Finals update: Quade Cummins overcomes fantasy football debacle at Simmons Bank
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Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
COLLEGE GROVE, Tenn. – Quade Cummins drafted the New York Jets’ Aaron Rodgers as his fantasy football quarterback for this season. It was a promising selection until Rodgers tore his Achilles heel earlier this week, a season-ending injury.
Cummins’ second Korn Ferry Tour season, though, rolls on. And he hopes it will end with his first PGA TOUR card.
Cummins opened the Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation in 5-under 67, one back of first-round co-leaders Patrick Welch and Scott Stevens at The Grove.
The University of Oklahoma alum made six birdies against one bogey on one of the Korn Ferry Tour’s more demanding layouts, a strong start as he looks to earn his first TOUR card across the final three events of the Korn Ferry Tour calendar.
“(Barstool Sports personality) Jersey Jerry told me to take Kenny Pickett over Justin Fields, but I didn’t get either one of those guys,” Cummins said. “I actually drafted Aaron Rodgers, so it was tough.”
Jersey Jerry caddied nine holes for Cummins at the NV5 invitational presented by Old National Bank in July, and Cummins hasn’t missed a cut since. The Oklahoma native arrived in Music City at No. 59 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List, riding a streak of seven consecutive made cuts that began with a T6 at The Ascendant presented by Blue in Colorado. Cummins has played those seven events in a combined 83 under – he’s clearly in good form, despite the fantasy football setback.
This year brings a reimagined Korn Ferry Tour Finals format, with the four-event series featuring elevated points and progressive field reductions. The 144-player Simmons Bank Open marks the second of four Finals events, with next week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship featuring 120 players. The top 75 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship will secure full 2024 Korn Ferry Tour status, with 30 PGA TOUR cards finalized after the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship.
Cummins, 27, is well positioned to finish inside that top 75, so the attention turns to chasing the top 30.
“The first 15 events or so, I was pretty down on myself,” Cummins admitted Thursday. “Got a new caddie, Kevin McArthur, and he’s helped me a lot. I had a really good week in Colorado without any prior playing well, and I held it together. I played with (winner) Nick Lindheim on Sunday, so I got to see how it’s done to win a tournament, and it’s always good when you’re in contention and you get to see some guy go out and win.”
Cummins hasn’t yet won on the Korn Ferry Tour, but he could change that in Nashville, as his career trajectory has steadily ascended since finishing No. 6 on the inaugural PGA TOUR University Ranking in 2021. After beginning 2022 with conditional Korn Ferry Tour status, he finished T15 at The Panama Championship in February to improve his status for the rest of the season, eventually earning full status for 2023 with a No. 70 finish on the Points List. Now he can pursue his first TOUR card in full throttle.
This season, Cummins has often shared rental houses with fellow young pros Logan McAllister, Chris Gotterup and Jacob Bridgeman. The foursome has relished in exploring the local communities along the way – Bridgeman and Gotterup most notably, although the others join on occasion. So far this week, they’ve enjoyed hot chicken – a Nashville staple – the last two evenings. “Might make it a third day in a row,” Cummins noted after his first round at The Grove.
As he should. His game is heating up too.
Oppenheim looks to burst bubble
As a New England Patriots fan throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Rob Oppenheim didn’t have to sweat much when it came to the playoffs bubble.
In his golf career, though, Oppenheim has practically made a living on the bubble, his TOUR fate coming down to the season’s final moments during multiple Korn Ferry Tour Finals iterations.
He’s at it again. Oppenheim, 43, entered the Simmons Bank Open at No. 141 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List, needing a strong week to solidify a spot at next week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship (120-player field). The wily vet is tracking well, opening in 4-under 68 at The Grove, two back of first-round co-leaders Scott Stevens and Patrick Welch.
Oppenheim attended Sunday’s season opener for the Patriots, expressing his appreciation for longtime quarterback Tom Brady – who attended the game and delivered a speech – then traveled to Nashville and prepared to take the field himself.
In contrast to others around him on the bubble, Oppenheim is not dealing with absolutes regarding his status. He’ll have starts in 2024 on a medical extension, after undergoing shoulder surgery last September.
The Massachusetts native made the most of his time away from competitive golf; he spent time working with the men’s golf team at his alma mater Rollins College in Orlando. He relished the challenge of helping college golfers figure out how to turn a 78 into a 76, or a 76 into a 74, through savvy strategy and course management.
Oppenheim channeled his own advice Thursday, making five birdies and going bogey-free until the final hole on one of the Korn Ferry Tour’s more difficult layouts.
He hit the right notes Thursday in Music City and will look to do the same through the weekend.
Patrick Welch (No. 75 on Points List): The University of Oklahoma alum has experienced a whirlwind summer after earning conditional Korn Ferry Tour membership as No. 8 on the PGA TOUR University Ranking. Welch had anticipated a summer on PGA TOUR Canada, but after a chain of events that included Adrien Dumont de Chassart's victory at the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX (moving him into the Tournament Winners category, opening up a spot in the PGA TOUR University category), he has played a full Korn Ferry Tour slate since turning pro. He's well positioned to finish top-75 on the Points List and carry full Korn Ferry Tour status into 2024, and a PGA TOUR card is moving within the realm of possibility.
Scott Stevens (No. 159 on Points List): The South Carolina alum made eight birdies against a double bogey at the par-4 17th hole. Stevens, 26, was grateful just to be in the field at The Grove, as he entered the week at No. 159 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List. With the Simmons Bank Open featiring a 144-player field, he needed 15 eligible players ahead of him to opt not to play, which is exactly what happened. Now the native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has the chance to do something really special. Next week's Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship features a 120-player field, and Stevens has given himself a fighting chance to play on.
The Korn Ferry Tour Finals features progressive field reductions after each event; the third Finals event, the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship, will have a 120-player field, filled directly off the season-long Points List.
For the first three Finals events, the Points List will extend to fill the field to the corresponding numbers of players (e.g., the field for the 144-player Simmons Bank Open extended to No. 159 Scott Stevens, as 15 eligible players elected not to compete).
Here's a look at players around the bubble and how they fared Thursday at The Grove:
No. 115 T.J. Vogel: T16, 3 under
No. 116 Camilo Villegas: T44, 1 under
No. 117 Chase Parker: T88, 1 over
No. 118 Noah Goodwin: T7, 4 under
No. 120 Bo Hoag: T67, even par
No. 121 Chris Naegel: T28, 2 under
No. 122 Joshua Creel: T67, even par
No. 123 Ryan Blaum: T44, 1 under
No. 125 Vince India: T44, 1 under
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.