Peter Malnati tears up after Valspar Championship win; first PGA Tour title in 9 years

Peter Malnati tears up after Valspar Championship win; first PGA Tour title in 9 years

With his yellow golf ball and bucket hat, Peter Malnati began the day two strokes behind 54-hole leader Keith Mitchell at the Valspar Championship.

His day ended in tears, as Malnati won for the first time on the the PGA Tour since 2015. The win gives him much-needed security on the tour, and he will also receive an invitation to Augusta National for the first time.

Malnati, a current PGA Tour Policy Board member, carded a 4-under 68 on Sunday to finish at 12-under for the championship, two shots ahead of Cameron Young.

“That moment of winning a tournament and having your family come out on the green and the big hugs and all that, that’s something that I’ve seen other families have, and that has been my dream,” Malnati said after the round.

“There’s been a lot of stretches of golf in the last nine years when I wondered if I would ever have that experience. I’m at peace with who I am and the way I live and the work that I put into this. If I had never had the moment I had today, I would have been completely fine. But, man, was that special. That was so special. It felt amazing.”

Currently ranked as the 184th player in the Official World Golf Rankings, Malnati has never been higher than 143rd in his career. That will change after this week’s win, however.

Peter Malnati, PGA Tour, Valspar Championship

Peter Malnati receives the trophy from Gary Koch.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

As such, during his tenure on the board, Malnati has always advocated for the journeyman. He has also freely expressed his opinions about the PGA Tour, making headlines for whether or not LIV Golfers will receive equity as opposed to his play.

His final round on Sunday did not start spectacularly. He opened with three pars, then missed a five-footer for par at the par-3 4th. At that juncture, it looked as if his chances of winning diminished, but anything can happen on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook—widely regarded as one of the more challenging and unpredictable courses on the PGA Tour.

Two holes later, at the par-4 6th, Malnati’s chances at victory improved. He drained a 15-footer for birdie, and suddenly, he was back in the mix at 8-under.

With Mitchell stumbling in front of him, the tournament was anyone’s for the taking. But Malnati gave himself the best chance to win thanks to three straight birdies on the 10th, 11th, and 12th holes.

Like that, Malnati sat at 11-under and in the solo lead after his 15-foot birdie putt found the bottom of the cup at 12.

Minutes later, Young tied Malnati at 11-under, and it looked as if these two were destined for an iconic finish in Florida.

“I would say, from about the 13th tee and in, I didn’t really feel like myself over any shot,” Malnati said.

“I was really amped up. I was in a state of heightened energy. So I just had to keep going through my process, and I had done enough repetitions that I could go through the process properly, and for the most part, I was able to execute.”

Then, on the par-4 16th, the most challenging hole on the course, Malnati hit his second shot, which he called “nervy,” a little over the green. His ball nestled in a gnarly lie, and a bogey loomed.

But often, you need a lucky bounce or a good break to win golf tournaments.

Malnati, who has not received many throughout his PGA Tour career, got a significant break on the 16th green. His ball came to rest near a sprinkler head, and a rules official granted Malnati relief.

“I feel this is a great break.”

Here is how Peter Malnati went from a nasty lie to getting free relief and saving par on the 16th hole Sunday at the Valspar Championship:

— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) March 24, 2024

Thus, Malnati got a free drop, and with it, a much-improved lie. He calmly got up and down to remain at 11-under.

Meanwhile, Young hit a poor tee shot ahead of him on the 18th, which led to a bogey.

As such, Malnati sensed an opportunity on the 17th tee and took full advantage of it.

“I remember telling my caddie I needed to make a 2—I needed to hit it 208. And 208’s a pretty big 5-iron for me, but in the situation I was in, it was just a very normal 5-iron,” Malnati said of his thought process on 17.

“So I thought, all right, it’s a perfect 5-iron, so I don’t have to do anything special with it. Start it on the TV tower, and let the wind move it over to the middle of the green. The wind moved it more than I thought. I actually executed it how I wanted to, and the wind moved it all the way to the hole and even a pinch left of it.

“But it was really fun in that moment to just step up, not overthink it, just go. It’s a full 5-iron at the TV tower. And to watch that ball fly was a really cool feeling. To have it like tracking the hole there, that was really nice.”

He stuck his tee shot to six feet, made the putt, and held a two-shot lead walking to the 18th hole.

“I was nervous over the putt too,” Malnati added. “But two balls out on the left, and it was pretty quick, so just tap it in, as Happy Gilmore would say.”

He made a stress-free par on the last, leading to many happy tears.

“This win is for all the host organizations, all the title sponsors, all the communities that kind of wonder what the meaning of their event is,” Malnati added.

“To have entertainment come to your community, fulfill dreams for people like me, and give the community something to be excited about in a way that gives back and enriches the community where we play.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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