[PHOTO: Michael Reaves]

In the wake of his first PGA Tour victory since the Barbasol Championship in 2017, Grayson Murray’s words to Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis made it clear just how low he had been in the difficult intervening years

“It’s not easy,” he said, his voice quivering with emotion. “I wanted to give up a lot of times. Give up on myself. Give up on the game of golf. Give up on life, at times.”

Murray has been open about his battles with demons ranging from anxiety to depression to alcoholism, and how they contributed to a six-year drought in which he admitted to putting his loved ones “through hell and back”. His big breakthrough came last year, with two victories on the Korn Ferry Tour, and now, after an improbable 38-foot putt on the first playoff hole at the Sony Open in Hawaii, he can add a PGA Tour win to his remarkable comeback story.

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Murray, who turned 30 this past October, came into the final round tied for the lead with Keegan Bradley at 14-under. After a 63 in the second round and a 64 in the third, Murray cooled off on the front nine today, making eight straight pars to start his day before finally finding birdies on the 10th and 11th holes.

Meanwhile, Bradley had struggles of his own, and that opened the door for players like J.T. Poston, Russell Henley, Carl Yuan and Byeong Hun An to charge up the leaderboard. Poston had the day’s best round with a 61, finishing at 15-under, but it was An who managed to reach the leaders by round’s end, a birdie on 18 tying him with Bradley at 17-under. Murray came to the 18th hole needing a birdie to tie An, and a bit of help from Bradley on the relatively easy par 5. Both players hit errant drives to the right, but a brilliant 70-metre pitch from Murray stopped two feet from the hole, and when Bradley missed his 23-footer to win the tournament, it set up a three-man playoff.

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The trio returned to 18, where once again Murray missed his drive – this time to the left. When both An and Bradley found the fairway, he seemed to be in an impossible situation, and nothing much had changed two shots later, when he had 38 feet left for his birdie while Bradley had just 17 feet and An seemed to hold the tournament in his hands four feet from the hole. But in a classic playoff reversal, Murray went first and pulled off what might end up being the putt of the year, even though it’s still only January:

When Bradley missed his birdie, and An improbably did the same, Murray was the shocking winner. As the crowd gasped at An’s miss from four feet, Murray embraced his caddie Jay Green and buried his face in his shoulder. (An said about the short miss: “It’s a shame it ended that way. It hurts, but what are you going to do?”)

Along with the usual exemptions, Murray will play in the Players Championship, and he’ll make his first appearance at Augusta National in April. Seconds after the winning putt went down, he reflected on what it had taken to arrive at that moment, and to put a cap on a career comeback that was years of struggle in the making.

The clubs Grayson Murray used to win the 2024 Sony Open in Hawaii

“When you get tired of fighting, let someone else fight for you,” Murray told Lewis. He gave credit to Jesus and his fiancée for changing his life, and despite knowing how important the victory was for his path in golf, he kept it in perspective. “I hope everyone at home watching can get a little inspiration from it. If I can just help one person, that’s all it takes… I knew today was not going to change my life, but it did change my career, and I’m excited.”