The Web.com Tour returns to the Landings in Savannah for a second year, with the 2019 tournament set for March 28-31 on the Deer Creek course.
Last year’s inaugural event produced plenty of final round fireworks, as first year pro Sam Burns out-dueled Alpharetta’s Roberto Castro in a Sunday birdie barrage to win by one shot.
Both Burns and Castro are playing on the PGA Tour this year, as is former St Simons resident Scott Langley, who was part of the back-and-forth battle for victory and ended up tied for third.
While the top players from the 2018 Web.com Tour are competing on the PGA Tour this year, there will be a number of players in the field who played in Savannah last year, including several with Georgia ties.
The Web.com Tour is currently in the midst of a 4-week break, with the next event set for March 21-24 in Louisiana. Through five of 24 tournaments on the tour’s regular season schedule, four golfers with Georgia ties are among the top 25 on the points list that will determine the players who will advance to the 2019-20 PGA Tour, with three others among the top 75.
The top 75 finishers in the regular season will earn exempt Web.com status for 2020, and will also qualify for the Web.com Finals, a three-tournament series that will decide 25 more qualifiers for next season’s PGA Tour.
Vince Whaley, who played his college golf at Georgia Tech and is living in Fayetteville, already has two top-10 finishes as a Web.com rookie, including a runner-up finish in the second of two tournaments in the Bahamas. He is eighth on the points list, with Atlanta resident Drew Weaver 11th. .Weaver, who played limited schedules on the tour in 2016 and ’17, also has a runner-up finish to his credit this season, taking second in an event in Colombia.
Former Clayton State golfer Willy Wilcox is 18th on the strength of back-to-back ties for fourth in the two season-opening events in the Bahamas. Wilcox, who has PGA Tour experience, won a Web.com event in 2013 at Kinderlou Forest in Valdosta, and is in his fifth full season on the tour. Wilcox played in the inaugural Savannah Classic last year but did not make the cut.
Also in the top 25 is Alpharetta’s Billy Kennerly, who is 21st following a recent sixth place showing in Lakeland, Fla., following top-20 finishes in the opening two events in the Bahamas. Kennerly, who placed 51st and 71st in his first two seasons on the tour, shot 8-under 280 last year at the Landings to tie for 39th. Kennerly is a former Clemson Tiger.
Like Wilcox, Wade Binfield played his college golf at Clayton State, and has played mainly on the Canadian Tour the past four seasons. He made 12 Web.com starts in 2017 and ’18 and made it to the finals of qualifying late last year, but did not gain exempt status for the start of the 2019 season. The Fayetteville resident got into the two events in the Bahamas on sponsor exemptions, and tied for ninth in the second one. He also tied for 14th in the tournament in Lakeland, and stands 34th on the points list, which will likely enable him to play a full schedule.
Former Georgia Tech golfer J.T. Griffin also began 2019 with non-exempt status, but got into the field in Lakeland via a Monday qualifier. He opened with scores of 63-65 and finished fifth that week, and is 42nd in points. Griffin, who lives in Marietta, made nine Web.com starts last year after playing a total of five tournaments on the tour since 2011.
Atlanta resident Michael Hebert has played on the Web.com Tour since 2014, with his highest finish on the money list 88th last year. He is currently 64th with a pair of top 25s, as he looks to avoid a return to the annual qualifying process, where he has secured his playing privileges multiple times. Hebert tied for 15th at the Landings in 2018.
Also playing the Web.com Tour this year are Australian native and Atlanta resident Jamie Arnold (81st in points); veteran ex-Georgia Bulldog Erik Compton (84), who Monday qualified for the PGA Tour Honda Classic; Suwanee resident David Skinns (88), a winner in Omaha last year; former Georgia Tech golfer and ex-PGA Tour member Nicholas Thompson (95); fellow ex-Yellow Jacket Paul Haley (96), who won as a Web.com rookie in 2012; recent Georgia Bulldog Lee McCoy (105), in his second season on the tour; Acworth’s Jason Bohn (117), who is playing on the tour for the first time since 2003 following 15 years on the PGA Tour; former Kennesaw State golfer Jimmy Beck (140) from Columbus, who has made just one start this season as an alternate, tying for 51st in Colombia; and former Augusta State golfer Henrik Norlander, who has played in all five events this season but has yet to make a cut.
Norlander and Skinns tied for 27th last year in Savannah, just behind Arnold who was T22. Compton tied for 52nd, with lifelong Savannah resident Tim O’Neal getting into the field as a Monday qualifier and tying for 62nd, opening with a 66 and closing with a 68. O’Neal recently competed in the PGA Tour event in Los Angeles on an exemption and played respectably, missing the cut despite posting an even par 71 in difficult conditions at the famed Riviera CC in the second round. O’Neal won the 2018 Georgia Open at the Ford Plantation just outside Savannah.
If O’Neal is again going to compete in his hometown tour event, he will have to earn his spot in Monday qualifying, as fellow Savannah native Mark Silvers, who grew up at the Landings, got the local tournament sponsor exemption. Silvers played on the tour full time in 2015 and ’16, but has not played a Web.com event since.
The tournament will have two Monday qualifiers, one each on the Oakridge and Palmetto courses at the Landings, a private community located on Skidaway Island with six golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Arthur Hills, Willard Byrd and Tom Fazio, the architect for the Deer Creek course.
The Deer Creek course played to around 7,100 yards for last year’s tournament, with Burns winning with a 21-under total of 267, closing with three consecutive rounds of 7-under 65. Castro shot 268, posting scores of 65-66-64 after an opening 73. His final round 64 was low for the week. It took a 3-under 141 for 36 holes to make the cut.
A field of 144 players will compete for a purse of $550.000. The Savannah Championship is the only Web.com Tour event in Georgia, which previously hosted tournaments in Macon, Valdosta and Athens, along with a two-year stint as the site of the Tour Championship in the 1990s at Roswell’s Settindown Creek.
Savannah was also the host city for the Champions Tour Legends of Golf, which was played at Savannah Harbor from 2003-13 before the tournament lost its title sponsor and moved to Missouri.