Needing par on 18 to make Honda Classic cut, pro on sponsor exemption stopped Friday at sunset. Here’s how he fared.


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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – How was your Saturday morning?

Andrew Kozan’s was rather busy.

Up at 4:30 a.m. ET after a touch more than five hours of sleep, the 23-year-old headed to work about an hour later, a 25-minute commute with a lot on his mind.

Ahead of him was 260 yards of potential ruin on the par-5 18th hole at the Champion Course, the rugged, water-laden layout at PGA National Resort that is home to the Honda Classic.

The young pro ranked No. 1,326 in the world and playing on a sponsor exemption had elected to cease play in the fading light Friday, the only player among the 144 in the field to do so. He was on the cutline and just as important, he could barely see the ball below his feet, let alone the green in the distance.

So there he was in the middle of the 18th fairway with only his caddie by his side on a bright Saturday morning, punching the timeclock at 6:47 a.m.

Make par with four good shots or miss the cut and go home for the rest of the weekend. When you’re playing in just your eighth pro event and you’re a member of the Korn Ferry Tour, this is a big moment.

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Kozan was confident he’d get the job done despite the last of the Bear Trap’s fangs getting him the day before as he made triple-bogey 6 on the par-3 17th. He didn’t give much thought into going for the 18th green in two from 260 yards and, after putting a little bit more emphasis on hitting 9-irons and sand wedges while warming up, he hit his second shot 158 yards with said 9-iron and then used a sand wedge from 116 yards to reach the green. From 20 feet he two-putted to secure playing privileges in the final two rounds.

Took him 12 minutes to do so.

“It was kind of a tough break, I mean I wanted to finish last night, I was excited to get the round over and get ready for the weekend, but I mean coming down 18 we couldn’t see the balls at all,” said Kozan, who was born in West Palm Beach. “For the position I was in, it was a lot easier just to take the stress out of it, hit two easy 150-yard or so shots and call it a day.”

Oh, but his day was far from over. His dream of playing in the Honda Classic, born from his youth from the many days he attended the tournament, would continue.

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List

Joaquin Niemann, defending champion Matt Jones among notable names to miss the cut at Honda Classic

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Kozan rushed to get some breakfast, hit a few more shots to re-warm up and headed to the first tee for the third round.

At 7:35 a.m.

And the unusual nature of the day took a different twist, as Kozan played as a single seeing as 73 players made the cut and Saturday called for twosomes. Kozan breezed around the Champion Course in 3 hours, 16 minutes and signed for a 68, leaving him at even par for the week. From being an errant shot from missing the cut just before 7 a.m., Kozan was tied for 26th five hours later.

“I still had a lot of energy, surprisingly,” he said. “This is my sixth week in a row, so you would think maybe being a little more tired, especially come the weekend, not getting a whole lot of sleep, but still had a lot of energy, especially this week, a lot of fans, a lot of friends and family that are out here, supporting me, kind of pushing me along.”

He’s guaranteed his largest check of the year. Kozan, who played in the 2015 Puerto Rico Open as a 16-year-old after he won the AJGA Puerto Rico Junior Open, tied for 15th in the Panama Championship and cashed for $10,921.87.

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If he maintains his position, he’d be looking at something in the neighborhood of $65,000 to $70,000. Solo 73rd pays $15,920.

And if he makes a run at a top 5 or top 10, he might even get his own Wikipedia page.

But Sunday isn’t on his mind just yet. After he wrapped up his play Saturday morning, he could only think of doing one thing.

“Relax,” he said. “Long couple weeks. Last night was a long night. Early morning. So grab some lunch, maybe practice a little bit and get back and watch some movies and relax.”



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