FedExCup update: Five players fighting for status at The RSM Classic
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Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Georgia –The RSM Classic used to feel like a pre-Thanksgiving buffet, as players enjoyed the tranquil vibes of Sea Island Golf Club before shelving the clubs for the holidays.
The appealing spread is now served in a pressure cooker.
The RSM Classic is now the final event of the year. After this weekend, players who finish outside certain thresholds are faced with the uncertainty of PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry, where just five TOUR cards (and ties) are on offer.
Players who finish inside the top 125 on the FedExCup Fall standings after The RSM Classic will be exempt into all Full-Field Events in 2024. Nos. 126-150 will retain conditional status and full Korn Ferry Tour status. Beyond that, it’s the lottery of Q-School for players who don’t have other forms of status secured for next year (i.e. for winning an event in the past two years, etc.).
Career arcs will be shaped on the final day at The RSM Classic, as Sea Island’s enduring serenity takes a back seat to number-crunching chaos.
Here’s a look at five players with plenty at stake Sunday at The RSM Classic.
FedExCup Fall ranking at start of week: No. 128
Current FedExCup Fall projected ranking: No. 120
Moore has made 426 PGA TOUR starts in his career, winning five times. He ranks 32nd on the career money list and is at peace with his place in the game.
But the soft-spoken Washington native has something to prove Sunday in Sea Island.
Moore finished a season-best T5 at last week’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship to move onto the precipice of the top 125, and an 8-under 62 in The RSM Classic’s third round now projects him inside the all-important threshold to retain full status. Moore moved up 38 spots on the leaderboard Saturday and into a tie for eighth; he’s currently projected to finish 120th in the FedExCup Fall standings but has zero breathing room. One bogey would drop him to No. 126 in the projections.
Ryan Moore dials in approach to yield birdie at The RSM Classic
The 40-year-old father of three spoke in Bermuda about the difficulty of maintaining his desire, knowing that he’s missing time with his family every time he tees it up. It can be tough missing soccer games, ballet recitals and the like. But he still has more in the tank, he believes, as he has displayed in recent weeks.
For a veteran pro who has seen and done plenty in his career, it’s a unique role to play – bubble boy. But he plans to embrace it.
“When you're conditional, you're waiting around, you're getting in tournaments last minute, it's hard to plan,” said Moore, who finished inside the top 125 in 15 consecutive full seasons (2006-2020) before finishing outside the number in the past two campaigns. “For me, having a family and a lot of things I like to be home for, it's tough. You end up missing out on a lot of stuff that you don't want to miss out on. Being fully exempt, being able to plan your own schedule is huge.”
Is the top-125 threshold in his mind at all?
“It's impossible for it not to be,” he said. “I don't like being outside of that number.”
FedExCup Fall ranking at start of week: No. 130
Current FedExCup Fall projected ranking: No. 129
The two-time TOUR winner has been an enduring presence at this level since earning his way onto the circuit as 2015 Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year. He e received that honor at that year’s RSM Classic.
Now, at the same event eight years later, he’s fighting to keep full status.
Kizzire, 37, is scratching and clawing this week to maintain his exempt card. After birdieing his final two holes Friday to make the cut with a shot to spare, he carded a 5-under 65 in the third round to improve 14 spots on the leaderboard and give himself a chance on Sunday.
Kizzire stands T30 for the week and is projected No. 129 on the FedExCup. He’s projected 40 points behind Carl Yuan, who currently holds the 125th spot in the projections. Kizzire is currently three shots back of cracking the top 125, needing around an 11th-place finish Sunday.
“I'm not protecting anything,” Kizzire said earlier this week. “I don't feel like I'm trying not to screw up. I've got to go out there and make it happen.
“I'm at peace either way. I think whatever happens, happens. It may be for the best if I don't. I saw a video of something about a Chinese proverb, you know, the farmer's horse dies and people come up to him and say, ‘Oh, I'm so sorry.’ He's like, ‘Maybe.’ Then the next day seven wild horses come up. ‘Oh, this is great.’ He's like, ‘Maybe.’ It goes on and on down the line. I don't think that it's definitive -- you know, it could be better for me to be in a different situation, you never know. I fully plan on playing well and getting it done. If it doesn't, I'm at peace.”
A unique perspective to have, and it just might serve him well Sunday.
FedExCup Fall ranking at start of week: No. 164
Current FedExCup Fall projected ranking: No. 161
The Argentina native earned his first TOUR card via the Korn Ferry Tour last year, an emotional triumph in a topsy-turvy professional golf journey. Goya turned pro in 2007 and spent 15 years on various international circuits before becoming a TOUR member.
Goya, 35, craves another season at the game’s highest level. He’ll have his work cut out for him Sunday, but he has given himself a chance. He carded a bogey-free 66 on Saturday at Sea Island, and he stands T30 heading into the final round.
He’s projected to improve just three spots in the FedExCup Fall standings, but he’s also just three back of being projected into the top 150.
Goya has no fallback TOUR status, but it won’t keep him from enjoying the moment.
“I want to enjoy all the round tomorrow,” Goya said Saturday. “If it has to be, it will be. I will give my best and I give it 100%. … I'm not going to stop believing in myself or give up because I didn't have a great season.
“If I don't make it, I have to go back to Q-School, maybe I won't be here next year, but I want to enjoy every single moment. Whatever I have to do after, it's something in the future. I don't have to worry about it.”
FedExCup Fall ranking at start of week: No. 161
Current FedExCup Fall projected ranking: No. 147
The veteran Oklahoma State alum hasn’t had the ideal season, with just two top-25 finishes in 37 starts. He arrived at Sea Island with seven missed cuts in his last eight starts.
Perhaps, though, he’s saving the best for last.
Tway, 35, carded a 63 at on Saturday, moving into a tie for eighth. He’s seven back of tournament leader Ludvig Åberg, but he has moved inside the projected top 150 on the FedExCup Fall standings, a crucial number as he looks to improve his prospects for 2024.
Kevin Tway throws a dart to yield birdie at The RSM Classic
Tway is a past champion as winner of the 2018 Fortinet Championship, but that status would just give him a handful of starts next season. Those inside the top 150 can likely expect to receive double-digit starts.
Tway has played the PGA TOUR full-time since earning his card via the 2016 Korn Ferry Tour, and he doesn’t want that streak to end now. The wiggle room is sparce – one bogey would project him to No. 150. Two bogeys would project him to No. 154.
FedExCup Fall ranking at start of week: No. 125
Current FedExCup Fall projected ranking: No. 125
The PGA TOUR rookie, perhaps best known for the unique gyrations that define his golf swing, entered the week at No. 125 on the FedExCup Fall standings and is projected to stay there entering Sunday. The China native, who graduated from the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour, stands T55 on the leaderboard at 7 under. One birdie would project him to No. 123. One bogey would project him to No. 126.
Yuan had a slow start to the season; he didn’t earn his first top-20 finish until the RBC Canadian Open in June. But the University of Washington alum has hit his stride in recent weeks; he finished sixth at the Sanderson Farms Championship in early October and added a fourth-place finish at last week’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship. He has laid the groundwork, and now it’s time to close.
TOP 125 WATCH
Yuan isn’t the only player set to attack Sea Island on Sunday with significant implications around 2024 exempt status. Local favorite Andrew Novak will also ride the bubble into Sunday. The Wofford alum, T68 for the tournament, entered the week at No. 124 on the FedExCup and enters Sunday projected No. 123. He has some breathing room concerning his own position – two bogeys would project him No. 124 – but he could also be at the mercy of players behind him in the standings who could jump ahead with big final days.
Just one spot on the top-125 bubble is currently projected to change hands. Ryan Moore (No. 128, projected No. 120) is projected to move inside. Troy Merritt (No. 123, projected No. 126) is projected to fall outside after missing the cut.
Doug Ghim (No. 121, projected No. 124) will have an anxious Sunday of waiting after missing the cut. Peter Malnati (No. 119, projected No. 121) and Matti Schmid (No. 120, projected No. 122) will keep an eye on the standings after missing the cut, as well.
SIGNATURE EVENT WATCH
Nos. 51-60 on the FedExCup Fall standings after The RSM Classic will earn spots into next year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and The Genesis Invitational, the two Signature Events that follow The Sentry, which is limited to 2023’s tournament winners and the top 50 in the FedExCup. The eight Signature Events are elite, limited-field events reserved for the top players on TOUR and boasting elevated purses and FedExCup points.
Tournament leader Ludvig Åberg entered the week at No. 96 on the FedExCup Fall standings and is projected No. 54 with a victory. He needs a win though; a solo second would leave him outside the No. 60 position.
J.J. Spaun is currently projected to fall outside; he entered the week at No. 59 and is projected No. 62. He stands T30 for the tournament at 10 under.
Sam Ryder, currently solo fifth for the week, arrived in Sea Island at No. 60 and is projected to move to No. 55. Alex Noren is knocking on the door; he’s T8 for the week and projected to ascend to No. 61. One birdie would project Noren to No. 59.
Alex Smalley (T42 this week) holds the projected No. 60 spot into Sunday. The Duke alum entered the week at No. 57 on the FedExCup Fall standings.
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.