Former Augusta State standout Henrik Norlander will get a third shot at the PGA Tour in 2019-20 after a playoff victory Monday in Wichita on the tour Norlander has called home for most of his professional career.
Norlander scored his second victory on what was known until a week ago as the Web.com Tour, which is now playing under the name of a sixth corporate sponsor since it began as the Ben Hogan Tour in 1990.
The tournament in Wichita is one of just a handful of events still remaining since the tour’s first season 30 years ago, and was the first one played under the newest title sponsor – global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry.
Web.com had been the tour’s title sponsor since assuming that role midway through the 2012 season from Nationwide Insurance, the tour’s title sponsor for a decade beginning in 2003.
Norlander survived a 5-way playoff that ended Monday morning after darkness halted play following one playoff hole Sunday. The final round was delayed several hours Sunday due to inclement weather, and ended in a 5-way tie that also included former UGA golfer Erik Compton.
Bryan Bigley hit his tee shot on the first playoff hole – the par-3 17th – to within four feet, but Norlander holed an 18-footer for birdie to extend the playoff to Monday morning. After both players parred the 18th hole, they returned to the 17th, and Norlander almost made birdie again, just missing a putt from 12 feet. Bigley missed a short par putt to give Norlander his second win on the tour and a spot on the 2019-20 PGA Tour.
The victory was worth $112,500 for Norlander, who moved up from 23rd to sixth on the tour’s points list and is guaranteed a spot in the top 25 at the end of the regular season on August 11.
Norlander was a three-time All-American at Augusta State, and along with 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, led the Jaguars to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2010 and ’11.
After playing for one season on the European Challenge Tour, the Swedish native returned to the U.S. and qualified for the 2013 PGA Tour. He finished either 15th or 16th in tournaments in New Orleans, Charlotte and Greensboro, but had no other top-40 finishes and finished 159th on the FedExCup points list, making 13 of 22 cuts.
Norlander, who has lived in Augusta since attending college there, played respectably in his first year on the Web.com Tour in 2014, placing 63rd on the money list with season best finishes of third and fourth. He earned his return to the PGA Tour by finishing fifth on the Web.com money list in 2015 highlighted by a win in Ft. Wayne, Ind., where he shot 62 in the final round to erase a 6-stroke deficit after 54 holes.
In his return to the PGA Tour for the 2015-16 season, Norlander made the cut in 15 of his 21 starts, but never placed higher than 25th in a tournament and was back on the Web.com Tour in 2017 after finishing 166th on the points list.
Before he returned to the Web.com Tour, Norlander played in the PGA Tour RSM Classic at Sea Island GC late in 2016 on a sponsor exemption and almost won, losing in his first 5-man playoff.
Norlander barely cracked the top 100 on the 2017 Web.com money list, but rebounded with a strong showing in 2018. He came close to a second win on the tour, shooting 24-under in Springfield, Mo., to finish second, one stroke behind the winner. He ended the regular season 32nd on the money list, just outside the top 25 finish necessary to rejoin the PGA Tour, and made another run at his PGA Tour card in the 4-event Finals series of tournaments, placing 30th with a trio of top-25 finishes.
After twice coming close to regaining his PGA Tour status, Norlander got off to a slow start in 2019 on the Web.com Tour, missing his first five cuts in succession. Thanks to back-to-back finishes of third in Nashville and fourth in Kansas City, Norlander vaulted from 193rd on the points list to 21st, and was still in the top 25 coming into his victory in Wichita.
“I went to the Bahamas and just felt like I should’ve been on the PGA Tour,” Norlander said after his victory in Wichita. “This tour is way too competitive to play bad and have a bad attitude on top of that. I was lucky we got four weeks off where I could regroup. I’ve been playing very well since then and I’m excited.”
Norlander opened the tournament in Wichita with a 63, tying Atlanta resident Michael Hebert for the opening round lead. He was one shot off the 36-hole leader after a second round 68, and after another 68, was one back of Compton heading to the final round.
With four birdies on his first eight holes, Norlander had the lead heading to the back nine Sunday, but needed a birdie on the 16th hole to earn a spot in the 5-way playoff after a final round score of 66 gave him a 15-under 265 total for the tournament.
Norlander led the tournament in fairways hits (43 of 56) and tied for second in greens in regulation (56 of 72). On the season, he is fourth on the tour in GIR.
Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient who has extensive experience on both the PGA and Web.com Tours, fell three shots behind Norlander midway through the final round, but rallied with three birdies on the back nine, including one at the 18th to get into the playoff.
A par on the first playoff hole quickly eliminated Compton, but with his tie for second place, he improved from 68 to 31 on the points list to give himself a shot at a top-25 finish at the end of the regular season.
Compton also finished as runner-up in Wichita early in his career in 2004, and the tournament has a history of top finishes by golfers with Georgia ties. Matt Kuchar was second in Wichita in 2006 and Roberto Castro was a runner-up in 2010. Augusta’s Scott Parel scored his lone win on the Web.com Tour in 2013 on his way to success on the Champions Tour and Ollie Schniederjans won in 2013 en route to the PGA Tour.
With seven events remaining on the 2019 schedule, Norlander is joined in the top 25 by recent Georgia Tech golfer Vince Whaley at 13 and Atlanta resident Drew Weaver at 23.
Whaley, who is living in Atlanta, began his rookie season on the tour with a second place finish in the second of two tournaments in the Bahamas, and tied for third in Springfield, Ill., the week before Wichita, finishing one shot behind the winner for the second time this season.
Weaver also had an early runner-up finish in Colombia, and has remained in the top 25 with a ninth place showing in Nashville and a recent tie for 15th in Greenville, S.C. Weaver finished outside the top 100 on the Web.com Tour each of the last two seasons playing limited schedules.
Joining Compton in the top 75 on the points list are Alpharetta’s Billy Kennerly (45), Fayetteville’s Wade Binfield (47), former Georgia Tech golfer Paul Haley (55), Atlanta resident Jamie Arnold (58) and Will Wilcox (75), like Binfield a former Clayton State golfer.
Former Georgia Tech golfers J.T. Griffin and Nicholas Thompson are barely inside the top 100, with Hebert (108), ex-UGA golfer Lee McCoy (123) and Suwanee resident David Skinns (126) outside the top 100 along with recent Kennesaw State golfer Jimmy Beck (170) of Columbus.
The top 75 finishers in the regular season are eligible to compete in the Finals, which have been reduced from four tournaments to three. They are exempt for the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour if they don’t finish in the top 25 at Finals and earn PGA Tour cards for 2019-20.