Peter Malnati wins Valspar Championship, first PGA Tour win in 8 years



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PALM HARBOR, Fla. — A year of unlikely PGA Tour winners has found its most joyful champion yet — Peter Malnati, who won the Valspar Championship on Sunday for his first PGA Tour win since 2015.

Malnati began the day two strokes back of the lead, in a mix of names vying for the trophy. After a final round 67, to finish 12-under for the week, Malnati was lifting his son Hatcher in his arms on the 18th green and tearfully sharing his story.

“That moment of winning a tournament and having your family come out onto the green, the big hugs and all of that, that’s something that I’ve seen other families have and that’s been my dream. I’ve had a lot of stretches of golf in the last nine years where I wondered if that would ever happen,” Malnati said. “I’m in peace with who I am and the way I live and the work that I put into this. If I’d never had that moment I had today I would have been completely fine. But man is that special.”

When Malnati made the turn he was firmly in the mix but it was also time to make a move, with playing partner Mackenzie Hughes atop the leaderboard for the moment. The push started on No. 10, when Malnati hit his second shot to 16 inches for a tap-in birdie. On the par-5 11th, he hit a second shot out of the pine straw low and on a line, giving him about 80 yards into the green. He hit it to four feet, for another birdie. It was another terrific second shot on 12 that got him to 15 feet for his birdie putt.

As Malnati’s ball rolled towards the cup, he closed his eyes and looked to the sky. When he finally did open them again, he expressed surprise the putt had dropped into the cup. Suddenly he was at 11-under, and had the tournament in his grasp.

“I would say from about the 13th tee in I didn’t really feel like myself,” Malnati said. “I was really amped up. I was in a state of really like heightened energy. And so I just had to keep going through my process … for the most part I was able to execute.”

Cameron Young provided drama, tying Malnati at 11-under. But the latter, playing a group behind the former, birdied No. 17 right around the same time Young’s tee shot on 18 was drifting horribly left, denying him a birdie look. He ended up three-putting for bogey and finishing solo second, still looking for his PGA Tour win.

Malnati, 36, is among the PGA Tour’s more colorful and engaging players, a heart-on-his-sleeve type that can stand out on a driving range that features plenty of disgruntled millionaires. He wears a bucket hat to honor a friend and former PGA Tour golfer, Jarrod Lyle, who died in 2018 after battling leukemia. Malnati uses a yellow ball because it was a favorite of his 4-year-old son. He responds to every fist bump and engages with fans routinely, even if he’s in contention on a Sunday for the first time in years. He used the pulpit that a win on the PGA Tour provides to speak to why events like the Valspar Championship and other non-signature events matter in a new version of the tour that often makes the case they are something less than.

Malnati has gone whole seasons without a top-10 finish since his 2015 Sanderson Farms win, and has one runner-up finish to his credit since — at the 2021 Sanderson Farms. He’s played in three majors, and never made the cut at one. He’s been a picture of the PGA Tour journeyman in now his 10th year on tour, so much so that he was elected to the PGA Tour Policy Board to represent that contingent on tour players. “The 90 percent,” as he calls it.

He was a winner again on Sunday on the PGA Tour, headed to his first Masters. He said he’s turned down every invitation he’s ever had to either attend as a fan or play at Augusta National Golf Club, waiting for an invitation from the club itself.

“I’ll probably accept that invitation,” Malnati said. “Which would be really, you know, the realization of another childhood dream to me.”

(Photo: Julio Aguilar / Getty Images)





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