Four Georgians were among the 50 players who earned spots on the 2015-16 PGA Tour through their play on either the Web.com Tour this year or the Web.com Finals, which concluded in early October.
St. Simons Island resident Patton Kizzire led the Web.com Tour in earnings and maintained that status through the Finals, closing out his season with a tie for fifth in the Web.com Tour Championship in Jacksonville.
Kizzire, playing in his rookie season at the age of 29, had two wins, three other top-3 finishes and 12 top 10s, and was one of just a handful of players to earn more than $500,000 in the tour’s 25-year history.
Earning their PGA Tour cards for the 2015-16 season in the Web.com Finals were Henrik Norlander, Roberto Castro and Luke List, the latter two college contemporaries of Kizzire, an Auburn graduate. Castro played his college golf at Georgia Tech and List competed at Vanderbilt. Norlander, a member of Augusta State’s back-to-back national championship teams in 2010 and ’11, was a freshman when Kizzire was a senior.
Castro and List were both among the state’s top juniors, with Castro from Alpharetta and List growing up in Jasper and Ringgold. Castro will be playing on the PGA Tour for the fourth straight season, while List returns to the tour after playing the last two seasons on the Web.com Tour.
After enjoying an outstanding season on the PGA Tour and qualifying for the Tour Championship at East Lake in 2013, Castro struggled last year and dropped out of the top 125 in the final FedExCup standings, costing him his exempt status. He made 16 starts on the PGA Tour this season, but his best showings were three finishes between 23rd and 29th in opposite field events and a tie for 40th in Memphis.
Castro finished the year 188th in the FedExCup standings to earn a spot in the Web.com Finals. He also competed in the finals last year, missing the 25th and final qualifying spot for this year’s PGA Tour by less than $32.
This time, Castro placed fifth among the approximately 135 players who competed in the Finals, finishing behind only the players who won the four tournaments. Castro closed out the Finals with consecutive finishes of ninth, second and 10th in the last three events, concluding his run of excellent play with an 8-under 62 in the final round of the Tour Championship at the Dye’s Valley course at TPC Sawgrass.
Castro, who played in only two Web.com events during the regular season, had led the previous week after 54 holes in Columbus, O., but shot 75 in the final round on the demanding course at Ohio State to end up two behind the winner. Castro has not won since early in his pro career, when he scored five victories on the eGolf Tour and captured the 2009 Georgia Open.
List, who was the runner-up in the 2007 Georgia Open, was 22nd among the 25 players who earned their PGA Tour cards in the Web.com Finals. He was 64th on the regular season money list, getting off to a strong start with finishes of sixth in Colombia and fourth in Mexico, but had only one top-25 the rest of the regular season.
After missing the cut in the first two Finals tournaments, List tied for fifth in Columbus to secure his return to the PGA Tour and tied for 35th the following week in Jacksonville. List will be 45th on the priority list among the 50 players who earned their PGA Tour cards via the Web.com Tour, and will need to play well in his handful of starts this Fall to move up in the standings when the Web.com graduates are re-shuffled in early 2016.
List moved up to the PGA Tour for the first time in 2013, but that was his only season in golf’s major leagues. After an outstanding Web.com season in 2012 that included a victory in Valdosta, List has not approached that level of play, but still has time to achieve the potential he displayed as an amateur, making the cut in the 2005 Masters while he was a member of the Vanderbilt golf team.
Norlander, who has settled in Augusta, won the Finals opener in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and was ninth and 18th in the last two of the four tournaments, placing third on the Finals money list after ending the regular season 47th. Like List, Norlander started fast with a tie for fifth in Panama and a runner-up finish in Brazil, but had only two finishes of better than 30th the rest of the season until his victory.
Going to the final round in Ft. Wayne, Norlander was six shots off the lead, but wound up winning by three after closing with a 10-under 62.
Norlander was a rookie on the PGA Tour in 2013, but did not play well enough to retain his playing privileges. He was 50th and 47th in his two seasons on the Web.com Tour before his victory in Indiana earned him a second shot at the PGA Tour.
Also competing in the Web.com Finals were former PGA Tour winners Vaughn Taylor of Augusta and Jonathan Byrd of St. Simons. Neither player placed among the top 25 and will have limited status in 2015-16 as past champions.
Taylor played on past champions status in 2014-15 and got into 12 tournaments, making 11 cuts and recording six top-25 finishes, including a tie for 10th at Pebble Beach. He barely finished outside the top 150 in the FedExCup standings, but will be the first player outside the top 150 to get into tournaments, which should get him at least as many starts as in 2014-15.
An injury kept Taylor out of the first of four tournaments in the Finals, and he was unable to finish in the top 25 despite two top 25s in the last three.
Byrd won five tournaments in his first 10 seasons on the PGA Tour, but has struggled to regain his form since undergoing wrist surgery in 2013. He has not finished in the top 125 since 2012, and was 158 this past season. He tied for 16th in the Finals opener, but missed two of the next three cuts and may have to return to the Web.com Tour on at least a part time basis after not having played on that tour since 2001.
Former Georgia Southern golfer Blake Adams, a Lake Oconee area native, played in the Finals after competing on a medical extension on the PGA Tour in 2014-15. Adams enjoyed three solid season on from 2010-12, but hip problems have sidelined him for most of the last three years, with Adams undergoing hip replacement surgery in 2014.
Adams made 13 starts this past season after just 10 tournaments combined in 2013 and ’14. A tie for 11th at Hilton Head was his only successful showing, and he has just three starts left on his medical extension, needing at least one top finish to regain his exempt status. He last played on the Web.com Tour in 2009, enjoying one of the best seasons in tour history by a non-winner as he ended up third on the money list.