Craig Hocknull captures the 2018 Southwest PGA Match Play Championship

Craig Hocknull has been making a habit of saving his best for last. Wednesday’s Championship match was no exception. Hocknull birdied three of the final four holes and overcame a late 2-down deficit to capture his second Southwest PGA Match Play Championship title defeating defending champion Michael Hopper 1-up the final match held at Ancala Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Hocknull, 43, PGA Director of Instruction at Saber Sports Trainer, quickly jumped out to a 1-up lead over Hopper after he chipped in birdie from off the green on No. 2. After both players halved the next two holes, Hocknull three-putted the par-3, fifth hole resulting in a bogey and the match was all square.

The top seeded Hopper, 34, PGA assistant golf professional at Lookout Mountain G.C., went ahead 1-up after the par-5, seventh hole where Hocknull hit his tee shot in the desert left of the fairway, resulting in a bogey to Hopper’s birdie.

Hopper remained 1-up over the next six holes, Nos. 8-13, which were all halved. On the par-5, 14th hole, Hopper made birdie while Hocknull made par. With four holes remaining, Hopper was 2-up in the match and appeared to be on this way to his third consecutive Southwest PGA match play title.

On No. 15, both players were on the green in regulation with Hocknull having an 18-foot putt for birdie and Hopper 11-feet. Putting first, Hocknull drained his birdie attempt and after Hopper missed his, Hocknull cut the deficit in half with three holes remaining.

Following a halve with both players making birdies at No. 16, the match went to all-square after Hocknull made a 35-foot putt for birdie from off the green on No. 17. It was his third consecutive birdie and the second long putt to drop over the same three-hole stretch.

With the match all square and on the final hole in regulation, both players hit their tee shots in the fairway. Hopper, first to play, hit his approach shot in the right greenside bunker. Hocknull sensing the difficulty of Hopper’s upcoming bunker shot, hit his approach in the middle of the green. Following his bunker shot, Hopper missed the putt for par and Hocknull two-putted for par and the 1-up victory.

“I came here with a purpose of wanting to win this Championship,” said Hocknull. “I didn’t want to leave without giving it my best and fortunately I was able to dig deep today and get it done.”

“I didn’t give any holes away until the very last hole, but Craig deserved it,” Hopper said. “He made some bombs (putts) on 15 and 17 that were flat out ridiculous but really good. Neither of us had really made any long putts all day but at the end, when it really mattered, Craig made those two long putts and he earned the victory.”

Hocknull adds another trophy to an already impressive list of victories in the Southwest PGA, winning every major over his career: Southwest PGA Championship (2016), Southwest PGA Professional Championship (2011, 2017), Arizona Open Championship (2013) and the Southwest PGA Match Play Championship (2013, 2018). He was previously honored as the 2013 Southwest PGA Player of the Year and the 2014 Southwest PGA Teacher of the Year.

Up next for Hocknull will be the 100th PGA Championship being held August 9-12 at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo. He qualified at last month’s PGA Professional Championship at the Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses in Seaside, Calif. Hocknull finished tied for 12th thanks in part to his birdie-birdie finish on his final two holes of the Championship. The top 20 PGA Professionals advanced to the 100th PGA Championship.

In the morning semifinal matches that featured the top four seeds in the Championship, Hopper defeated the 4-seed Matt Vancleave, 36, PGA Head Golf Professional at Toka Sticks G.C., 1-up. In the other semifinal, Hocknull defeated the 2-seed Dennis Downs, 35, PGA Director of Instruction at Reid/West Golf Academies (Pebble Creek), 2 & 1.

Special thanks to Greg Norman Collection for their support of the Championship and the entire membership and staff at Ancala Country Club for their hospitality and generosity in hosting the event.

For more information about the Southwest PGA, visit