A trio of Georgia residents – two former Bulldogs and a veteran ex-Yellow Jacket – enjoyed profitable weeks in the Houston Open, which ended Sunday.
Harris English andSepp Straka, both UGA graduates, tied for fourth in Houston, while former Georgia Tech standout Stewart Cink finished in a tie for ninth, with a bogey on the difficult 18thhole Sunday at the GC of Houston dropping him from a tie for fourth. .
The tie for fourth for English was his third finish of sixth or better in four starts thus far in the 2019-20 season. English is coming off the poorest season of his PGA Tour career, barely finishing inside the top 150 on the FedExCup points list to retain limited status for this season.
After four straight top-50 seasons from 2013-16, which included two wins, two runner-up finishes and two third-place showings, English dropped outside the top 100 in 2017 and ’18, narrowly retaining his exempt status.
Things got even worse this past season, as he finished 149thwithout a single top-10. He managed just two top 10s in both 2017 and ’18, and can match his combined total for the last three seasons before the end of the calendar year.
English opened the 2019-20 season with a tie for third in the Greenbrier, and followed the next week with a T6 in Mississippi. He tied for 33rdin Napa, Calif., before his third top-6 finish of the season at Houston, and stands ninth on the points list.
Going into the final round at Houston, English was tied for 17th, six shots behind 54-hole leader and eventual champion Lanto Griffin. He made a big move up the leader board with four birdies on the front nine Sunday and closed within a few shots of the lead after his seventh birdie of the day on the 15th.
But on a day when five of his seven birdies came on putts between 9 and 16 feet, English missed a putt for par of less than three feet for his only bogey to drop out of solo fourth. Despite the miss, English took home $286,875 to boost his season’s earnings to almost $900,000, exceeding his totals for each of the past three seasons.
English is looking forward to the final two PGA Tour events of 2019 – the Mayakoba Classic, where he scored his second PGA Tour win in 2014, and his hometown event, the RSM Classic at Sea Island GC, which will be played Nov. 21-24.
Straka, a native of Austria who attended high school in Valdosta before playing on the golf team in Athens, began his second season on the PGA Tour with four consecutive missed cuts before his T4 finish in Houston.
In each of his first four starts, Straka was under par for one of his two rounds, but shot over par the other day. He ended his missed cut streak thanks to an opening 65 in Houston, beginning his round with birdies on his first four holes and closing with birdies on three of his last six.
Straka ended the day with nine birdies, leaving him just one shot off the opening round lead. After scores of 71 and 72 the next two days, he closed with a 69 to remain high on the leader board all day.
The tie for fourth vaulted Straka to 40th in the FedExCup standings. He finished 115thas a rookie, playing his best golf the final two months of the season to move into the top 125.
Cink was making just his second start of the season after finishing among the top 30 in his debut in Mississippi. He shot 10-under 278 in Houston, four shots behind Griffin, with the par-4 sixth hole preventing Cink from possibly scoring his first victory since the 2009 British Open. Cink twice hit his approach shot into the water guarding the green, and played the hole 5-over in the tournament with two double bogeys and a bogey.
His first double bogey on the sixth came late in his second round and kept a 4-under 68 from being even lower. He made another double on the sixth in the final round, but carded four birdies in a 5-hole stretch on the back nine to make a late move into the top 10. He moved up to 43rdin the FedExCup standings.
After finishing outside the top 150 on the points list in 2018-19, Cink is playing this season on a minor medical extension. T he long-time Duluth resident will need one or two more strong showings to regain his exempt status.
Several other Georgians are also off to successful starts to the 2019-20 season:
Brian Harman, a Savannah native and St. Simons Island resident, is 15thon the points list, tying for third in the season opener at the Greenbrier and following with ties for 14thin Mississippi and 18thin Las Vegas before missing the cut in Houston. Harman, one of 10 Georgia Bulldogs on the PGA Tour this season, shot a 76 in the second round Friday in Houston, his first over par round of the young season.
Former Georgia Tech golfer Richy Werenski also opened 2019-20 with a T3 in the Greenbrier and tied for 18ththe next week in Mississippi. Like Harman, he shot over par for the first time this season in the second round in Houston to miss the cut. He is 22ndon the points list after finishing 126 this past season.
Cameron Tringale, one of seven former Georgia Tech golfers on the PGA Tour this season, has made all four cuts with top-20 finishes in Mississippi and Houston. He tied for 13th last week and is 31ston the points list.
Augusta native Charles Howell, coming off one of his best seasons in 2018-19, opened this season with a tie for fourth in Napa, and is 36thin points after a poor fourth round in Las Vegas dropped him near the bottom of the field.
Augusta resident Luke List is off to an inconsistent start to the 2019-20 season, missing two of four cuts and placing 13thand 28thin his other two starts, A third round 63 in Las Vegas was largely responsible for his T13 there, and he closed with a 66 in Houston to move into the top 30. List is 54thin the standings.
List and Howell are among five Georgians competing in Korea this week, the start of a three tournament swing trough Asia. Also playing is fellow Augustan Vaughn Taylor, ex-Georgia Bulldog and St. Simons resident Keith Mitchell and Georgia Tech’s Chesson Hadley.
KF TOUR QUALIFYING: First stage qualifying for the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour concluded last week, with four first stage qualifiers played the previous week.
Six Georgians advanced from a qualifier in Kannapolis, N.C., led by recent Georgia Tech golfer Chris Petefish, who tied for seventh at 14-under 270 with scores of 65-66-72-67.
Tying for 12that 271 was former UGA golfer Mookie DeMoss from Duluth, who opened with a 64 and followed with scores of 70-69-68. After shooting 73 the first day, St. Simons’ Dru Lovecame back with scores of 65-68-66 tie for 16that 272, two shots under the top 22 cutline of 273 to advance. Broc Everett, the NCAA champion his senior season at Augusta, also tied for 16that 272.
Advancing on the number at 273 was Isaiah Logue of Royston and former UGA golfer Michael Cromie. Logue shot 65-65 the first days but was 1-over the last rounds and tied for 20thwith Cromie, who shot 1-over 72 the final day after posting three scores in the 60s.
Zach Caldwell of Sandy Springs shot 65 in the final round with birdies on three of his last five holes, but missed advancing by one shot, tying for 23rdat 274. Recent Georgia Tech golfer James Clark of Columbus was under par in all four rounds, but missed by two shots at 275. Former Clemson golfer Blake Kennedy, now living in Atlanta, bogeyed four of his last five holes for a final round 73 and missed by three at 276. Ted Moon of Lilburn closed with scores of 68-67, but missed by six shots at 279.
All three Georgians competing in a qualifier in Nebraska advanced. Recent South Carolina golfer Ryan Stachler of Milton, who won a Georgia PGA event at Berkeley Hills in 2018, shot 8-under 276 to tie for fifth, closing with three scores in the 60s. Dalton Ward, a native South Carolinian living on St. Simons Island, birdied two of his last three holes to tie for 17that 282, with ex-UGA golfer T.J. Mitchellof Albany tying for 21stat 283 to advance on the number. Mitchell shot between 70 and 72 all four rounds,
Former Augusta State golfer Jake Marriott advanced from a qualifier in Lakeland, Fla., tying for 17that 12-under 276. Former Oglethorpe golfer Anthony Maccaglia, now living in Alpharetta, missed by two shots at 279, with ex-Georgia State golf team member Jonathan Grey missing by five at 282. Also failing to advance was former UGA golfer Sam Straka of Valdosta, and Dacula’s S.M. Lee, an NAIA All-American at Dalton State.
Auburn native DrewCzuchry, who played at Georgia Tech, failed to advance in West Palm Beach, as did Cartersville’s Ricky Casko.
Fredrik Nilehn, who played at Kennesaw State before transferring to Texas Tech, shot a final round 63 to win his qualifier in Nevada by two with a 16-under 272 total. Former Mercer golfer Hans Reimers failed to advance. Elberton’s Joel Sawyer and Atlanta’s David Van Horn did not qualify in Utah.
Five second stage qualifiers will be played in late October/early November, including two in Florida and one in Dothan, Ala. The finals are set for Dec. 12-15 in Winter Garden, Fla.