Korn Ferry Tour
Korn Ferry Tour
The players had just left the Lincoln Land Championship, a relatively young fixture on the Web.com Tour, and they arrived next at the Wichita Open, the third stop in June, to find themselves now playing on the Korn Ferry Tour. The tour had a new sponsor. The move, sudden and unexpected, was another step in the evolution of the PGA Tour’s developmental tour. It began as the Ben Hogan Tour in 1990 and became, in order, the Nike, the Buy.com, the Nationwide, and in 2012, the Web.com Tour. And then on June 19, 2019, it emerged as the Korn Ferry Tour, in a 10-year sponsorship by the Los Angeles-based consulting firm.
Korn Ferry couldn’t have asked for a splashier introduction. The first event under the new tour name was the Wichita Open Supporting Wichita’s Youth, June 20-23, and it came gift-wrapped with a steeplechase scramble, then a five-way playoff. Three players were eliminated on the first playoff hole on Sunday — Kevin Dougherty, Erik Compton and Denmark’s Sebastian Cappelen. Darkness forced the survivors over to Monday morning, and then Sweden’s Henrik Norlander beat Bryan Bigley on the third extra hole.
The tour’s name had changed but the players were chasing the same goal — a spot at the top, the PGA Tour. At the end of the season, 50 playing cards would be awarded — 25 to the top regular-season points leaders and 25 from the final series.
Four players staked their claims as the only double winners of the year. Scottie Scheffler, 23, former University of Texas standout, dominated the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour — in a way. In addition to his two victories, Scheffler also had eight other top-10 finishes. He swept the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards, and topped the money list with $565,338, some $150,000 more than No. 2 and the third highest in tour history. He earned fully exempt status on the PGA Tour. Scheffler broke through in the Evans Scholars Invitational at the Glen
Club near Chicago. He started the final round six shots behind, shot 63 to tie Marcelo Rozo at 17-under 271, and won on a 15-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole. “First professional win … kind of gets the monkey off my back,” he said. It had to be a young monkey. This was only his 11th start. He then took the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course, winning by two with a 12-under 272. A tie for seventh in the season-ending Tour Championship sealed his spot atop the season-long points list and the Finals points list.
One good graduation deserves another: Xinjun Zhang, second in winnings with $410,100, had graduated from the PGA Tour China Series onto the Korn Ferry Tour, and from there onto the PGA Tour with a comfortable victory in the inaugural Dormie Network Classic in April. Zhang closed with a 70 to win by five with a 26-under 262 at Briggs Ranch in San Antonio. The win, his first on the tour, gave him enough points to lock up a spot in the top 25 and on the PGA Tour.
“It takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the season,” he said. He took more off by winning the Lincoln Land Championship at Panther Creek, Springfield, Illinois. Zhang, 32, bogey-free over his last 41 holes, tied at 15-under 269 with Dylan Wu, 22, and won with a birdie on the third extra hole. Robby Shelton, native son of Alabama, crowned himself king of Tennessee
by sweeping both tour stops there — the Nashville Golf Open at Nashville Golf & Athletic Club, and the Knoxville Open at Fox Den. Shelton had five top-10s in all, made 14 cuts in 22 starts and finished third in winnings with $356,760.
In the Nashville’s final round, Shelton squandered a three-shot lead, fought back for a 71 to tie old junior golf pal Scottie Scheffler at 15-under 273, then beat him in a playoff for his first tour win. Then in the Knoxville, Shelton recovered from another shaky spell in the final round, shot 71 for a 15-under 269 and a one-stroke win, for which he ceremonially donned the
champion’s jacket, and was resplendent in Tennessee orange. “Bear Bryant,” Shelton said, raising the memory of the legendary University of Alabama football coach, “is probably turning over in his grave right now.”
Kristoffer Ventura, of Norway, an impatient rookie, had had a number of disappointments. “It felt like, wow, the world really doesn’t want me to play on tour,” he said. Actually, it was nothing a little stretch of remarkable golf couldn’t cure, as he proved. He’d played in only 11 events — won twice, had two top-three finishes, made seven cuts and won $336,234, fourth on
the money list.
Ventura broke through in the Utah Championship, beating Joshua Creel with a par on the third playoff hole. Ventura came from three behind in the final round with 65 to tie at 270, 14 under at Oakridge. He missed two straight cuts, then won the Pinnacle Bank Championship in Omaha, ou running Andres Gonzalez and Chad Ramsey by two with a closing 70 fora 16-under 268 at Indian Creek.
Denmark’s Sebastian Cappelen had no victories but felt no less a success than the top four. Cappelen was one of the four losers in the Wichita Open playoff, but he’d still gained enough points to secure his long-coveted PGA Tour card. Said Cappelen: “It is with a smile on my face that I lose today.”