Ricardo Gonzalez fends off Thomas Bjørn to capture first PGA Tour Champions title in Morocco

After chipping into the water and bogeying the par-5 12th, Ricardo Gonzalez faced a two-shot deficit to former Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn, as his chances at victory continued to slip away.

But then, Gonzalez, who has 28 career professional victories, completely turned the tide of the Trophy Hassan II—the annual PGA Tour Champions event held in Morocco. He reeled off four straight birdies, vaulting from 6-under to 10-under in the blink of an eye, and stole the trophy away from Bjørn, who ultimately finished one stroke behind.

“I worked so much to be here, and this is my trophy. I like that,” Gonzalez said on Golf Channel afterward.

Indeed, the 54-year-old Argentine worked hard on the back nine to right the ship.

Ricardo Gonzalez, PGA Tour Champions, Trophy Hassan II

Ricardo Gonzalez during the final round of the 2024 Trophy Hassan II.
Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images

“You’ve got to take your hat off for people that do that,” Bjørn said of Gonzalez’s turnaround.

“That thing on 12 would have put a lot of people off and kind of limped in from there, but he didn’t. He regrouped and made those birdies that he needed to do.”

Gonzalez’s victory marks the first time he triumphed in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event, as he has now earned a spot in each of the five senior majors in 2024. The win completely changes the course of his career.

“I’m feeling so good, so good, so big, and now playing the tour everybody likes to play, no?” Gonzalez added.

“Everybody likes to play in the Champions Tour, and I am one of the lucky men to get in there.”

The Argentine’s birdie barrage began on the par-4 13th, which measures 398 yards. He then birdied the tricky 198-yard par-3 14th and rolled in a side-winding birdie putt from almost 30 feet at the par-4 15th.

But the shot of the day came at the par-4 16th, where Gonzalez stuck his approach to within four feet. That happened while Bjorn and fellow playing partner Y.E. Yang were in trouble off the tee.

Gonzalez made birdie at 16, while Bjørn and Yang saved par. Still, Gonzalez walked off the 16th tee with a two-shot lead.

And yet, it almost completely unraveled at the drivable, par-4 17th.

With the honor on the tee, Gonzalez hit an iron, and it was easily one of his worst swings of the day. The pressure was starting to get to him as his ball came to rest in the woods.

Thomas Bjørn, PGA Tour Champions, Trophy Hassan II

Thomas Bjørn during the final round of the 2024 Trophy Hassan II.
Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Bjørn, sensing an opening, smacked a driver onto the putting surface, all but guaranteeing a birdie.

Back in the trees, Gonzalez punched his second shot into the greenside bunker short and right of the green, and faced an outside chance of saving par. The pin placement was front right, leaving him with not much green to work with. The putting surface also sloped severely away from him about 12 feet beyond the hole, creating little margin for error.

Gonzalez then hit his bunker shot 10 feet beyond the pin, and drained his comebacker for par. It went right in the center of the hole, eliciting a major fist pump from Gonzalez.

Each member of the final group then made par at the last, a par-5.

“When somebody holes a putt [as he did on] 14, 15, 16, and 17, then you deserve to win,” Bjørn said of Gonzalez’s putting.

“Fair credit to Ricardo; it’s life-changing for him. So I’m happy for him, disappointed that I couldn’t get it done, but hey, we go again.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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