Racing the end of daylight saving time and the approaching avalanche of the holiday season with its endless refrain of “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” the PGA Tour’s fall season returns Thursday on the outskirts of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for the World Wide Technology Championship. After a one-week sabbatical, the tour begins a three-tournament run to put the final bit of punctuation on the 2023 season.
The tour’s fall schedule has proved to be a compelling collection of characters and storylines, dispelling the notion that everything that matters on the PGA Tour happens before the Tour Championship.
Consider the four tournament winners in the fall events:
- Sahith Theegala (Fortinet Championship), who now has a tournament trophy to go with his outsized charisma;
- Luke List (Sanderson Farms Championship), who started the fall schedule ranked 119th in FedEx Cup points and was playing to keep his full tour privileges next year;
- Tom Kim (Shriners Children’s Open), whose game and personality already have catapulted him into rare air;
- Collin Morikawa (Zozo Championship), who hadn’t won in more than two years while still retaining his spot among the game’s elite.
That’s a pretty strong list for a portion of the season when Rory McIlroy is busy buying into a Formula 1 team, Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler are cheering on the Texas Rangers in the World Series and Jon Rahm is throwing out the first pitch in Game 4 as an Arizona Diamondbacks fan.
Though they haven’t won, Eric Cole has posted three top-5 finishes in four fall starts to lock down the PGA Tour rookie of the year award – pretty strong for a 35-year-old – and the irrepressible Ludvig Åberg continues to shine now that the world knows his last name is pronounced “OH-behr” (almost like Uber) and not “A-berg.”
This week, the tour finds itself at El Cardonal at Diamante, the first course designed by Tiger Woods, for the World Wide Technology Championship. From there, it’s off to the Butterfield Bermuda Championship before the season’s traditional stopping point at the RSM Classic at Sea Island in two weeks where a handful of players will be playing for their cards the final week.
There are a variety of built-in incentives this time of year, including the new “Next 10,” which will qualify 10 players for the first two signature events next year.
At Diamante this week, Cam Young returns to the tour after a 10-week break in a year that somehow felt underwhelming despite two top-10 finishes in major championships among five top-10s overall. Also teeing it up is club pro Michael Block, the surprise star of the PGA Championship, who is making his sixth tour start this year, a pretty busy schedule for a guy who’s still giving lessons back home in California.
The tour schedule works better this way than using the fall as a running start into the next year, which weighted the FedEx Cup points too heavily in favor of guys who played this time of year when the stars were dialing it back.
There are a variety of built-in incentives this time of year, including the new “Next 10,” which will qualify 10 players for the first two signature events next year. Only the top 50 in points after the Tour Championship locked down their spots, and players who finish 51-60 after the RSM Classic will play the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Genesis Invitational with their $20 million purses and limited fields.
So far, Ben Griffin, J.J. Spaun and List have played their way into the Next 10, with Mark Hubbard, Davis Riley and Sam Ryder sitting just outside the cutoff with three events to play.
At Sea Island in two weeks, the top 125 will be finalized at the completion of the event and, currently, Erik van Rooyen sits at No. 125. Among those needing to make a move to get inside the number are former winners Patton Kizzire and Jimmy Walker, who used his one-time career money exemption to play this year.
One other wrinkle to the fall is the return of Q-school for the PGA Tour. After years of using the Korn Ferry Tour as the one-way on-ramp to the tour, the tour will award five cards in mid-December after the final stage of qualifying at Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
To this point, 13 first-stage qualifying events have taken place, leading to five second-stage qualifiers to be played later this month.
Several of the biggest names will return to competition in two weeks at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, and the Hero Challenge will feature another star-rich field in early December, perhaps including Woods himself. If he doesn’t play there, he’s likely to play the PNC Championship, the annual parent-child exhibition, with 14-year-old son Charlie again in early December.
There’s also the Grant Thornton Invitational mixing and matching PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players in the second week of December.
After those events, perhaps golf can go quiet for a while.
But only for a short while.
© 2023 Global Golf Post LLC
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