The third of four twenty-somethings ranked atop the world amateur rankings who received sponsors’ exemptions to the Travelers Championship in June earned a spot on the 2019-20 PGA Tour on Sunday.
Viktor Hovland of Norway joined former Oklahoma State teammate Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa as Travelers Championship exemptions to reach pro golf’s major leagues in only two months.
Hovland shot 3-under-par 67 to tie for second at 18-under 266, one behind Matthew NeSmith, who closed with 64 in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Albertsons Boise Open in Boise, Idaho. Hovland has won $678,035 in six pro starts on the PGA Tour and $111,000 in the first two Korn Ferry Tour Finals events.
“I didn’t really think too much about trying to get my card, I just tried to win the golf tournament,” Hovland said. “I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t perform better because there were some guys who really shot low, but I think in a couple of days I’m going to reflect and realize what I’ve accomplished.
“I was fortunate to get some exemptions right out of college to play on the PGA Tour, which is definitely where you want to be playing . Now it’s a lot of fun to know that I can be out there a little longer, and hopefully I’ll do pretty well with a full season on the PGA Tour.”
Hovland will compete in the finale of the three-event Korn Ferry Tour finals, the Korn Ferry Tour Championship at Victoria National GC on Saturday through Monday in Newburgh, Ind. The Top 25 on the Korn Ferry Tour regular season points list have already earned their PGA Tour cards for the 2019-2020 season, and their points list (Bucket A) will continue through the Finals, with priority ranking determined after the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.
Wolff and Hovland, No. 1 in the amateur ranks and winner of the Ben Hogan Award in his junior year at Oklahoma State, made their pro debuts in the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, where Chez Reavie rallied to win his second PGA Tour title, first in 11 years. Hovland, 21, who was low amateur in the Masters and U.S. Open, birdied six of the last 13 holes for 65-269 and a tie for 13th in the 3D Open, his second-best PGA Tour finish.
Wolff was the first Travelers exemption to qualify for the PGA Tour when he made a 26-foot putt for eagle 3 on the final hole to beat Bryson DeChambeau by a stroke in the inaugural 3M Open when he was No. 1,659 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Wolff prevailed moments after DeChambeau had made an eagle and only six weeks after winning the NCAA individual championship while at Oklahoma State.
“I’m really not an emotional guy, but tears came to my eyes,” Wolff said after only his fourth PGA Tour start, third as a pro. “I knew I could do this. As soon as I got to Oklahoma State, I felt that I could win out here, and this week I really believed in myself.”
The improbable victory made Wolff the first non-PGA Tour member to win this season, the first sponsors’ invitee to prevail since Billy Hurley in the 2016 Quicken Loans National and enabled him to join Hall of Famers Tiger Woods and Ben Crenshaw as the only players to win the NCAA individual title and a PGA Tour event in the same year. Wolff became fully exempt through 2021 and the 2020 Masters, PGA Championship, Players Championship and Tournament of Champions.
Prior to the win, Wolff tied for 80th in the Travelers Championship and missed the cut in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. After the win, he tied for 37th in the John Deere Classic, 24th in the World Golf Championship-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and 19th in the Wyndham Championship to qualify for the FedExCup playoffs. He tied for 71st in The Northern Trust but didn’t qualify for the BMW Championship because he was 74th in the FedExCup points standings (the top 70 advanced). He finished his 2019-20 season with $1,390,433 in seven starts.
As a senior at Oklahoma State, Wolff was named winner of the Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award, received the Haskins Award as the most outstanding collegiate golfer in the United States and was a first-team All-American for both of his seasons. A 20-year-old from Agoura Hills, Calif., Wolff won four straight full-field college tournaments as a sophomore and finished the season with a 68.59 stroke average.
Morikawa, 22, earned special temporary membership on the PGA Tour with a tie for second in the 3M Open but did one better when he won the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nev. He closed with three consecutive birdies to finish with 14 points in the final round in the modified Stableford scoring system for a total of 47, three more than Troy Merritt.
“It was something really special to finally get the win,” Morikawa said.
Morikawa was a four-time All-American at the University of California, including a first-team selection in each of his final three seasons. He was named Pac-12 Player of the Year as a senior, when he won the individual conference tournament title, one of his two victories. He tied for sixth individually with an even-par total in the NCAA Championship, the only tournament in 12 stroke-play starts where he didn’t finish under par.
In his first four pro starts, Morikawa tied for 14th in the RBC Canadian Open, tied for 35th in the U.S. Open, tied for 36th in the Travelers Championship and tied for fourth in the John Deere Classic. His $563,200 winnings in the John Deere Classic increased his money total to $677,914, making him eligible for special temporary membership and an unlimited number of sponsor exemptions. Things got really special when he reached the PGA Tour winner’s circle for the first time.
Morikawa qualified for the FedExCup playoffs and tied for 52nd in The Northern Trust to advance to the BMW Championship. He tied for 48th in the second playoff event, but his 59th place in the points standings after two rounds wasn’t good enough to qualify for the Tour Championship. So he finished his first PGA Tour season with $1,754,890 in nine starts.
Justin Suh, the other sponsors’ exemption in the Travelers Championship, hasn’t fared as well as his classmates, finishing 58th in the 3D Open and missing the cut in the Travelers Championship, Rocket Mortgage Classic, John Deere Classic and Barracuda Championship. He also finished 23rd in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae. Suh was ranked No. 2 among amateurs before turning pro after helping the University of California to the NCAA Championship in May.
KELLY TIES FOR THIRD
University of Hartford grad Jerry Kelly continued his stellar play this year with a closing, 3-under 69 for a 54-hole total of 12-under 203 and a tie for third with hometown hero Fred Couples in the PGA Tour Champions’ Boeing Classic in Snoqualmie, Wash. Kelly and Couples finished six strokes behind Brandt Jobe, who birdied the first five holes and seven total in a 6-under 30 on the front nine that led to a 63. Jobe also birdied the last two holes in winning his second PGA Tour Champions title.
It was the eighth Top-7 finish in 2019 for Kelly, who earlier won the American Family Insurance Championship, finished second in the Regions Tradition, tied for second in the U.S. Senior Open Championship and Mitsubisha Electric Classic, finished third in the Principal Charity Classic, tied for third in Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, finished fifth in the KitchenAir Senior PGA and tied for seventh in the Insperity Invitational and Mastercard Japan Championship. He’s second on the money list with $1,644,982, trailing only Scott McCarron ($2,112,165).
Tim Petrovic, a Glastonbury native and teammate of Kelly at U of H, shot 72 to tie for 12th at 207. Olin Browne, winner of the 1998 Greater Hartford Open, shot 73 to tie for 29th at 211, and 1988 GHO champion Mark Brooks and 1993 titlist David Frost had 71 and 76, respectively to share 56th place at 217.
MARELLO WINS SENIOR PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Fran Marrello of Canaan Country Club shot 2-over 142 for 36 holes to win the Connecticut Senior PGA Professional Championship at Yale Golf Course in New Haven. Marrello closed with 12 consecutive pars in a final-round 72 that extended his Section record for major wins to 20 and Senior titles to seven. He finished one stroke ahead of Joe Cordani (Hop Meadow CC-Simsbury) and Mark Farrell (H. Smith-Richardson GC-Trumbull), who shared the first-round lead at 69 but closed with a bogey for a 5-over 41 on the back nine in a second-round 74.
Kevin Giancola (Golf Quest-Southington) and Jeff DelRosso (Prospect Driving Range) tied for fourth at 146, but they weren’t entered in the qualifier for the Senior PGA Professional Championship Oct. 3-6 at Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas. The fourth qualifier was Dan Benedetti (Springfield CC), who finished sixth at 147. The alternates, in order, were Mike Martin (Tashua Knolls GC-Trumbull, 148), Ted Perez (East Mountain CC-Westfield, Mass., 149) and John Vitale (GolfTEC-West Hartford, 150).