It’s not unusual for the Sanderson Farms Championship to produce a first-time PGA TOUR winner. In fact, Gribble’s four-shot win marked the third straight year and fourth in the last six seasons that it has happened.
What was unusual is the route the left-hander traveled over the course of four days, from struggling to a 1-over 73 on Thursday, to hoisting the championship trophy on the 18th green on Sunday after running away from the field with a sizzling 31 on the back nine.
The former Texas Longhorn followed that 73, which left him T101 in the 132-player field, with a bogey-free 63 on Friday, a 67 on Saturday, and a bogey-free 65 on Sunday.
He made one bogey over those final 54 holes, and on Sunday he broke away from a crowded leaderboard by making birdies on holes No. 11, 13, 15, 16, and 17 to cement his first TOUR title and win the $756,000 first-place prize from the $4.2 million purse.
Gribble started the day one shot back of co-leaders Chris Kirk and Luke List, playing in the final threesome.
“Chris and I had similar rounds, we just couldn’t get anything going,” said List, who shot 70 and finished T2 with Kirk (70) and Greg Owen (68). “But Cody was unbelievable. … He played flawlessly, so he deserved to win for sure.”
Gribble credited a phone call to his coach, Randy Smith, and the ever-present counseling of his caddie, good friend and former Longhorn teammate Bobby Hudson for getting his mind right and his game on track after that 73, which included three bogeys and a double.
During the final round, he said, Hudson was in his ear the whole time – and the conversation was rarely about yardages or club selection.
“He helped me mainly just stay in the present,” said Gribble. “Not really looking forward to the next hole, or looking at scoreboards. He just was able to keep me patient and keep me motivated.”
“It was like we were back home,” said Hudson, who played for Texas from 2007-11. “I kept telling him, ‘it’s just us out there,’ and we were trying not to pay attention to anything else except what he was focusing on. We felt if he did that it would be good enough to win, and he played unbelievable.”
Gribble took control with birdies on the drivable par-4 15th, the difficult par-4 16th, and the par-4 17th. On 15, he chipped to five feet. On 16 and 17 he hit wedges to 7 and 11 feet, respectively.
Asked how that stretch of holes ranked in his career, he broke into a big smile.
“It’s up there,” he said. “To be under that circumstance, it’s probably one of the best. I think that I put in a lot of work with my wedges in the last year and a half, and to finally see that really pay off the way it did something I’ll hold for a long time.”
Gribble ranked T29 in greens in regulation (52 of 72) and T38 in fairways hit (29 of 56), but his putter was on fire, especially over the final three rounds.
Gribble played the Web.com Tour the last two seasons, earning limited status on the PGA TOUR as a top-40 finisher in the 2016 Web.com Tour Finals money list. He was the second player from Texas’ 2012 NCAA national championship team to earn his TOUR card. The first? Jordan Spieth.
Asked by a reporter on Saturday when was the last time he won an individual title, Gribble was stumped. He thought for a moment and said, “probably the Western Junior.”
That was in 2007, as an amateur, aged 17.
Gribble, playing in just his eighth event on the circuit, looked like a cool and composed veteran as he closed the tournament out.
Congratulations on your maiden PGA Tour Victory Cody, we are all so proud of you and know that this is only the beginning of something special.