Lanto Griffin should have been more nervous than he felt.
The 31-year-old in the early stages of his second PGA Tour season was chasing his first victory on the big tour and needed to par the treacherous par-4 finishing hole at the Golf Club of Houston to do it.
With two comfortably conservative shots and a 60-foot two-putt, Griffin captured the Houston Open, finishing one stroke ahead of Scott Harrington and Mark Hubbard, who were also chasing their first PGA Tour victory.
“I felt eerily calm. I really did. I wasn’t that nervous,” said Griffin, who played collegiately at Virginia Commonwealth University. “I’m just so relieved it’s over. I’m so proud of the way I hung in there. It’s pretty surreal.”
Griffin started the final round with a one-stroke lead and although the lead changed hands on the closing nine, he made a 33-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to give himself a one-stroke cushion coming in.
It’s been a long road for Griffin to earn his first PGA Tour victory. The son of parents he has called hippies – his father ran a health food store and his mother was a gardener – Griffin may be best known for his unusual first name.
“So my parents named me after a spiritual master, so I've accepted it and we have good laughs about it,” he said. “Never met another one. Never seen one on Google, either. It's been a solid name, good conversation starter.”
Griffin played the PGA Tour in the 2017-18 season but failed to keep his card. He worked his way back this season through the Korn Ferry Tour and he sits atop the early FedEx Cup standings because he’s been the steadiest player in this still-young season, having not finished outside the top 18 in his previous four starts before Houston.
Listening to Greg Norman speak during a Korn Ferry Tour event earlier this year, Griffin said he was struck by Norman saying he is more impressed by players who can stack up top-20 finishes week after week than by players who get hot then fade away for long stretches.
“That really stuck in the back of my mind. I think about it all the time,” Griffin said.
It was a rebirth of sorts for the Houston Open, which has had a spot on the PGA Tour schedule nearly every year since it began in 1946. After not being played during the 2018-19 season, it is now part of the fall portion of the schedule.
Played at the Golf Club of Houston, which previously had hosted the tournament one week before the Masters, the event will move next year to the renovated Memorial Park near downtown Houston.
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Staff and Wire Reports