Golf — Fall movers make an early splash on the PGA Tour wraparound season

Golf


Often derided, the fall events that make up the early part of the PGA Tour’s wrap-around schedule have concluded, leading to a six-week break through the holidays in which there will be no official events in which to earn FedEx Cup or Ryder Cup points or money-list earnings.

But don’t tell those who prospered during this recent stretch that the tournaments that started with the Safeway Classic and ended with Sunday’s RSM Classic are not meaningful.

That is hardly the case. The seven-week run accounts for 17.5 percent of the PGA Tour’s 40-week regular season. Seven of the eight events contested gave full FedEx Cup points, with the WGC-HSBC Champions event giving more, the Sanderson Famers Championship opposite-field event less.

There were eight different winners during the seven weeks, including major champions Justin Thomas and Justin Rose. Here is a breakdown of who took advantage of the fall events the most.

The Big Winners

Patton Kizzire and Austin Cook. The champions in the last two events, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and the RSM Classic, gained the most with their victories.

Kizzire, 31, was exempt by finishing among the top 125 on the FedEx points list. Cook, 26, made it to the tour through the Web.com Tour finals.

By winning, both players will be fully exempt through the 2019-20 PGA Tour season; earn invitations to the Masters, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial and The National; exemptions into the CareerBuilder Challenge, Players Championship and PGA Championship; and get to start the new year in Hawaii at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

If you have to give the edge to one of them, it would be Cook, whose status was not as good as Kizzire’s. Cook was also playing in just his fourth PGA Tour event as a member and his 14th overall.

Ryan Armour also moves into this category, slightly below Kizzire and Cook. Armour, 41, captured his first PGA Tour title at the Sanderson Farms Classic in late October. He gets most of the same perks, save for an invitation to the Masters because as an opposite event to a WGC event, the Sanderson is not afforded an automatic spot in the year’s first major championship.

Brendan Steele, Pat Perez, Thomas, Rose and Patrick Cantlay were the other winners of fall events.

The FedEx Cup race

While it seems silly to be concerned about FedEx Cup points at this time of year — nearly eight months of tournaments are still to be played — what was earned in the past seven weeks is not insignificant.

A year ago, Perez parlayed a victory at the OHL Classic into qualifying for his first Tour Championship. This year he won the CIMB Classic and followed it with a tie for fifth in South Korea. A year ago, Perez was 116th in the world and is now 18th, solidly in play for all of the World Golf Championship events. Steele just missed out on the Tour Championship after winning the Safeway a year ago. His goal now is to not let that happen again.

Peace of mind

Brandt Snedeker returned at the RSM Classic, his first event since withdrawing from The Open in July with a rib issue that kept him from playing the rest of the season.

Snedeker, 36, is tenuously holding onto the 49th spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, which will be one of the invitation criteria for the Masters at the end of this year. He tied for 29th at the RSM and cited no lingering issues as he looks to get back to a full schedule in 2018.

Rankings move

Cantlay, who won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, had already qualified for the majors next year because he made it to the Tour Championship. But his victory helped solidified a huge rankings move: he went from outside the top 1,000 to inside the top 50 in 35 weeks.

The Ryder Cup

Rose didn’t figure to have much difficulty making the European team in 2018, but the Englishman pretty much solidified his spot by winning the WGC-HSBC Champions — which also counts as a European Tour event. He added another victory in Turkey and then narrowly missed winning the European Tour’s Race to Dubai title when he tied for fourth Sunday at the season-ending tournament in Dubai.

Although there is a long way to go, Rose leads both the European Tour points list as well as the world list, which compiles world ranking points earned during the qualifying period. In addition to winning for the first time since the 2016 Olympics, Rose gave himself a nice boost going into 2018.

Meanwhile, only the WGC event gave Ryder Cup points for the Americans, who begin their quest in earnest in January.

Others who took advantage

Chesson Hadley is eighth in FedEx Cup points, having played five times with three top-10 finishes; J.J. Spaun had two top-10s and is 10th in points; Chez Reavie managed to amass 245 points — good for 20th — without posting a top-10 in five starts; and Keegan Bradley, who has battled through some lean times, is 15th after three starts, including a top-10 — just prior to his wife, Jillian, giving birth to the couple’s first child.



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