When the Honda Classic’s Round 2 was delayed at 6:37 p.m. ET on Friday due to darkness, Andrew Kozan was the only man standing.
The world No. 1,326, who is playing on a sponsor’s exemption, had just put his final tee shot on the par-5 18th into the fairway, 258 yards from the green, and needed par to make the cut at 2 over. But he’d have to wait 12 hours for his next shot.
“I probably got to bed at 11 o’clock last night and fell asleep about 11:30 o’clock by the time we had dinner and headed home,” Kozan said Saturday at PGA National. “And I believe I was up at 4:30 a.m. stretching and getting ready for the day. I wanted to finish last night, I was happy to wrap up the round and get ready for the weekend, but coming down 18, we couldn’t see the balls at all, and the other men I was playing with were just beyond the cut line, so I assume they just wanted to get out of there. So I decided to return this morning, and it worked out well.”
To reach the green, the 23-year-old hammered his second shot 158 yards with a 9-iron and his third shot 116 yards with a sand wedge at the crack of dawn. Then, from 20 feet, he two-putted for par and, on the cut line, added two more rounds at PGA National in only his third Tour appearance (his first being the 2015 Puerto Rico Open at 16 years old after winning the AJGA Puerto Rico Junior Open).
It was, however, a swift turnaround. The Korn Ferry Tour rookie ate breakfast, re-warmed up, and was back on the course as a single about 30 minutes later. He shot a third-round 68 to move into the top 20 at even par, which he owes to his previous experience at PGA National.
“I guess it was because I played with some excellent players so many times and you see a bunch of low scores out here,” he explained. “People who go to this event seem to think the Bear Trap, and the entire course, is really daunting, so they’re not in the best of spirits to begin the week. But after seeing so many low rounds out here, I felt confident that I could come out here and shoot some low scores.”
From the age of seven to fifteen, the Palm Beach Gardens native was a member of the PGA National and grew up watching his hometown tournament every year. He was planned to drive out to the course — a 25-minute drive from his home — for the qualification on Monday morning, but he received a special text from Gary Nicklaus, the event’s co-chairperson, the night before.
“We were kind of expecting we weren’t going to get (the final exemption position) just because there was a Monday qualifier on Monday — because you want to be in the correct attitude that if I don’t get the spot, I still have to go out there on Monday and earn it,” he explained. “So I was out there doing, practicing, doing a practice round on Sunday, went home Sunday night, was getting the clubs, getting the outfit ready for Monday, and then received the text, ‘No need to worry about tomorrow, just come on out and enjoy the week,'” says the player.
And that’s exactly what he’s doing, despite the fact that his childhood ideal has turned out to be more distinctive than he could have dreamed.
“I’ve been dreaming about going within the ropes here since I was probably seven years old,” he remarked. “So, every time I came out here… Honda’s in February, March? In December, they begin erecting the stands. To feel like you’re playing the event, you always want to go out and putt as near to the event as possible with the stands up. So this week has been a dream come true.”
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