Davis Riley shot a final-round 69 at Club de Golf de Panama for a one-shot win over Roberto Diaz. (Dave Evenson/PGA TOUR)

 

PANAMÁ CITY, Panamá — Entering his final three holes with a one-stroke lead, Davis Riley held on to earn his first Korn Ferry Tour title at the Panamá Championship. Riley, who finished the week at 10-under 270, defeated Roberto Díaz by one shot.

“I feel like I’ve been playing well for a while now,” Riley said. “Things started to click on the back nine yesterday and I just kept that momentum going through today. It feels great and hopefully I can rattle off a couple more wins this year.”

Riley began his final round playing his first five holes at even-par. His first birdie of the day came at the par-3 sixth. He went on to make the turn at 10-under for the week and on top of a crowded leaderboard.

“I stayed patient, I knew I was playing great,” he said. “I missed a short birdie putt on No. 5 and then to cash one on No. 6 really got me into my round and relaxed.”

A bogey at the par-4 10th set Riley back to 9-under and into a tie for the lead. After a par on No. 11, the 23-year-old hit the shot of the tournament as he holed a 70-foot eagle putt on the par-5 12th.  The University of Alabama product reclaimed the lead at 11-under with six holes remaining.

“I just made a bomb on No. 12,” he said. “I made a 70-foot eagle putt and that really got things going. I knew if I just played solid from there on out, I’d be fine.”

After pars on Nos. 13 and 14, Riley dropped a shot at the par-4 15th to move back to 10-under and one shot clear of Díaz. Riley stayed calm down the stretch, converting three consecutive pars and held on to secure his first Korn Ferry Tour title.

“I actually took a big learning lesson from last week. I three-putted my last three holes to miss the cut by one,” he recalled. “I told myself to just keep hitting good shots and good putts and that’s all I could do. I hit a bunch of good shots coming in and hit some good putts and it was enough to get it done.”

Despite soft course conditions early in the week, the Club de Golf de Panamá played firm and fast during the final round. The course, which ranked as the hardest on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, returned to familiar form Sunday afternoon.

“It’s firm, it’s tough, it’s windy and it’s hot too. There are a lot of different factors that are going into it,” Riley said. “It’s one of those courses where you have to know when to take your medicine and I think I did a good job of that.”

Riley began the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour season without status and relied on Monday qualifying for playing opportunities. At the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation last June, Riley needed a par on his final hole to earn Special Temporary Membership and he delivered. He went on to finish the season ranked 70th in The 25 and secured his status for 2020.

“Playing a full schedule this year is huge and it’s a big relief,” he said. “I was going from tournament to tournament last year and I think that serves me well this year. I’m able to get into my weeks and be serious about every week. I’m able to get a nice routine going.”

Roberto Díaz carded a final-round 5-under 65 to finish solo-second. Ben Kohles, Lee Hodges, Mito Pereira and Max McGreevy finished T3 at 8-under 272.