FedExCup Fall update: Maverick McNealy returns to form, jumps inside the top 125
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Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic
In his second start since returning from a shoulder injury, Maverick McNealy was 3 under through 17 holes when the first round of The RSM Classic was suspended due to darkness.
McNealy was the only player to move into the projected top 125, vaulting from No. 127 to No. 123. The top 125 in the final 2022-23 FedExCup Playoffs and Eligibility Points List will be fully exempt for the 2024 PGA TOUR season.
McNealy will play the final hole of his first round, No. 9, when play resumes at 8 a.m. ET Friday.
McNealy missed the cut in his return to the PGA TOUR at the World Wide Technology Championship. It was his first start since June when he took competitive leave to rehab a torn ligament in his left shoulder that had hampered him since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. He initially tried to play through the injury, but a series of withdrawals and missed cuts pushed McNealy to take time away to rehab. His FedExCup rank had dropped from 26th to 86th between February and June. Entering this week, he ranked 127th.
But McNealy’s opening round on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club showed the glimmers of his pre-injury form. He leads the TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting this season, and on his opening hole, No. 10, he sank a 31-footer for birdie. He made two birdies from inside 10 feet on No. 18 and No. 1. He dropped a shot on the par-4 fifth but hit his approach shot on the par-5 seventh to 3 feet for an easy birdie. He was tied for 20th when play was suspended.
McNealy has a medical exemption to fall back on if he doesn’t crack the top 125 at the end of the week, but he could avoid the headache entirely with a strong result at Sea Island.
McNealy won 11 times while playing in college at Stanford, tying Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers for most all-time for the Cardinal. He's made 112 career TOUR starts and notched two runner-up finishes. McNealy has not finished outside the top 125 in four years on TOUR.
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Davis Thompson birdied his last three holes to shoot 6-under 66 and snag a share of the overnight lead. He is projected to move 24 spots, from No. 76 to No. 52, and secure a spot in The Next 10. The players who finish Nos. 51-60 in the FedExCup Fall standings at the end of the week will earn exemptions into two Signature Events – the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and The Genesis Invitational.
Thompson has strung together several months of solid golf. He finished T22 at the Wyndham Championship in August but barely missed out on a top-70 spot needed for the Playoffs. He has made the cut in the four fall events he’s played. His best finish was a T15 at the World Wide Technology Championship in his most recent start. His round on Thursday proved to be the most encouraging sign yet for the 24-year-old.
Mark Hubbard entered the week as the odd man out, No. 61 in the standings. But a first-round 69 has given him the necessary bump to No. 60. Hubbard overtook Sam Ryder for the final spot.
Mark Hubbard lips in birdie putt at The RSM Classic
Ryder and J.J. Spaun have fallen outside the top 60. They are both 2 under and tied for 34th.
C.T. Pan, No. 129 in the FedExCup Fall standings, withdrew from The RSM Classic midway through the first round with a left wrist injury. Pan was 6 over through nine holes when he pulled out. He will finish outside the top 125 for the second time in seven years on TOUR … Carl Yuan, No. 125 in the FedExCup Fall standings, has given himself some breathing room. He was 3 under through 13 holes when the first round was suspended due to darkness. He is projected at No. 116 in the standings … Doug Ghim, No. 121 in the FedExCup Fall standings, is 1 over through 16 with 15 pars and the lone bogey coming on the 15th hole. He is projected right on the number at No. 125 in the standings … Henrik Norlander, No. 126 in the FedExCup Fall standings, is bogey-free through 13 holes with three birdies on the day. Sitting in a tie for 20th,he is projected at No. 119 … Andrew Novak, No. 124 in the FedExCup Fall standings, carded a 1-under 69 at the Seaside Course, but his projection has fallen two spots to No. 126 … Troy Merritt, No. 123 in the FedExCup Fall standings, is 1 over through 13 and has fallen outside the top 125 to No. 127.
PGA TOUR staffer Justin Lemminn also contributed to this report.