SAN DIEGO — Oui!
Matthieu Pavon became the first player to win a PGA Tour event under the French flag since World War II when he made an eight-foot putt on No. 18 at Torrey Pines South on Saturday for a dramatic birdie and a one-shot victory in the Farmers Insurance Open.
He raised his arms in celebration and shouted before hugging caddie Mark Sherwood after the golf ball rolled in as the municipal gem high above the Pacific Ocean glowed under the late-afternoon sun.
Pavon glowed, too. He said he almost quit golf 10 years ago because of the yips.
"It is big for our country," said the 31-year-old PGA Tour rookie, who won the DP World Tour's Spanish Open last October for his previous biggest title. "I hope it will inspire a lot of people, because coming from an amateur player which is (ranked No.) 800 in the world to a PGA Tour winner is pretty big."
French-American golfer Martin Trainer earned his first PGA Tour victory at the 2019 Puerto Rico Open, an alternate event, while representing the United States. He later switched his nationality to France.
Pavon grew up playing soccer — his dad was a professional player — before switching to golf.
"I still can't believe it," Pavon said. "It feels like there is another round to play tomorrow because we're only Saturday."
The tournament was 72 holes, but it ended a day earlier than most PGA Tour events to avoid going up against the NFL's conference championship games on television Sunday.
Pavon's closing round of 3-under-par 69 put him at 13-under 275, one stroke better than Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard (70). Pavon was two shots ahead of Chattanooga resident Stephan Jaeger (72) — who led after the second and third rounds — Jake Knapp (69) and Nate Lashley (67).
The 34-year-old Jaeger, who came to Baylor School as an exchange student from Germany and then settled into the Scenic City as he continued his golf career at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was seeking his first PGA Tour win after stacking up six victories during his time on the developmental Korn Ferry Tour.
Jaeger's final round started well enough, with back-to-back birdies on his second and third holes, and he offset his bogey on No. 7 with a birdie just before the turn, but a trio of back-nine bogeys forced him to settle for his first top-five finish on the PGA Tour and a payout of $477,000. His closing birdie helped him share third place and improve his check.
It's also his fifth top-10 finish, with all of those coming since he returned to the PGA Tour in 2021, having spent two seasons on the lower circuit. He had played two PGA Tour seasons before that but lost his status and had to regain it.
Jaeger is one of four Baylor School graduates on the PGA Tour, along with Harris English, Luke List and Keith Mitchell.
Mitchell missed the cut Thursday, while List closed with a 74 to tie for 50th at 2 under and English (73) shared 64th at par.
Pavon took the lead on the 12th hole, built the advantage to two strokes, then missed a three-foot putt on the par-4 17th for a bogey that cut his lead to one stroke. His only birdie on the back nine saved him from a playoff.
He appeared to be in trouble on the par-5, 541-yard 18th when his drive landed in a sand trap, about four inches from the front lip. His second shot went 103 yards into the left rough, which was high because of heavy rain Monday, with 145 yards to the hole. He responded with a brilliant third shot that landed within eight feet of the hole.
After watching Hojgaard's 300-yard drive down the middle of the fairway, "I was like, 'OK, it's going to be spicy now. I might have to do a birdie or something special,'" Pavon said.
After ending up in the trap and then not getting back to the fairway, he and Sherwood discussed whether he should lay up or go for it.
"I was like, 'Listen, like the lie doesn't look too bad, I feel like I can do it.' He said, 'OK, but it's your call.'
"It's my call. And I was so pumped at that time, I know I had the energy to lift that ball up on the green. I kind of aimed to the middle of the green knowing the face would close a little bit because it's quite deep and thick. That ball came out like a butterfly, and it really feed the slope on the green. That was the right time to prove I have the guts to finish that tournament and I did it, so I'm so happy about that last hole."
Pavon, who was born in Toulouse, was playing in just his 11th PGA Tour event.
He pulled into a tie for the lead with Jaeger with a birdie on the par-5 ninth. They stayed tied until the par-4 12th, when Pavon made a short par putt to take the lead while Jaeger missed his for a bogey.
Pavon rolled a 34-foot putt just right on 14 that would have given him a three-stroke lead. He made a 24-foot par putt on 16 to stay two strokes ahead and pumped his fist.
Pavon said it's always been his dream to play in America: "Since I came to America for the first time to practice in West Palm, I loved everything about America — the mentality, the sport, everything you guys do. It feels like I'm an American somehow."
He also said he's felt no pressure.
"If I fail, I could just go back in Europe and start again," he said. "So it was just like trying to do your best every day, enjoy every moment because they are special ones."
Pavon recalls watching this tournament on TV several times. He got his first look at Torrey Pines in person in the rain and fog on Monday, when he walked the South Course with Sherwood and just three balls and a putter to test the greens.
"It was foggy. I mean, I couldn't see 100 yards away from me, so I was like, 'OK, nice, welcome to California,'" Pavon said.
He opened with a 69 on the North Course on Wednesday, than put together a brilliant 65 on the South Course on Thursday that had him just two shots off the lead.
As he began his second round, "It is like, 'Oh, there is a fairway, there is the rough, there is a cliff. So everything was kind of brand new for me. But I was disciplined on my foggy practice round on where could be the pins and I had a good look at it.
"You know, it feels like when you don't really know what you're going to be faced with and you don't have any expectation, this is sometimes when you show the best, and this is clearly what happened."