagle at the par-4 5th. As she made the turn, she caught fire- making birdies at 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 18 to card a back nine 30 and a final round 63. It was good enough to grab hold of the lead for a while, forcing Tavatanakit to make some birdies coming in to get back to the top of the leaderboard. 

After a bogey at the 15th that dropped her back to 19-under, Tavatanakit found herself trailing by one with Valenzuela in the clubhouse ahead of her at -20. She made a clutch birdie at the par-3 16th and a solid par at 17 that put her tied at the top entering the final hole, a short par 5.

Tavatanakit split the fairway at the 18th, and left herself in an ideal spot in two after her 6-iron came up just short of the green. She was able to hit a beautiful pitch up to about a foot and tap it in for her first win since 2021, and second on the LPGA Tour.