Finals update: Jacob Solomon rebounds after money-game loss to Sepp Straka
8 Min Read
Auburn alum opens Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in 4-under 67
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
COLUMBUS, Ohio – During the two-week break between this year’s first two Korn Ferry Tour Finals events, Jacob Solomon went up against Sepp Straka in a Wolf Hammer money game at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama.
Straka striped his approach to 5 feet at the 17th hole, went Lone Wolf and won (the game included Korn Ferry Tour member Michael Johnson and fellow pro Bennett Baker).
“Typical Sepp fashion,” quipped Solomon of the Ryder Cup-bound Straka. “Went Lone Wolf and took all our money. He’s pretty good. He hits the ball pretty darned good. He’s done alright for himself.”
Perhaps some of Straka’s magic translated to Solomon, who opened this week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in 4-under 67 at The Ohio State University Golf Club (Scarlet Course). He’s tied for fourth after the opening round in central Ohio, two back of leader Jacob Bridgeman.
It’s a good time for a good round, as Solomon entered the week at No. 68 on the season-long Korn Ferry Tour Points List. The top 75 after this week will maintain full Korn Ferry Tour status for 2024 and advance to the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance. Thirty PGA TOUR cards will be awarded after the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.
Solomon is in a good position for the top 75, but he’s not yet locked. One wouldn’t deduce any bubble pressure, though, from observing the 26-year-old Auburn alum on Thursday. He remained loose, speaking appreciatively of the ability to play golf for a living. “Hanging out, playing golf, going to football games,” said Solomon of his two weeks off, which included a trip to Auburn football’s season opener. “It’s a pretty good life.”
Solomon, who turned pro in 2019, played the mini-tours during the COVID-extended 2020-21 combined season before earning PGA TOUR Canada status for 2022. He finished No. 26 on that year’s Fortinet Cup, then earned 2023 Korn Ferry Tour status via Q-School last fall. It has been a steady progression that also included a leaderboard dalliance at this year’s U.S. Open, which he opened in 2-under 68 at The Los Angeles Country Club en route to a T60. He has struggled in spurts during his maiden Korn Ferry Tour season but emerged as the 54-hole leader at last month’s Magnit Championship en route to a sixth-place finish. He was pleased with how he handled the moment, as he did Thursday at the Scarlet Course.
The same could be said for the Auburn Tigers in their 2013 Iron Bowl matchup against Alabama. That game happened to be Solomon’s unofficial visit to the school, fresh off a trip to Georgia Tech. He was a California kid who “knew nothing about Auburn,” and then he happened to see the Tigers win on a dramatic walk-off kick return touchdown after Alabama’s game-winning field goal attempt fell shy.
An omen? Perhaps. Solomon played four seasons at Auburn – as a classmate of Korn Ferry Tour winner Trace Crowe – and fell in love with the school and program. He still lives near campus and often practices with the team, as well as Johnson, a fellow Tiger.
“Got to see probably the best play in college football history, so that was pretty cool,” Solomon said of the Kick Six game. “It turned out to be the place that I loved, and I’m really glad I made that decision. It’s been a huge part of my career … I love it, man. It’s just a great spot.
“(Kick Six) turned out just to be a magical night.”
He’s on track for a magical week at the Scarlet Course, as well.
Jacob Bridgeman opened the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in 6-under 65, good for a one-stroke lead over Frankie Capan III and Chandler Phillips.
Bridgeman, who first earned Korn Ferry Tour membership via the 2022 PGA TOUR University Ranking, has done seemingly everything but win this season. He has recorded 12 top-25 finishes in 22 starts, including two fourth-place finishes in his last four starts. He’s fresh off a T16 at last week’s Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation, a week where he shared a rental house with fellow Korn Ferry Tour pros Chris Gotterup, Logan McAllister and Quade Cummins.
Jacob Bridgeman takes early lead at Nationwide Children’s
Bridgeman, 23, entered the week at No. 12 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List – the top 11 have been declared #TOURBound, having secured their spots in the top 30, meaning he is next in line. He’s so close he can almost taste a TOUR card, but he’s maintaining an even keel into the week, knowing his game has been good and that a win could be around the corner.
With a bogey-free 65 on Thursday, on an increasingly firm Scarlet Course, he did nothing to dissuade that notion.
“It’s been pretty fun for the most part; consistent,” said Bridgeman of his season. “For the most part, I’ve played very solid. I haven’t had anything great yet, so I’m hoping this week can be that.”
Frankie Capan III (5-under 66): The Minnesota native entered the week at No. 49 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List, comfortably inside the top 75 to keep full status, but also knowing he could earn his first TOUR card with a strong week either in Columbus or at the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship – or both. Capan, who earned guaranteed starts via Q-School last fall after beginning at the pre-qualifying stage, has demonstrated a quick learning curve as a Korn Ferry Tour rookie. Perhaps he brought in a secret weapon for the stretch run as well; veteran caddie Damon Green joined the team at last week’s Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation. Green encouraged Capan to implement a 2-1-2 strategy on Thursday – go 2 under for the first six holes, then 1 under and 2 under respectively – and he executed to perfection. He’s projected to move to No. 23 on the Points List (in a current two-way T2 at the Scarlet Course).
Cooper Musselman (3-under 68): The Kentucky native earned the last spot in the 120-player Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship with a final-round 65 last week in Nashville – he finished the week T16, moving from 137th to 122nd on the Points List. With Akshay Bhatia (TOUR winner) and Andrew Kozan (injury) not playing the Nationwide, Musselman was in. he has made the most of the opportunity, carding an opening-round 68 that places him T7 on the leaderboard, projected No. 100 on the Points List. He needs a two-way T3 at minimum for a chance to crack the top 75, and he’s leaving nothing on the table. “I’m a procrastinator,” explained Musselman of his propensity to play his best with the proverbial back against the wall; he also carded a final-round 65 at the Final Stage of Q-School last fall to earn guaranteed starts with a stroke to spare.
The Korn Ferry Tour Finals features progressive field reductions after each event; the top 75 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship will retain full Korn Ferry Tour status for 2024 and be eligible for the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance. Thirty PGA TOUR cards will be awarded after the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.
The field for the Korn Ferry Tour Championship will not extend beyond the No. 75 player on the Points List (the field could hypothetically feature less than 75 players). This diverts from the structure for the first three Finals events, in which the Points List extends to fill the field to the corresponding numbers of players (e.g., the field for the 120-player Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship extended to No. 122 Cooper Musselman, as two eligible players elected not to compete).
Here's a look at players around the No. 75 bubble and how they fared Thursday at the Scarlet Course:
No. 71 Brian Campbell: T97, 4 over
No. 72 John Augenstein: T68, 2 over
No. 73 Brandon Harkins: T16, 2 under
No. 74 Michael Johnson: T50, 1 over
No. 75 Nelson Ledesma: T50, 1 over
No. 76 Jack Maguire: T16, 2 under
No. 77 Isaiah Salinda: T68, 2 over
No. 78 Daniel Summerhays: T68, 2 over
No. 79 Patrick Welch: T50, 1 over
No. 80 Zach Bauchou: T114, 6 over
There’s also significance around the No. 85 spot, as Nos. 61-85 on the final Korn Ferry Tour Points List are eligible to begin Q-School at Second Stage. Here’s a look at players around the No. 85 bubble and how they fared Thursday at the Scarlet Course:
No. 83 Joey Garber: T7, 3 under
No. 84 Daniel Miernicki: T16, 2 under
No. 85 Patrick Newcomb: T97, 4 over
No. 86 Peter Knade: T50, 1 over
No. 87 Colin Featherstone: T34, even par
There’s also significance around the No. 100 spot, as Nos. 76-100 on the final Korn Ferry Tour Points List retain conditional status at minimum for 2024. Players with conditional status can improve their position on the Priority Ranking (and potentially earn starts on their priority number) with any points accrued via cuts made.
Here’s a look at players around the No. 100 bubble and how they fared Thursday at the Scarlet Course:
No. 98 Alan Wagner: T84, 3 over
No. 99 T.J. Vogel: T84, 3 over
No. 100 Andrew Kozan, not competing
No. 101 Patrick Flavin: T110, 5 over
No. 102 Brendon Jelley: T50, 1 over
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.