Lee Hodges promised to stay aggressive in the final round of the 3M Open despite holding a five-stroke 54-hole lead. He was good for his word. Thanks to a pair of eagles, Hodges weathered a wobbly putter down the stretch to finish off a wire-to-wire victory for his maiden PGA Tour title.

Showing few signs of nerves until the final few holes on a sunny afternoon in Blaine, Minnesota, Hodges set the tournament record with a 24-under 260 total at TPC Twin Cities to win by a deceptive seven strokes. The 28-year-old from Alabama, who had entered the week 74th in the FedEx Cup standings and was simply hoping to improve his chances of moving into the top 70 for a playoff berth, instead catapulted himself 41 spots to 33rd with one event remaining in the regular season.

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With a final-round 67, capped by a tap-in birdie on the 72nd hole, Hodges earned $US1.404 million to become the 11th first-time winner in the 2022-2023 tour season and third in as many weeks. He also earned invitations to next year’s Masters, PGA Championship and the Players Championship.

“This has been a dream week,” Hodges said after becoming the first wire-to-wire winner in the tournament’s five-year history.

The second-year tour member appeared to have cemented his victory with an 11-foot eagle putt at the par-5 sixth hole, extending his advantage over his nearest pursuer, J.T. Poston, to seven strokes. A second eagle at the par-5 12th, after his 234-metre approach settled three feet from the cup, seemed to ice things, but Hodges three-putted the 15th and 17th holes for bogeys to give Poston a sliver of hope as the lead dwindled to three.

However, Poston, after driving to the edge of the water at the par-5 18th and leaving himself a tricky lie with the ball below his feet, came up short of the green on his approach from 200 metres, his ball ricocheting off the rocks and into the water. Hodges, no doubt breathing easier, stumped his approach from 105 metres to 16 inches for a closing birdie.

Poston proceeded to endure a nightmare finish. After laying up with his fourth shot, he came up short-left of the green with his fifth and then needed three more strokes, all with his putter, to find the hole. His triple-bogey 8 dropped him into a tie for second place at 17-under 267, costing him $US260,000 (the difference between outright second and a three-way tie). He closed with a 69.

Martin Laird and Kevin Streelman were the beneficiaries of Poston’s stumble to gain a share of second. Laird fired a 64 while Streelman had a 66. Defending champion Tony Finau, who began the day six behind Hodges, ended up T-7 at 15-under 269 alongside Aaron Baddeley, the best of the Australians.