St. Simons resident Jonathan Byrd regained his PGA Tour exempt status with a victory in last week’s Web.com Tour Championship, one of three golfers with Georgia ties to earn spots on the 2017-18 PGA Tour thanks to their play in the Web.com Finals.
Joining Byrd on the 2017-18 PGA Tour are fellow St. Simons resident and recent Georgia Bulldog Keith Mitchell and former Georgia Tech golfer Cameron Tringale, like Byrd a PGA Tour veteran. Former Georgia Tech golfer Chesson Hadley had already earned his return to the PGA Tour by placing ninth on the Web.com regular season money list, and wound up as the tour’s leading money winner for the year with a win and a runner-up finish in the Finals.
Byrd won five times on the PGA Tour between 2002 and 2011, but has struggled since undergoing wrist surgery after the 2012 season. He split time the last two seasons between the Web.com and PGA Tours, playing primarily on the Web.com. He ended the regular season 55th in earnings on that tour after tying for 8th in the last event before the Finals.
After making the cut in one of the first three tournaments in the Finals, Byrd was 66th on the Finals money list, needing to move into the top 25 to reclaim his PGA Tour playing privileges. He jumped all the way to second, shooting 24-under 260 in the Web.com Tour Championship at Atlantic Beach CC near Jacksonville to win by four shots.
Byrd is fifth in the priority rankings among the 50 players who earned PGA Tour berths for 2017-18 via either the Web.com regular season or Finals money lists. Hadley is first, with Mitchell 21st and Tringale 37th.
The victory was Byrd’s second on the Web.com Tour, with his first coming in his hometown event in Greenville, S.C., in 2001, when he placed eighth in earnings to move up to the PGA Tour the next year. Byrd won at Callaway Gardens as a PGA Tour rookie in 2002, and collected four more titles, including his memorable walk-off ace to win in Las Vegas in 2010. His last victory was the 2011 Tournament of Champions.
Hadley is back on the PGA Tour after his second outstanding year on the Web.com. He won twice as a pro rookie in 2013 and ended the year third on the money list. He won twice more this season, the first in the regular season before his Finals win in Boise. Hadley also lost twice in playoffs in 2017, once in his hometown event in Raleigh, N.C., and in the Finals in Cleveland the week after his Boise victory. He ended the year with $562,475, more than $167,000 ahead of the second place finisher on the money list.
This will be Hadley’s fourth season on the PGA Tour. He won as a rookie in Puerto Rico in 2014 and had a solid season the next year before losing his exempt status after the 2016 season.
Tringale placed between 56 and 67 on the PGA Tour money list five straight years before falling outside the top 100 in 2016. He slipped to 133 this season, and needed a strong showing in the Web.com Finals to regain his exempt status for 2017-18. He was 49th on the Finals money list before tying for fifth in the Tour Championship in Atlantic Beach to move into the top 25 at 18th.
Mitchell just missed a top 25 finish on the regular season, ending the season 26th in earnings with a pair of top finishes late in the season, including a tie for third in Knoxville. He twice tied for sixth in the Finals to place 10th in earnings, giving him four finishes of sixth or better in the span o six starts. Mitchell, who has played on the Web.com Tour the last two years, is a PGA Tour rookie this season.
Among the state’s golfers to miss out on a top 25 finish at Finals was Atlanta resident and former Georgia Tech golfer Roberto Castro, who has played the PGA Tour the last six years. Castro qualified for the Tour Championship for the second time in 2016, but as he did the first time he made it to East Lake in 2013, Castro fell outside the top 125 the next season.
Castro retained non-exempt status in 2014 and returned to the PGA Tour full time the next year, but after finishing 172 on the FedExCup points list this past season, has no status on the 2017-18 PGA Tour. Castro made the cut in the first two Finals tournaments, but did not play in the third to attend his induction ceremony into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
Needing a top-5 finish in the Web.com Tour Championship, Castro was among the leaders after 36 holes with scores of 65-64 before shooting 69-70 in the final two rounds. Castro began the final round with two double bogeys on his first five holes, but went 5-under the rest of the way. Needing to play his last two holes in 2-under to qualify for the PGA Tour, Castro drove the green on the par-4 17th before suffering his third 3-putt of the day, and just missed his long eagle putt after reaching the par-5 18th in two. He was 30th on the Finals money list after beginning the Tour Championship 54th.
Also narrowly missing a top 25 finish on the Finals money list was fellow ex-Yellow Jacket and Atlanta area resident Anders Albertson, who was 62nd on the money list in the regular season and will be back on the Web.com Tour for a third season in 2018. Albertson had three top 10s during the regular season, finishing just one shot out of a playoff in Springfield, Ill. He tied for eighth in the Tour Championship to finish 34th in the Finals money list after missing the cut in the previous three events.
A number of other golfers with Georgia ties will join Albertson on the 2018 Web.com Tour after failing to finish in the top 25 in the Finals.
Former Georgia Tech golfer Nicholas Thompson was 32nd in the regular season and 63rd in the Finals. Atlanta resident Casey Wittenberg won early in the season in Louisiana, but did nothing else the rest of the season, including the Finals.
Pro rookie Billy Kennerly of Alpharetta posted a top-10 finish in his first Web.com start of 2017 in June and was 45th in earnings after a series of quality efforts. But he was just 58th in the Finals with a top 10 in Columbus, Ohio, and three missed cuts. Atlanta resident Jamie Arnold was 52nd in the regular season, but did not make a cut in the Finals.
Veteran tour player David Skinns of Suwanee tied for second in the last regular season event in Portland to qualify for the Finals at 58th, and was at the top of the leader board after 36 holes in Boise before withdrawing when his wife went into labor. Skinns did not play the next event and missed the cut in the Tour Championship.
Recent Georgia Tech golfer and Suwanee resident Seth Reeves was 60th in his rookie Web.com season with two finishes of seventh or better and a lot of missed cuts. After a respectable showing in the Finals opener, he missed the next three cuts and will be back on the tour next year.
St. Simons residents Ben Kohles and Scott Langley were around 70th in the regular season to qualify for the Finals and earn exempt status for next year, with both among the top 40 in the Finals. Tour veteran Blake Adams of Lake Oconee was 70th in the regular season but struggled in the Finals, with Web.com rookie Sepp Straka, a recent UGA golfer from Valdosta, 71st in the regular season and 53rd in the Finals after making three of four cuts.
Earning a spot on the 2018 Web.com Tour was former Augusta State standout Henrik Norlander, who saw limited action on the PGA and Web.com Tours this past season. With a tie for 16th in Atlantic Beach, Norlander placed 48th on the Finals money list, qualifying via his standing on the PGA Tour non-member earnings list thanks to a tie for second last fall in the RSM Classic at Sea Island GC, where he lost in a playoff.
Former Georgia Open champion Samuel Del Val, a native of Spain who played his college golf at Berry, missed finishing in the top 75 in the regular season by $126 and will have limited status on the Web.com Tour next year along with Augusta’s Chase Parker and Atlanta area resident Michael Hebert, who both finished just inside the top 100.
Qualifying for the 2018 Web.com Tour is already under way, with Callaway Gardens hosting a first stage qualifier Oct. 10-13. Second stage qualifiers will be played in early November, with the Finals set for Dec. 7-10 in Arizona.