Kim hails home triumph
US Ryder Cup star Anthony Kim hailed his third win on the PGA Tour as the hardest of his career and credited his new-found patience for helping him land the Shell Houston Open title in Texas.
The 24-year-old from Los Angeles needed a first play-off hole success over Vaughn Taylor to claim victory having held a three-shot lead over the field heading into the back nine of his final round at Redstone Golf Club.
Kim had started the day in a share of the 54-hole lead with fellow American Bryce Molder at 10-under-par and was on course for victory at the 72nd hole when he missed a five-foot putt to bogey for a two-under-par 70 and allow the watching Taylor, who shot a 68, to join him in a sudden-death play-off.
Kim's wobbles were over though as he played the tricky par-four 18th to perfection while Taylor emulated his rival's play at the 72nd when he found successive rightside bunkers in his bid to avoid the left-sided lake.
Kim two-putted from 30 feet for par as Taylor failed to hole out and victory was secured to add to his wins at the Wachovia Championship and AT&T Classic in 2008.
"I only have three to choose from," Kim said with a laugh before adding: "This is definitely the hardest and most patient I've ever been.
"This is the hardest position I've been in in a golf tournament. I think I've seen every bush or tree or hazard. We were in about seven or eight hazards the first three days.
"Now, I played out of a couple of them, but that's a lot of red lines we're seeing by my golf ball.
"So I feel like this is a culmination of hard work, and the people around me have pushed me along. I feel so grateful that I've got a great team around me to make sure that I keep my head screwed on straight."
Having gained a reputation on the tour for living life to the full at the expense of golfing success, Kim said he was gratified that he had kept his cool under pressure.
"Two years ago that bag may have been in the water," Kim said with a laugh as he referred to his missed putt at the 72nd hole. "I might not have had clubs to go to the play-off.
"I feel calm out there. I feel no sense of urgency. It's something that has happened naturally and not something that's been forced.
"So I'm comfortable with how I'm playing and comfortable with who I am out there.
"I found my identity. I'm an aggressive player. There's no reason to be somebody else and fire at the middle of the green every time. I think I'm starting to learn that."
South African Charl Schwartzel fired a closing 67 to leapfrog into a tie for third place at 11 under with Canada's Graham DeLaet (68), a shot behind Kim and Taylor, while 2003 US PGA champion Shaun Micheel claimed fifth place thanks to a final-round 65.
Ireland's Padraig Harrington could not have enjoyed his Sunday at Redstone.
The three-time Major winner shot a five-over 77, a final round that included two double bogeys, four bogeys and three birdies.
That left the Dubliner at one-under for the week.
England's Lee Westwood rallied over his closing holes to engineer a tie for eighth heading into next week's Masters.
The European number one and world number four had followed rounds of 69 and 68 with a level-par 72 on Saturday, and he undid a birdie at the first with back-to-back bogeys at the third and fourth holes.
Birdies at the 12th, 14th and 15th got him to nine under and, in spite of a bogey at the 16th, Westwood hung on for his second Stateside top-10 of the year following a tie for ninth at the Honda Classic.
Justin Rose was the next best European following his third round of 70 this week, leaving the Englishman at six under for the tournament and in a tie for 14th with Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson closing at five under after a 71.
Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen was at three under after a final round of 69.
World number three Phil Mickelson had an even more erratic round than Harrington. His 71 saw three doubles bogeys and a birdie populate the first 10 holes on his card before a run of six straight birdies between 11 and 16 left him at two under for the week.
The left hander even ditched his long-term caddie Jim "Bones" McKay on his back nine but it was not as a result of his dissatisfaction.
The three-time Major winner handed the bag to Houston doctor Tom Buchholtz for three holes, the surgeon and former caddy having treated both Mickelson's wife and mother for breast cancer in the past 12 months.