All but three of the 19 PGA Tour pros with Georgia ties who qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs advanced past the first of the three tournaments leading up to the Tour Championship at East Lake.
The top 125 players on the FedExCup points list qualified for the Playoffs opener last week in New York, with 100 moving on to this week’s event in Boston. The lone players with Georgia ties who were eliminated after last week were Harris English, Vaughn Taylor and Richy Werenski. All three began the tournament outside the top 100, with English missing the cut and Taylor and Werenski moving up some in the standings, but not enough after finishing outside the top 40 at Glen Oaks GC.
The best finishes last week among the Georgia contingent were ties for 10th by Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar. Watson moved up from 113 to 72 to make it into this week’s field, while Kuchar held at 15. Kevin Kisner finished outside the top 50 and dropped from 9th to 11th, and Brian Harman missed the cut to fall from 10th to 13th.
Russell Henley tied for 25th, but slipped from 19 to 23, while Charles Howell went from 21 to 28 despite making the cut. Wesley Bryan also made the cut, but fell outside the top 30, dropping from 27 to 32.
Patrick Reed, the tournament’s defending champion, tied for 20th and moved up from 38 to 33, one of the few members of the Georgia contingent to gain spots. Scott Brown improved from 65 to 55 after tying for 25th, with Chris Kirk inching up from 97 to 95 to narrowly qualify for the second Playoffs event after tying for 40th.
Luke List, who dropped two spots from 50th after finishing T34, was the only Georgia golfer other than Watson, Kuchar, Reed, Henley and Brown to finish higher than 40th in New York.
The top 70 after this week’s tournament in Boston move on to Chicago in two weeks. The Tour Championship will be played Sept. 21-24.
The field for the Web.com Finals, which begin this week, has been set, with two Georgia residents the only members of the tour to move into the top 75 on the money list after the final tournament of the regular season last week.
Moving into the top 75 and qualifying for the four Finals events were Suwanee resident David Skinns and Ben Kohles, part of the sizeable contingent of tour pros living on St. Simons Island.
Skinns, a native of England who played his college golf at Tennessee and is a veteran tour pro, birdied six of his last eight holes Sunday in Oregon for a 64 to tie for second and leap from 115 on the money list to 58. Skinns is exempt on the Web.com Tour next year and has a chance to earn one of 25 PGA Tour cards that will be available in the Finals.
Kohles, who won his first two starts as a pro on the Web.com Tour in 2012, tied for eighth in Oregon to move up from 85 to 68. He played his college golf at Virginia.
One of the two players bumped out of the top 75 by Skinns and Kohles was Atlanta resident Samuel Del Val, who dropped from 73 to 76 after tying for 47th last week. Del Val, the 2010 Georgia Open champion, finished $126 behind the player in 75th, with a pair of bogeys on his final six holes Sunday knocking him out of the top 75. A birdie on the par-5 18th hole would have earned him a spot in the field for the Finals, but he settled for par. Del Val, a native of Spain, played his college golf in Georgia at Berry in Rome.
Also needing a birdie on the final hole was former UGA golfer Keith Mitchell, a St. Simons resident. Mitchell, who shared the lead after 54 holes, shot 1-under 70 in the final round and tied for sixth, improving from 36 to 26 on the money list. The top 25 earn their PGA Tour cards, and Mitchell missed by one spot.
He came to the 18th hole thinking he needed eagle to finish among the top 25, but a birdie would have moved him into a tie for second and earned him enough money to secure his card. Mitchell got a little aggressive with his eagle chip and left himself with a longer birdie putt than he might have had he been playing for a birdie. He finished $6,400 behind the player in 25th, but will have a chance to earn a PGA Tour card if he plays well in the Finals.
The only player with Georgia ties to finish among the top 25 on the regular season money list to gain PGA Tour status for 2017-18 is former Georgia Tech golfer Chesson Hadley, a PGA Tour member from 2014-16. Hadley was fifth on the money list going into last week’s tournament but dropped to ninth after missing the cut. He will be playing for his position on the 50-player Web.com priority list in the Finals.
In addition to Hadley, 13 players with Georgia ties placed between 26 and 75 on the money list to earn a spot in the fields for the four Finals events, the first of which will be held this week in Columbus, Ohio.
Mitchell finished the year 26th on the money list, followed by Nicholas Thompson (32), Casey Wittenberg (41), Billy Kennerly (45), Jamie Arnold (52), Jonathan Byrd (55), Skinns (58), Seth Reeves (60), Anders Albertson (62), Kohles (68), Blake Adams (70), Sepp Straka (72) and Scott Langley (73).
Byrd, who still has PGA Tour status as a past champion, was already in the field for the Finals thanks to his finish on the FedExCup points list (170), but still finished with a flourish Sunday in Oregon, carding birdies on five of his final six holes for a 65 to tie for eighth.
Other Georgians who finished outside the top 125 on the FedExCup points list this season and will need a top a top 25 finish at Finals to regain their exempt status are J.T. Poston (132), Cameron Tringale (133), Trey Mullinax (137), Michael Thompson (148), Rick Lamb (150) and Roberto Castro (172). The five who finished between 126 and 150 will have limited status on the PGA Tour next year if they don’t finish among the top 25 at Finals. Willy Wilcox is competing in Finals on a medical exemption after finishing 202 on the points list this season. Bryce Molder (190) did not enter the tournament in Columbus, but is eligible to play in any of the next three.
Qualifying began last week for the 2018 LPGA Tour, with two members of the UGA women’s golf team and a former team member the only players with ties to the state advancing to the second stage,
Current UGA golfer Jillian Hollis shot 6-under 282 at three courses in Rancho Mirage, Calif., to tie for 17th and advanced along with Roswell’s Rinko Mitsunaga, who tied for 56th at even par 288. Former UGA golfer Harang Lee tied for eighth at 280 to easily advance.
The second stage will be held in Florida in October, with the finals beginning in Daytona Beach in late November.
Two Georgia golfers missed by two shots of advancing to the second stage. Duluth’s Kendall Wright and Roswell’s Jessica Haigwood, who recently completed her college career at Augusta State, both shot 294, with a score of 292 needed to advance. Wright shot 68 in the first round and Haigwood shot 68 in the third round, but neither player had another score lower than 74, shooting 76 and 77 respectively in the final round.
Eunice Yi of Evans, Haigwood’s teammate in Augusta the past four years, shot 297 and Alpharetta’s Amira Alexander shot 299, with both failing to advance.
Former UGA golfer Marta Silva shot 221 to miss the 54-hole cut by one shot, with Newnan’s Ji Eun Baik missed by two shots at 222. Also missing the 54-hole cut was former Georgia State golfer Melissa Siviter, 2016 LPGA Tour member Ashlan Ramsey of Milledgeville and current UGA golfer Bailey Tardy of Peachtree Corners.
Georgia’s three current LPGA Tour members are looking to avoid having to compete in the finals of qualifying to retain their playing privileges for 2018.
Brunswick’s Katie Burnett is in good position at 92 on the money list with two tournaments left before the tour heads overseas for the rest of the season with mostly limited fields. Riverdale’s Mariah Stackhouse is 111 and will have status for next year, but if she doesn’t move up, may need to compete in the qualifying finals to improve her position. Valdosta’s Dori Carter is 126, and will need to move up the next two weeks to retain status for next year without a strong showing in qualifying.
All five of the state’s full time Champions Tour players are assured of spots in the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs, which begin in late October with a three-tournament series. The top 72 players on the money list qualify for the first event, with the fields reduced to 54 and 36 for the next two tournaments.
Gene Sauers, the 2016 U.S. Senior Open champion, leads the Georgia contingent this year at 13 on the money list, with Billy Andrade (16) just behind him. Scott Parel is 23rd in his first exempt season on the tour after a rookie season in 2016 of Monday qualifiers. After finishing his first three seasons on the Champions Tour either 13th or 14th, Scott Dunlap has slipped to 39th in 2017 with five tournaments before the Playoffs. Larry Mize is 51 on the money list.
Davis Love has played in only one Champions Tour event this year and Larry Nelson has made just six starts as he nears the end of his playing career.