Two Atlanta area residents playing on the Web.com Tour this season recorded runner-up finishes in the tour’s two most recent events, putting them in good position to earn their PGA Tour cards for 2019-20.
Atlanta’s Drew Weaver finished second in this past week’s tournament in Colombia, while Fayetteville’s Vince Whaley, a recent member of the Georgia Tech golf team, previously placed second in the second of two stops in the Bahamas.
Weaver collected a larger financial reward for his runner-up finish, earning $75,600 to $64,800 for Whaley. However, for the first time in tour history, a FedExCup-style points system has replaced the money list as the method for determining the 25 players who will advance to the PGA Tour for the following season, as well as the next 50 players who will be exempt on the Web.com Tour for 2020. Those 50 will also earn spots in the Web.com Finals, which offers 25 more spots on the 2019-20 PGA Tour.
Weaver made a strong weekend run in Bogota, posting scores of 65-67 the final two rounds to make a big move up the leader board and finish four shots behind winner Mark Anderson. Weaver finished with a 13-under 270 total in the tournament, which played its first two rounds on two courses. A birdie at the 17th hole in the final round enabled Weaver to break a tie for second.
After three of 24 tournaments in the regular season, Weaver stands fourth on the points list behind the three players who have already won in 2019. Weaver tied for 20th in the season opener in the Bahamas.
Weaver is best known for his surprise victory in the 2007 British Amateur. He played his college golf at Virginia Tech and was a member of the 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team after completing his college career earlier that year.
This is Weaver’s third season on the Web.com Tour. He played partial schedules in both 2016 and ‘17, making a total of 23 starts with respectable results. He made a combined 14 of 23 cuts and notched five top-25 finishes, placing 108 and 145 in earnings. He competed on the Canadian Tour in 2016, winning a tournament and placing eighth on the money list.
Weaver earned his spot on the 2019 Web.com Tour by tying for 25th in the finals of qualifying late last year in Arizona, posting four rounds in the 60s to finish at 19-under.
Whaley also tied for 25th in the finals of qualifying with four rounds in the 60s. His appearance in the 2019 season opener in the Bahamas was his first start on the Web.com Tour, and he is 3-for-3 in cuts made so far, finishing the middle of the pack in his first start in the Bahamas and last week in Bogota.
Whaley made a strong run at victory in the second event in the Bahamas, finishing just one short behind the winner with a 6-under 282 total. Whaley moved up the leader board in windy conditions in the final round, shooting even par 72 on a day when no one broke 70.
In his first full season as a pro in 2018, Whaley competed on the Texas-based All Pro Tour, and placed fourth on the money with almost $50,000, earning Rookie of the Year honors. Whaley, a Texas native, finished second twice and third once, and never placed lower than 20th in any of his 12 tournament starts.
Whaley won twice in his four seasons on the Georgia Tech golf team, and was a three-year starter for the Yellow Jackets. After three tournaments in his rookie season on the Web.com Tour, he stands fifth on the points list.
Also in the top 10 in standings after three tournaments is former Clayton State golfer Willy Wilcox, who tied for fourth in both events in the Bahamas and is ninth on the points list. Billy Kennerly of Alpharetta is 22nd after tying for 12th and 17th in the Bahamas, with Wade Binfield of Fayetteville, like Wilcox a former Clayton State golfer, 32nd after placing ninth in the second stop in the Bahamas.
The tour is in Panama this week, and after stops in Florida and Louisiana, plays in Savannah at the Landings March 28-31.
PGA TOUR UPDATE
Former Georgia Tech standout and St. Simons island resident Matt Kuchar made a strong bid for a third victory in the 2018-19 PGA Tour season, but settled for a tie for fourth Sunday in the Phoenix Open. Kuchar, who won in Mayakoba last Fall and in Hawaii a few weeks ago, missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have moved him into the top spot in the FedExCup standings.
Kuchar begins this week in second place in the standings, and can move past leader Xander Schauffele with a top-30 finish this week at Pebble Beach.
Augusta native Charles Howell remains fifth in the standings after a solid start to the 2019 portion of the schedule. Howell tied for 14th in the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and was eighth the next week in the Hawaiian Open. In his most recent start he tied for 20th in San Diego, and after two weeks off, he will return to action next week in Los Angeles.
If Howell is still in the top 10 in the FedexCup standings after the tournament in Los Angeles, a near certainty, he will qualify for the WGC event the following week in Mexico, Howell is currently 56th in the Official World Golf Ranking, and will need to stay inside the top 64 to qualify for the Match Play Championship two weeks before the Masters.
Former Georgia Bulldog Bubba Watson joined Kuchar in a tie for fourth in Phoenix and moved up from 174 to 82 on the points list. Like Howell, Watson is not playing Pebble Beach this week, but will also be in the field the following week in Los Angeles, where he is the defending champion.
Ex-Georgia Tech golfer Chesson Hadley moved into the top 30 in the FedExCup standings, tying for 20th in Phoenix to move up from 33 to 29. Hadley had a wild first two days, mostly centered around the drivable par-4 17th hole,
Hadley was 5-under after 13 holes in the opening round, but was 5-over his last five holes with a double bogey at the 17th. Hadley drove the green before watching his putt of more than 100 feet trickle into the water guarding the back pin position. After taking considerable grief on social media, Hadley again drove the green on Friday, and this time holed a putt of over 80 feet for an eagle, finishing the day with a 65.
For the week, Hadley was even par on the 17th without a par, making birdie on Saturday after driving into the fringe, and making bogey Sunday after laying up in wet, cool conditions. Earlier in the round, Hadley holed out from 162 yards for an eagle on the par-4 sixth hole.
Macon native and former UGA golfer Russell Henley had his best week of the 2018-19 season, tying for 15th. Henley gained 37 spots in the standings, but is still outside the top 125 on the points list at 132. Henley has qualified for the Tour Championship at East Lake twice in his first six seasons on the PGA Tour and has three career wins, but started slowly in 2018-19, missing four of his first six cuts.
The tour holds its first full field event of 2019, playing the first of back-to-back tournaments in south Florida, this week in Boca Raton. The tournament marks the return to action for Marietta’s Larry Nelson, who is playing for the first time since the Regions Tradition last May in Alabama.
In his final round of that tournament, Nelson shot a 67 to better his age by three strokes, but did not play again in 2018.
Also returning to action is Duluth’s Scott Dunlap, who underwent off-season wrist surgery. Augusta’s Scott Parel, Savannah’s Gene Sauers and Atlanta’s Billy Andrade are also on the field. Three Georgians, including 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize, competed in a Monday qualifier, with Georgia PGA member Sonny Skinner shooting 5-under 67 to get into a 4-way playoff for the final two spots in the field.
Skinner advanced from the playoff and will be in the field this week. Fellow Georgia PGA member Paul Claxton of Vidalia shot 69 to miss the playoff by two strokes. Tommy Tolles, a teammate of Claxton’s at Georgia, shot 70 in the qualifier and Mize posted a 72.
Dunlap withdrew from the tournament several days before it was to begin.