Hilton Head Island, S.C. — Early on, Satoshi Kodaira was thinking only of playing well enough Sunday to make it to next week’s PGA Tour stop.
Those worries are over for Kodaira, a 28-year-old from Japan, who rallied from six shots behind to win the RBC Heritage in a playoff and gain an invitation to join the tour as a regular.
“This is a stage I’ve been dreaming about,” Kodaira said through an interpreter. “And having this opportunity to play full time is a dream come true. So, of course, I will accept full-time membership.”
Kodaira defeated Si Woo Kim on the third playoff hole, rolling in a 25-foot birdie on the par-3 17th hole, then punching his fist in celebration. It ended a drama-filled final round in which it appeared that Kim, Ian Poulter and Luke List had the lock on the title at different points.
But it was Kodaira’s relentless grind to the top that won the day. And with the game he showed at Harbour Town Golf Links, Kodaira appears like he’s got more big moments on Tour ahead like countryman and five-time Tour winner Hideki Matsuyama.
“I feel like I’m getting closer to that level,” said Kodaira, who is ranked 46th in the world and has played in 15 Tour events. “I’d like to do my best in major championships and, hopefully, work hard at it.”
Bryson DeChambeau (66) and List (72) were tied for third. Third-round leader Poulter’s bid for a second tour title in three weeks ended with a 75 and a tie for seventh.
Starting times for the final round were moved up because of a forecast for bad weather.
Kodaira won $1.206 million. He’ll be exempt on the PGA Tour through the 2019-20 season.
The tournament appeared in steady hands with Kim, whose bulldog focus and shot-making held everyone off to win The Players Championship last May. But the 22-year-old from South Korea faltered over his final nine holes of regulation, with three bogeys to fall into the tie with Kodaira.
Kim had the chance to win in regulation but missed a six-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. Kodaira said that was the most nervous he was during his wait of about an hour before the playoff.
Kodaira might have had a few butterflies on the final playoff hole as Kim had a 21-foot birdie try to extend things, but he came up short.
Dustin Johnson finished with his best round of the week, a 67, and tied for 16th, ensuring that he will stay at No. 1 in the world for at least the next two weeks.
Brian Stuard of Jackson finished in a tie for 67th, finishing at 2-over 286.
Storms forecast for late Sunday afternoon and early evening forced the PGA Tour to move up start times to 7 a.m., with the leaders going off about two hours later. The weather, while overcast and windy at times, remained calm enough to get in the final round without disruption.
Jon Rahm closed with a 5-under 67 to win the Spanish Open for his first victory on home soil (Madrid).
Rahm won for the third time on the European Tour, and fifth time overall. Rahm finished at 20-under 268 at Centro Nacional de Golf for a two-shot victory over Paul Dunne of Ireland.
Brooke Henderson closed with a 3-under 69 in blustery conditions at Ko Olina for a four-shot victory Saturday in the Lotte Championship in Kapolei, Hawaii. With her sixth career victory, the 20-year-year-old Henderson moved within two victories of Sandra Post’s record for most LPGA Tour victories by a Canadian.
Steve Flesch had to play 38 holes in one day to win his first Champions Title.
The Mitsubishi Electric Classic in Duluth, Ga., decided to play 36 holes on Saturday because of rain and lightning in the forecast. Flesch shot rounds of 71-68 to join a three-man playoff that included Bernhard Langer and Scott Parel. They finished at 11-under 205.