See who's fighting to extend their season at Simmons Bank Open
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Second leg of four-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
COLLEGE GROVE, Tenn. – Matt Atkins isn’t one to sugarcoat a situation.
During a twilight Tuesday range session at the Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation, the second of four Korn Ferry Tour Finals events, Atkins searched for a feel. Between shots, utilizing an alignment stick, he discussed the vexing nature of opening the clubface but still seeing the ball drift to the right. “I went from hitting it great for, like, four months,” Atkins said, “to like holy moly, what is happening?”
It's the time of the season where the early-week grind increases in importance. Atkins knows this. The 10-year pro arrives in Music City at No. 101 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List, with two events remaining before the top 75 is finalized – which brings full 2024 Korn Ferry Tour status. He’s likely safe for a spot in next week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship (120-player field), but there are several behind him in the standings who can’t say the same. The sense of urgency is heightened.
“I was hitting it so bad for the last couple weeks at home, so I’m just trying to find some sort of feel or thought where I can just play golf this week,” Atkins said. “That’s really what it comes out to … we’re not full-on searching and in prayer mode or anything; just trying to set up normal. Set up for where I’m looking.
“It’s probably just like little fundamentals have gotten off, and you make other adjustments to compensate for when you’ve been set up wrong. I’m just trying to get back to normal.”
In the past couple weeks, Atkins spent time back home with longtime friend Wesley Bryan, who observed that Atkins looked to be aiming to the right – “I’m like, ‘That’s not good; I never aim right,’” Atkins said.
As he worked through a twilight range session, looking for a key to carry him to Thursday, Atkins was not alone in seeking that last push toward a big week. The stakes are high, after all, in Music City.
The top 30 on the season-long Korn Ferry Tour Points List (finalized after the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance) will earn 2024 PGA TOUR membership. Everyone in this week’s 144-player field in Music City eyes that central goal.
But there are several layers to the status puzzle that is the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
After the Simmons Bank Open, the circuit proceeds to central Ohio for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship – the penultimate Finals event – which features a 120-player field, based off the Points List (if eligible players choose not to compete, the field will extend beyond the No. 120 player on the Points List until it fills to 120). Following the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, the top 75 on the Points List will secure full 2024 Korn Ferry Tour status and advance to the Korn Ferry Tour Championship. Thirty PGA TOUR cards will be finalized after the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.
Here’s a look at five players battling to keep their season alive at the Simmons Bank Open.
Bryson Nimmer (No. 138 on Points List). The Clemson alum has made just six cuts in 21 starts this season, including just one made cut since April, and he’ll look to summon his best form at The Grove to earn a spot in the 120-player Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. Nimmer has spent time as roommate of PGA TOUR pro Ben Griffin in St. Simons Island, Georgia – and Griffin will surely be following along in support.
Grant Hirschman (No. 139). Hirschman, a former roommate of Scottie Scheffler, has made nine cuts in 21 starts this season. He finished T24 at the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX in early June but hasn’t placed better than T64 since. No time like the present for the affable Oklahoma alum to dig deep and keep his season alive.
Dawson Armstrong (No. 142). The spirited 27-year-old played collegiately at Lipscomb University in Nashville; the Simmons Bank Open was the site of his Korn Ferry Tour debut in 2018 (then played at Nashville Golf & Athletic Club), where he played alongside Jake Owen for two rounds en route to a T30 finish. Armstrong has made just five cuts this season but will look to rise up with the chips down.
Curtis Thompson (No. 152). The LSU alum and former TOUR member has battled his game at times this season, making eight cuts in 23 starts, including a midseason stretch of nine consecutive starts without a trip to the weekend. He has played the weekend in four of his last five starts, though, perhaps gearing up for a Music City surge.
Scott Stevens (No. 159). As of Wednesday evening, Stevens was the last man in the field, as 15 players ahead of him on the Points List elected not to compete. The South Carolina alum will look to take advantage of his good fortune and play on to central Ohio. Stevens, 26, has made eight cuts in 20 starts this season, highlighted by a T22 at the AdventHealth Championship in May.
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.