Golfers with Georgia ties were all over the leader boards on both the PGA and Web.com Tours this past weekend, combining for six top-10 finishes, with three others placing among the top 15.
Charles Howell, Michael Thompson and Vaughn Taylor posted top 10s on the PGA Tour in Los Angeles , with Luke List and Bubba Watson both coming up one shot shots of a top-10 showing. J.T. Griffin, Billy Kennerly and Vince Whaley were fifth, sixth and seventh on the Web.com Tour in Lakeland, Fla., just behind former St. Simons resident Rick Lamb, who tied for third. Wade Binfield tied for 14th.
Howell, an Augusta native, recorded his fourth top 10 of the 2018-19 season and sixth top-20 finish in nine starts, placing sixth at Riviera CC with scores of 69-69-68-68 for a total of 9-under 275. It was the seventh time in his nine starts this season that he has shot 9-under or better in a tournament.
Coming into the week, Howell was fifth in the FedExCup standings, which guaranteed him a spot in this week’s World Golf Championship event in Mexico. He remains fifth in the standings and improved his World Ranking from 57 to 49, which would have also qualified him for the WGC tournament.
The 39-year-old Howell scored his third career victory late in 2018 at Sea Island GC in the RSM Classic, his first win since defeating Phil Mickelson in a playoff at Riviera in 2007.
St. Simons Island resident Thompson continued his recent stretch of outstanding play, tying for seventh at 276. Thompson was among the 36-hole leaders after scores of 69-64 before closing with 73-70, playing all but a handful of his final 36 holes on Sunday after rain washed out much of the first round on Thursday.
Thompson missed by one shot of scoring top 10s in all four recent tournaments in California, placing 9th in the Desert Classic, 13th in San Diego,10th at Pebble Beach and 7th in LA. Thompson earned around $700,000 for his month long run through California and moved up from 49 to 40 in the FedExCup standings after his strong showing at Riviera.
Taylor, an Augusta native and resident, improved from 88 to 63 on the points list with his second California top 10 of the season. Taylor tied for seventh in the Desert Classic, with his two top-10 finishes surrounded by four missed cuts in his last six starts. After a disappointing 74 in the third round, Taylor closed with a bogey-free 67 in windy conditions, tying for the second lowest of the final round. He also tied for second for the week in birdies with 19. He finished at 7-under 277.
List, who grew up in north Georgia and moved to Augusta last year, tied for 15th at 278, closing with a 68 after beginning his final round with three straight birdies. He finished the week second in driving distance, averaging just over 300 yards on Riviera’s rain-soaked fairways. The tie for 15th was List’s best finish since he tied for fourth in the RSM Classic, the final 2018 tournament on the PGA Tour schedule. He remained in the top 50 on the points list, moving up one spot from 50 to 49.List is currently 67th in the World Golf Rankings and will have to improve a few spots to qualify for the WGC Match Play Championship in late March.
Watson, a winner in Los Angeles three times in the previous seven years, also tied for 15th at 278. He would have tied for seventh, but four-putted the 18th green for a double bogey after having a 4-footer for par. Watson, who did not play during the PGA Tour’s Fall schedule, was making just his fourth start of the season. He was fourth in San Diego in his previous appearance, and moved up from 91 to 71 in the FedExCup standings after his T15 in LA.
The former Georgia Bulldog is one of six golfers with Georgia ties to qualify for this week’s WGC event in Mexico. Joining him in field are Howell, two-time 2018-19 winner Matt Kuchar, 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner and Patton Kizzire. List is one of the top alternates. Kuchar tied for 28th in Los Angeles and dropped to second in the FedExCup standings, 10 points behind Xander Schauffele.
Former Georgia Tech golfer J.T. Griffin got into the Web.com tournament in Lakeland, Fla., as a Monday qualifier, and finished fifth in the tournament, earning $22,000, a spot in the next event in Louisiana in March and higher status on the tour for the rest of the season.
Griffin, a North Carolina native who is living in Marietta, was a rookie on the Web.com Tour last year and played a limited schedule, making nine starts. His best finish was a tie for 14th and he was 170th on the money list with earnings of just over $20,000. He made it to the finals of Q-school and shot 14-under for 72 holes, but missed a top-45 finish by four shots, tying for 74th to earn limited status for 2019.
He made his first start of the season in Lakeland after advancing from a Monday qualifier, and shot 63-65 the first two rounds to share the 36-hole lead. He had nine birdies and no bogeys in the opening round and carded 10 birdies the next day, shooting 65 with a double bogey. He added eight more birdies and a pair of eagles over the weekend, but also had eight bogeys on his scorecard and finished the tournament six shots behind the winner with a 20-under 268 total. He shot 71-69 the final two rounds. Griffin, a 2011 Georgia Tech graduate, is 42nd on the Web.com points list after his fifth place finish.
Alpharetta’s Billy Kennerly is in his third season on the Web.com Tour, finishing among the top 75 in each of his first two seasons. He is currently inside the top 25 at 21st on the points list, tying for 12th and 17th in the two season-opening events in the Bahamas and placing sixth last week in Lakeland. Kennerly, who played his college golf at Clemson, shot 69-68-67-66 for an 18-under 270 total.
Vince Whaley, like Griffin a former Georgia Tech golfer, tied for seventh in Lakeland at 272, his second top-10 finish of his rookie season on the tour. Whaley, a teammate of current PGA Tour members Ollie Schniederjans, Richy Werenski, Anders Albertson and Seth Reeves while he was a member of the Georgia Tech golf team, was the runner-up in the second of two tournaments in the Bahamas. He retained his eighth place standing on the points list with his effort in Lakeland, posting scores of 67-68-67-70.
Wade Binfield, a former Clayton State golfer, tied for 14th in Lakeland at 274, opening with scores of 65-66 before falling back a bit on the weekend at 72-71. Binfield, like Whaley a Fayetteville resident, has played on the Canadian Tour the past four seasons and made a total of 12 Web.com starts in 2017 and ’18. He opened 2019 with very limited status on the Web.com Tour after finishing near the bottom of the standings in the qualifying finals, but got into the two tournaments in the Bahamas and tied for ninth in the second one. He is 34th on the points list and is in position to play a full schedule after his strong start.
Willy Wilcox, like Binfield a former Clayton State golfer, is among the top 25 despite back-to-back missed cuts, opening the season with two top 10s in the Bahamas He is 18th, with Atlanta resident Drew Weaver 11th thanks to a runner-up finish in Bogota two weeks ago.
The Web.com Tour is off for a month after the cancellation of a tournament scheduled for Mexico next week. The tournament has been replaced by one at the Robert Trent Jones Trail outside Montgomery, which will be played April 18-21.
The next event on the schedule is in Louisiana March 21-24, with the tour returning to the Landings in Savannah March 28-31.Those are the only two events on the Web.com schedule between last week’s tournament in Lakeland and the stop outside Montgomery, the first of 20 tournaments in a 20-week span.