Justin Suh was part of four college stars at the Travelers Championship in 2019, all playing on exemptions with big expectations.
Matthew Wolff won two weeks later in Minnesota. Collin Morikawa won two weeks after that at the Barracuda Championship. Viktor Hovland earned his card at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and picked up his first win in Puerto Rico the following February.
And for Suh, it was the slow road.
The All-American from USC made only one cut in his seven sponsor exemptions. He didn’t make it through Korn Ferry Q-school. The COVID-19 pandemic kept anyone from graduating to the big leagues in 2020, and he didn’t make it through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals in 2021.
Now he’s back for his first full year. Suh already had his PGA Tour card wrapped up from the Korn Ferry Tour regular season. By winning the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, he won the combined points list.
That means he starts his first PGA Tour season next week with a fully exempt card, along with spots in The Players Championship and the U.S. Open. And he believes he’s ready.
“My game has progressed so much over the course of the year and it feels extremely gratifying that it paid off,” Suh said.
He heads off to the PGA Tour coming off his first win as a pro.
“I haven’t won in a while,” he said. “That’s something I learned to do in college and to kind of take the next step and win out here, it’s a big confidence boost.”
Morikawa already has two majors among his six titles worldwide and is No. 8 in the world. Hovland has six titles, three on the PGA Tour, and is No. 10. Both played in the last Ryder Cup.
Wolff, the first to win, was the 54-hole leader in the U.S. Open in 2020. Since then, he struggled with life on the road and this year chose to sign with Saudi-funded LIV Golf. Any reunion on the PGA Tour will be just three of them.
KEEPING GOOD COMPANY
Pat Perez signing up for Saudi-funded LIV Golf was like winning the lottery at this stage in his career. It gets even better with the company he keeps.
Perez had his best finish last week outside Boston when he tied for 15th in the 48-man field, eight shots out of the playoff. He made $245,000, raising his total in three LIV Golf events to $549,000.
He plays on “Four Aces” with Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Talor Gooch — three players who have combined for eight Ryder Cup appearances — and they have won the last three team events. That was worth $2.25 million to Perez.
“I’ve doubled my earnings on the tour in 25 events compared to these three,” Perez said. “But when you got those three horses, it’s a lot easier.”
It’s been a tough road for Phil Mickelson. The six-time major winner has played all four of the LIV Golf events — total prize fund a combined $100 million — and has made $560,000.
Lexi Thompson remains among the biggest draws in women’s golf and is No. 7 in the world. Even so, it’s hard to fathom how such talent can go more than three years and 55 starts on the LPGA Tour without winning.
Her latest chance was Sunday at the Dana Open in Ohio, where Thompson went into the final round one shot behind 19-year-old Lucy Li. On a rain-softened course in which Gaby Lopez shot 63 to win, Thompson didn’t make a birdie until the final hole and shot 73 to tie for 16th.
She was asked about the winless drought on the eve of the final round and said: “Yeah, it has not worked out the way I want it to in a few events, but that’s golf. I think you never lose; you’re always learning. … It’s golf. I mean, it’s a crazy game.”
Thompson has been runner-up eight times during this stretch, which doesn’t include missing the playoff in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open when she had a five-shot lead. She also threw away a late lead in the KPMG Women’s PGA this year.
Lydia Ko went through a drought of 58 consecutive LPGA starts without winning from 2018 to 2021. She fell out of the top 50 at one point, and since has won twice and is back up to No. 4.
Thompson, meanwhile, headed south to Cincinnati and will try again this week in the Kroger Queen City Championship.
PGA TOUR AWARDS
Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Young are the leading candidate on an awards ballot, and PGA Tour members have until Friday to vote.
Scheffler, Cameron Smith and Rory McIlroy are on the slate for player of the year. Scheffler led the tour with four wins, including the Masters, reached No. 1 in the world and set a record with $14 million in earnings.
Smith won the British Open and The Players Championship among his three titles. McIlroy also won three times, captured the FedEx Cup and was the only player to finish in the top 10 at all four majors.
Of the three players nominated for rookie of the year, the only winner was Tom Kim, who wasn’t even a PGA Tour member until a month ago.
Young was a runner-up five times, including the British Open, and he missed a playoff at the PGA Championship by one shot. Sahith Theegala had chances to win at the Phoenix Open and the Travelers Championship.
The last three players to win rookie of the year did not win on tour that year — Will Zalatoris (2021), Scheffler (2020) and Sungjae Im (2019).
Smith will be allowed to vote, having fulfilled the requirement of playing 15 times. The tour said those who resigned their membership upon joining LIV Golf, such as Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, won’t be allowed to vote.
Fourteen-year-old Gianna Clemente made it through her third consecutive Monday qualifier on the LPGA Tour and will be in the field for the Kroger Queen City Championship this week in Cincinnati. … The Olympic Club in San Francisco, which hosted the U.S. Women’s Open in 2021, will keep busy over the next decade. The U.S. Women’s Amateur is going to Olympic in 2030. Also on the calendar is the U.S. Amateur in 2025, the PGA Championship in 2028 and the Ryder Cup in 2033. … Folds of Honor handed out nearly 9,000 academic scholarships for 2022-23 worth roughly $40 million. That brings the total to some 44,000 scholarships worth $200 million since Folds of Honor began in 2007. … The World Amateur Team Championships next will be in Dubai (2023), Singapore (2025 and Morocco (2027).
STAT OF THE WEEK
In the seven European tour events since the British Open, the average world ranking of the winners is No. 320.
“The best experience I’ve had on a golf course by far.” — Joaquin Niemann to a LIV Golf editor after losing in a playoff in the LIV Golf Invitational-Boston on Sunday.
“Winning a PGA Tour event, getting a trophy, having Tiger there, all the history behind it, there’s nothing that can compete with this.” — Joaquin Niemann after winning the Genesis Invitational at Riviera on Feb. 20.
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