FedExCup Fall serves as reminder to seize the day
5 Min Read
From life-changing moments to the fragility of life itself, the FedExCup Fall brought it all
Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
A lesson from the FedExCup Fall and the fascinating world of diacritical marks: It turns out that itty bitty o above the Å is called a bolle, which means that Ludvig Åberg is pronounced Tiger Woods.
Wait. No. That’s not right. The Tiger Woods is silent. Ludvig Åberg is pronounced LOOD-vig OH-behr, except for The RSM Classic, where in going 61-61 on the weekend to reach 29 under par, Åberg tied or broke a handful of scoring records, captured his first PGA TOUR title and inevitably elicited the T word.
The FedExCup Fall – seven tournaments full of triumph and tears – was rife with moments that stuck with us, for it was a doozy. Åberg, the first baton-twirling over-achiever from the PGA TOUR University Ranking (which sends top collegiate talent directly to the TOUR), was only the most recent example.
No doubt the slender Swede, who had won the DP World Tour’s Omega European Masters and gone 2-2-0 in the Ryder Cup in just six months as a pro, was mind-bendingly good. But he wasn’t the only first-time TOUR winner whose arrival seemed inevitable. (See: Theegala, Sahith, Fortinet Championship.)
One guy came from Sweden, the other Southern California and India. Still other stars were not born but reemergent. (Collin Morikawa, ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP; Tom Kim, Shriners Children’s Open.)
The fall also featured plot twists. Åberg may now win the Arnold Palmer Award for PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, even though previous front-runner Eric Cole (67, T3 at RSM) also had a terrific (and much longer) season.
The Sanderson Farms Championship featured a five-man playoff between Åberg, Luke List, Henrik Norlander, Scott Stallings and 54-hole leader Ben Griffin, whose two bogeys in the last three holes led to chaos. With darkness approaching and a Monday finish looming, List birdied from 43 feet on the first extra hole to end it.
The fall reminded us to seize the day in part by shining a light on the fragility of life itself.
Erik van Rooyen shot a 9-under 63 to win the World Wide Technology Championship in Los Cabos, Mexico, despite or perhaps because of his heavy heart, for his freshman roommate and teammate at the University of Minnesota, Jon Trasamar, lay dying of Stage IV melanoma that had spread.
“Every shot out there today was for him,” said a tearful van Rooyen, who had learned of his friend’s condition just two days before the tournament began. It was a lot, and he double-bogeyed the par-5 18th hole Friday.
In the last round, though, van Rooyen surged to a back-nine 28. Trasamar was with him.
Erik van Rooyen wins World Wide Technology Championship
That day, in the same group, Camilo Villegas – whose daughter, Mia, was not yet 2 when she died of cancer in 2020 – finished second. That meant Villegas, who’d been missing the cut most weeks, could skip PGA TOUR Q-School’s fraught Second Stage. At the next week’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship, he shot 65-65 on the weekend to bypass Final Stage and regain his TOUR card through 2025.
Villegas, who hadn’t won since 2014, looked to the sky.
“I'm so fortunate,” he said at The RSM Classic, where he would finish T58. “I mean, I'm so fortunate to have the life I have. This kid coming from Colombia going to the University of Florida, accomplishing the dreams playing on the PGA TOUR. Then yes, there were bumps, but that's life.”
Camilo Villegas wins Butterfield Bermuda Championship
Others, too, insisted on being the hero – not the victim – of their stories.
Theegala, who had come achingly close to winning the 2022 WM Phoenix Open and Travelers Championship, captured the Fortinet Championship in Napa for his first title in 74 PGA TOUR starts. It was a popular victory, especially amongst the many Theegala faithful on site, led, as always, by his steadfast mother and father.
“No matter the good golf or the bad golf, they have my back,” said Theegala, who battled a two-way miss with the driver for much of the season and, true to form, overcame a few strays in his seven-birdie, three-bogey final-round 68 at Silverado.
“It’s a team win,” he added.
Sahith Theegala earns first career win at Fortinet Championship
No one could wrestle Kim off the podium at the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas, where he successfully defended his title. He became the youngest to reach three PGA TOUR wins since Woods in 1997.
“It’s been a grind trying to figure it out,” said Kim, whose results this season had not met his expectations until he began working with swing coach Chris Como and finished T2 at The Open Championship in July.
Morikawa also reemerged. After copping two majors in his first two full seasons on TOUR, he had not won in over two years (2021 Open Championship). At the ZOZO he and his wife dined at a world-renowned sushi spot in Tokyo, but he remained laser-focused on the business at hand.
“Here's one last chance for the season to kind of come off and finish off on a high note,” he said. “I know what my goal is, and I know what I want to do and accomplish this week is really just stand up and find a way to win.”
That he hoisted the trophy seemed like a triumph of will. Or maybe it was karma.
Morikawa’s family on his father’s side left Japan for Maui, where they ran The Morikawa Restaurant. Although they had long since sold it when the structure burned to the ground in the Maui fires, Morikawa pledged to help with $1,000 per birdie in the FedExCup Playoffs, inspiring others to pitch in, too. When he won in Japan, somewhere his ancestors were smiling.
Then again, a lot of us were, whether in disbelief (Åberg) or through tears (van Rooyen, Villegas) or because, as with Morikawa, the moment just felt right.
So it went in the fall, when amid the top 125 and The Next 10, the tumult of the Ryder Cup, and the will he/won’t he return of Woods (he will!), there was ample good feeling to carry us into the new year.
Cameron Morfit is a Staff Writer for the PGA TOUR. He has covered rodeo, arm-wrestling, and snowmobile hill climb in addition to a lot of golf. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.