Former Georgia Tech standout Ollie Schniederjans did all he could to win Sunday’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.
Schniederjans, who is wrapping up his rookie season on the PGA Tour, shot a 6-under 64 in the final round with birdies on three of his final four holes. But it was not enough to overtake third round co-leader Henrik Stenson, who closed with four birdies on the last six holes.
The 24-year-old Schniederjans hit a series of spectacular shots down the stretch – almost holing out from a greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 15th, rolling in a downhill 40-footer for birdie at the 17th and almost holing his second shot on the par-4 18th after hitting his tee shot 340 yard with a driving iron.
Despite matching the tournament scoring record of 21-under 269, the former No. 1 amateur in the world had to settle for second place and a check of $626,400, and took a big step toward achieving his main goal for his rookie season on the PGA Tour.
At the top of Schniederjans’ objectives for the 2016-17 season was to qualify for the field for the Tour Championship next month at East Lake. With his runner-up finish in the regular season finale, Schniederjans moved up from 74th to 39th in the FedExCup standings, and is in excellent position to move into the top 30 during the Playoffs and qualify for the Tour Championship.
“That was the best tournament I’ve ever played for four rounds,” Schniederjans said after his second place showing. “I leave with no regrets. I played as hard as I could and met all my goals out there and gave myself a great chance.
“I shot 64 Sunday. I would have taken that at the beginning of the day and liked my chances. I did everything I was trying to do and came up one short. I finished great and put a lot of pressure on Henrik. Played a special round.”
As he has done in other recent tournaments, Schniederjans got off to a fast start in Greensboro with an opening round 66. He opened with a 63 in the John Deere Classic and shot 65 in the first round of the Canadian Open, but fell back after his sizzling starts and finished well back in the pack in both events.
Since a strong third place in Hilton Head in April, Schniederjans has mostly been a non-factor after recording four top 10s in the first 13 starts of his rookie season. Schniederjans, who grew up in Powder Springs and now lives in Alpharetta, made a run at victory in the RSM Classic at Sea Island GC last fall, tying for sixth, and was ninth and eighth on the West Coast early this year in San Diego and Los Angeles before coming up two shots short of a playoff in Hilton Head.
Schniederjans has relied primarily on his length and tee to green game for the success he has enjoyed as a rookie, but admitted, “I haven’t been putting well much of this year. I’ve been putting myself in good positions tee to green and not capitalizing. I putted well all this week and it was huge for me for four days.”
With the exception of the 40-footer at the 17th, it was Schniederjans’ ball-striking prowess that was primarily responsible for his success Sunday in Greensboro. He missed four birdie putts of 15 feet or less on the opening nine, but made two 10-footers and birdied the lone par 5 with a chip to 3 ½ feet. He saved par at the 10th with a deft pitch from a precarious lie, but lost a share of the lead after pars on the first five holes on the back nine.
A wild second shot to the par-5 15th could have taken Schniederjans out of contention, but his approach from 230 yards ricocheted off a sky box left of the green and back into a greenside bunker. He almost holed the bunker shot and tapped in for birdie, but missed from 12 feet on the 16th. He kept the pressure on Stenson with his 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th, and almost holed his second shot from 165 yards out on the 18th, leaving less than two feet for his sixth birdie of the round.
Schniederjans will need to improve on his post-season showing in the Web.com Finals last year. A long first full year as a pro in 2016 ended with four unsuccessful tournament efforts. But his play prior to that was more than enough to place Schniederjans 12th in the priority rankings among the 50 players who earned their PGA Tour cards via the Web.com Tour.
In his first full season as a pro, Schniederjans won an event in a 3-way playoff in Wichita after losing a playoff earlier in 2016 in Colombia. He had three other finishes of seventh or better and ended the regular season sixth on the money list to earn a spot on the PGA Tour.
Schniederjans was one of the top players in Georgia Tech history, with his achievements ranking with former Yellow Jackets David Duval, Matt Kuchar, Bryce Molder and Stewart Cink. He enjoyed a spectacular junior season, winning five tournaments, including two hosted by Georgia Tech (Carpet Capital and U.S. Collegiate Championship) and the ACC Championship. He placed second in an NCAA Regional and lost a playoff in the NCAA Championship for individual honors, leading the Yellow Jackets into match play for a second straight year.
Following his junior season, Schniederjans competed in the U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club, and was the only player from the state to reach the third round of match play, where he lost to surprise tournament champion Gunn Yang.
As a sophomore, Schniederjans led Tech into match play with an eighth place finish at the Capital City Crabapple course, with the Jackets losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Alabama. Schniederjans closed out his college career with a solid senior season that began with another win in the Carpet Capital at The Farm, but it ended with a poor final round at the NCAA Championship, with Tech failing to reach match play for a third straight time.
Schniederjans made several starts in pro events while still an amateur, beginning with the 2014 Web.com event in Wichita. He shot 64 in his first round competing against professionals and closed with scores of 65-67 to tie for fifth. He also played in the Scottish Open that summer and made the cut, but missed the cut in the PGA Tour stop in Tampa the next spring.
As the No. 1-ranked amateur at the end of 2014, Schniederjans received invitations to the 2015 U.S. Open and British Open. He tied for 42nd at Chambers Bay and was on the fringes of contention in the final round at St. Andrews before tying for 12th in his amateur finale.
In his first two starts as a pro, Schniederjans tied for 22nd in the Canadian Open and was T15 the next week in the annual tour stop in the Washington, D.C., area. He almost qualified for a spot in the Web.com Finals, but missed by the narrowest margins, spending his first full season as a pro on that tour.
The runner-up finish by Schniederjans in Greensboro was the 12th this season by PGA Tour golfers with Georgia ties, including Brian Harman, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed in the last three majors. There were also five Georgia winners on the PGA Tour this year – Hudson Swafford (La Quinta, Calif.), Russell Henley (Houston), Wesley Bryan (Hilton Head), Brian Harman (Wells Fargo) and Kevin Kisner (Colonial).