Updates on Georgia golfers from the four primary tours in the U.S.:
PGA TOUR: Howell in U.S. Open; Mitchell on hot streak
Augusta’s Charles Howell earned a spot in the upcoming U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, tying for ninth in last week’s Byron Nelson Classic to move up from 59th to 56th in the World Golf Rankings.
Howell has not played in the U.S. Open since 2012 and will be making just his second start in the championship since 2008. He has also qualified for his hometown major – the Masters – just once since ’08, also in 2012.
The soon-to-be-39-year-old Howell is enjoying another solid season, standing 32nd in the FedExCup standings. The top 10 in Dallas was his fourth of the year and he has six other finishes of 21st or better, including six of his last seven starts. He is in position to qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake for the first time since 2011, which would also get him into the 2019 Masters.
Also earning spots into the U.S. Open was Luke List, who grew up in north Georgia, and former Georgia Tech golfer Chesson Hadley.
List is 52nd in the OWGR and stands 16th on the FedExCup points list, He has five top 10s this season, including a playoff loss to Justin Thomas in the Honda Classic and a tie for third at Hilton Head, where he finished one shot out of a playoff.
This will be List’s first appearance in the U.S. Open since 2007, when he made his professional debut. He also competed in the event twice as an amateur. It will be just his third professional start in a major, with the second coming in last year’s PGA Championship.
Although Hadley did not play in Dallas last week, he moved up from 62 to 60 in the OWGR to get the last exempt spot into the U.S. Open from this week’s standings, barely edging out Adam Scott, who tied Howell for ninth in the Byron Nelson. This will be Hadley’s first appearance in the U.S. Open.
Hadley has enjoyed an outstanding season in 2017-18, beginning with consecutive finishes of 3-2-4 in his first three starts last fall. He has placed among the top 20 in his last six tournaments, all coming in a 7-week stretch in April and May. Among them was a tie for seventh at Hilton Head and a T11 in his last start in the Players.
The 30-year-od Hadley is a in his fourth full season on the PGA Tour and earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2014, winning in Puerto Rico. He played on the Web.com Tour in 2013 and ’16 and won twice each those years, placing in the top 10 on the money list both times.
Hadley is currently 19th in the FedExCup standings, one of six golfers with Georgia ties among the top 30. Patton Kizzire is fourth, Patrick Reed fifth, Bubba Watson sixth and Bran Harman 24th behind List and Hadley. Howell and Kevin Kisner (38) are not far outside the top 30.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: Four Georgia PGA members playing in PGA Senior Championship
Four Georgia PGA members are competing in this week’s PGA Senior Championship, which is being played in Michigan. Sonny Skinner of Spring Hill GC in Tifton and Craig Stevens of Woodmont in Canton both qualified by finishing in the top 35 of last year’s PGA Senior Professional Championship, the national championship for senior club professionals.
James Mason of the Orchar, made it into the field as an alternate after finishing one shot out of the top 35 in last year’s senior club pro championship. Paul Claxton of Brunswick CC, who turned 50 earlier this year, has made it into two Champions Tour events this year as a Monday qualifier, and made enough money from those two starts to qualify for the Senior PGA off a money list.
Mason, Skinner and Stevens have been frequent qualifiers for the PGA Senior, with Mason competing every year but two since 2002, making his first start in the event the week after winning a Champions Tour tournament in New Jersey as a Monday qualifier. The 67-year-old Mason last played in the tournament in 2016.
Skinner qualified for the Senior PGA six straight years from 2011 to 2016 and made the cut in each of his first five appearances, placing between 35 and 53 five straight years. Skinner, who played on the PGA Tour and what is now the Web.com Tour from 1990-2010, has played sparingly on the Champions Tour since 2010, and this will be just his third start since the 2016 season.
Stevens, a career club professional, has played in the Senior PGA four times since 2012, making the cut in 2014. He also qualified for the PGA Championship three times, including 2001 and 2011 when the tournament was played at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Claxton spent two decades playing on the PGA and Web.com Tours and is attempting to play his way onto the Champions Tour this year. In recent years, Claxton has been playing in Georgia PGA events, and won the Georgia Open and the Section’s qualifier for the national club professional championship last year, as well as a recent Georgia PGA event at Chattahoochee GC. He tie for third in last year’s national club pro championship to earn a spot in the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
Also playing in this week’s PGA Senior Championship are Georgians Gene Sauers, Scott Parel, Scott Dunlap, Billy Andrade and Larry Mize. Sauers is currently sixth on the tour’s money list after tying for second in last week’s major in Birmingham. It was his third top-3 finish this season. Parel (18), Dunlap (20) and Andrade (22) are all among the top 25 on the money list, and all three also have runner-up finishes this season.
WEB.COM TOUR: Castro breaks into top 10 in earnings
Alpharetta’s Roberto Castro, who played his college golf at Georgia Tech, moved into the top 10 on the Web.com Tour’s money list with his fifth straight strong showing this past weekend, tying for 14th in the BMW Charity Pro-Am in Greenville, S.C., with an 18-under total for the tournament. Castro began the final round tied for 20th, but moved into a tie for fifth Sunday with five consecutive birdies on the back nine before a late bogey cost him a fifth straight top-10 finish.
Castro’s recent torrid stretch of golf began in late March in Savannah, where he shot 65-66-64 the last three rounds to finish second, one shot behind Sam Burns, who birdied the last three holes. He tied for seventh in the next event in Mississippi, with the final round washed out after Castro made a strong early move on the leader.
The following week in Evansville, Castro tied for fifth after having the lead on the back nine, and contended again two weeks later in Knoxville, tying for eighth after a late pair of late bogeys cost him a top-3 finish.
Castro is leading the tour in scoring average going into this week’s event in Nashville, with the Web.com Tour making its final stop in the South next week in Raleigh before the season-ending Tour Championship in Jacksonville in September. The top 25 players from the regular season, which ends in mid-August, qualify for the 2018-19 PGA Tour, along with the top 25 finishers from the Web.com Finals, a series of four events in August and September.
Former Clayton State golfer Willy Wilcox is currently 23rd on the money list, followed by Atlanta resident Michael Hebert (37), former Georgia Tech golfer Anders Albertson of Woodstock (38), UGA’ s Joey Garber (45), Augusta State’s Henrik Norlander (48), Alpharetta’s Billy Kennerly (64) and UGA’ s Erik Compton (68).
Atlanta resident Samuel Del Val (76), UGA’s Lee McCoy (78) and Georgia Tech’s Seth Reeves of Suwanee (79) are all just outside the top 75, the cutoff for qualifying for the Web.com Finals and being guaranteed exempt status on the tour next year.
Swainsboro native Will Claxton, who has been sidelined for more than four years after undergoing hip surgery in 2014, has returned to action and recently tied for eighth in Knoxville in his third start of the year. He is just outside the top 100 on the money list.
Claxton (no relation to Paul) was in his third PGA Tour season when he was sidelined and did not play in a tournament for more than four years before returning to competition in April in Mississippi. Once he completes his rehab starts on the Web.com Tour, he will have status on the PGA Tour through a medical extension. He made just eight starts during the 2013-14 season before being sidelined.
LPGA TOUR: Stackhouse moving up on money list
Jonesboro’s Mariah Stackhouse is enjoying a successful second season on the LPGA Tour, turning in a recent string of solid tournament showings to move up to 71st on the money list, which would earn her fully exempt status for 2019 if she maintains that position.
Stackhouse was 114 on the money list as a rookie in 2017 and began her second season with limited status. She got into the field in the season-opening event in the Bahamas and tied for 11th, which improved her status and enabled her to get into the season’s first major in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
So far this season, Stackhouse has made the cut in seven of nine starts, including the last five in a row, and has placed between 28th and 39th in each of her last four tournaments. In two of those, Stackhouse did not have a chance to improve her position, as the event in Dallas was reduced to 36 holes and last week’s tournament in Williamsburg was shortened to 54 holes.
Brunswick’s Katie Burnett has made only two of nine cuts, with a tie for 19th in Dallas her only strong showing. Valdosta’s Dori Carter, who has limited status this season, has gotten into only three tournaments and made the cut in just one.