Of the 30 players who qualified for this week’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club, five played their college golf in Georgia, three of them in Athens.
Two of the ex-Bulldogs are Georgia natives – Savannah’s Brian Harman and Macon’s Russell Henley. Kevin Kisner, the third former UGA golfer, is from just across the Savannah River from Augusta in Aiken, S.C.
Matt Kuchar is the lone former Georgia Tech golfer in the field, and resides on St. Simons Island along with Harman. Patrick Reed was the No. 1 player on Augusta State’s back-to-back national championship teams in 2010 and ‘11. Kisner was a member of Georgia’s 2005 NCAA Championship squad.
Kuchar comes into the Tour Championship 12th on the FedExCup points list, and is competing at East Lake for the eighth straight year, the longest streak of anyone on the PGA Tour. Kuchar, who lived in Atlanta for several years before moving to the Georgia coast, has not enjoyed a great deal of success in the Tour Championship, with his best finishes a pair of ties for 10th. He tied for 15th last year.
Although Kuchar did not win in 2017, he contended in two of golf’s four majors, tying for fourth in the Masters and placing second in the British Open to Jordan Spieth’s amazing final round finish. Kuchar turned in two strong showings in the Playoffs, tying for 10th in New York and for fifth in Chicago, as he moved up from 15th on the regular season points list to 12th after the third Playoffs event.
Kisner is 18th on the points list after a season highlighted by a victory in the Colonial Invitational, a tie for second at Bay Hill and a playoff loss with fellow Aiken resident Scott Brown in the team event in New Orleans. However, other than a tie for the seventh in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, Kisner has struggled in recent months, and did not crack the top 50 in any of the first three Playoffs events.
This will be the third consecutive appearance in the Tour Championship for Kisner, who has had little success at East Lake, placing 28th and 26th. He was ninth in the FedExCup coming into the Playoffs.
Harman is making his first Tour Championship start after enjoying the best season of his 6-year PGA Tour career. Harman picked up his second career title in the Wells Fargo in Wilmington, N.C., made a strong run at victory in the U.S. Open before placing second behind Brooks Koepka, and was a close third in Palm Springs, Calif., early in 2017.
Like Kisner, Harman has not played his best golf of late, with a tie for 40th in Chicago his highest finish in the Playoffs. His strongest showing of late also came in the PGA Championship, where he tied for 13th. He was 10th in the standings after the regular season and is 20th coming into the Tour Championship.
Reed was the lone member of the state’s Tour Championship contingent to make a major move up the FedExCup points list late in the season. He was 75th after the U.S. Open, but after a series of strong showings and a tie for second in the PGA Championship, ended the season at 38. A tie for 20th in the Playoffs opener in New York and a tie for fifth the next week in Boston moved him well into the top 30, and he held his ground despite finishing near the bottom of the standings in Chicago. He is currently 23rd
This will be the fourth straight appearance in the Tour Championship for Reed, who is looking to contend in the event for the first time. His best finish was a tie for 19th in his initial start at East Lake in 2014.
Henley was 11th in the FedExCup standings after his third PGA Tour win in Houston and a tie for 11th the next week in the Masters. He ended the regular season 19th and is 27th following three middling finishes in the Playoffs. His best showing was a T25 in New York. Henley played respectably in his only other start at East Lake, placing 12th in 2014.
Kuchar, Kisner and Reed will all be part of the U.S. Presidents Cup team that competes next week at Liberty National. Kuchar will be making high eighth straight appearance for the U.S. in team competition, four each in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Reed is making his second Presidents Cup start and fourth consecutive appearance in a team. This will be the first time Kisner has played in a team event for the U.S.
Eight golfers with Georgia ties made it to the third Playoffs event last week in Chicago but were unable to move into the top 30 and qualify for the Tour Championship.
Former UGA golfer and St. Simons resident Hudson Swafford came into the final Playoffs event 33rd in the standings, but could do no better than a tie for 40th in Chicago and finished the season at 38. He had moved up from 37 at the start of the Playoffs with a tie for 13th in Boston.
Augusta native Charles Howell was 21st on the points list at the outset of the Playoffs, but missed the cut in the New York and finished outside the top 60 in both Boston and Chicago to plummet to 40th. He will need to improve on his current World Ranking of 62 before next year’s Masters to avoid another year without a Masters invitation.
Also falling outside the top 30 was current Augusta resident Wesley Bryan, who dropped from 27 to 41 after finishing outside the top 50 in all three Playoffs events. Bryan, the Player of the Year on the Web.com Tour in 2016, had a successful rookie season on the PGA Tour, winning in Hilton Head the week after the Masters to earn a 2018 invite to Augusta.
St. Simons resident Zach Johnson ended the regular season 42 on the points list after a runner-up finish in the WGC event at Firestone CC, but fell 54th before ending the season 48th after a tie for 20 in Chicago. Johnson has made nine Tour Championship starts, but has failed to qualify the last two years.
Luke List, who grew up in the Atlanta area, concluded the best season of his young PGA Tour career with a tie for 20th in Chicago to end up 50th in the FedExCup standings.
Duluth resident Stewart Cink made the last o f his eight Tour Championship starts in 2009, but made a run at qualifying for East Lake this year. He was 76th coming into the Playoffs, but moved up to 57th after placing 12th in Boston. He was in position to move into the top 30 in Chicago after opening with scores of 67 and 66, but after shooting 9-under the first two rounds, played his final 36 holes in even par and tied for 27th to end the year 53rd on the points list, his highest finish since ’09.
Augusta native Scott Brown had a pair of top-25 finishes in the Playoffs to move up from 65 at the end of the regular season to 55 after the Playoffs. Brown was tied for fifth after 54 holes in Chicago, but shot 72 Sunday to fall to a tie for 20th, ending his hopes for a first Masters invitation.
Powder Springs’ Ollie Schniederjans narrowly lost a spirited final round duel to Henrik Stenson in the last regular season event in Greensboro to begin the Playoffs 39th. But after two missed cuts and a finish near the bottom in Chicago, the recent Georgia Tech standout ended his rookie season on the PGA Tour 60th in the FedExCup standings.