Korn Ferry Tour preview: Can Doc Redman return to TOUR, plus more pressing questions
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Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
The 2024 Korn Ferry Tour begins Sunday at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay, the starting block on the season-long chase for 30 PGA TOUR cards.
The schedule features 26 events, the final four of which comprise the Korn Ferry Tour Finals – featuring gradual field reduction and elevated point totals and culminating at the 75-player Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, after which 30 TOUR cards will be awarded.
As always, the Korn Ferry Tour membership roster features a wide range of ages and career paths. Some will compete on the Korn Ferry Tour for the first time after earning status via Q-School. Others will return after playing the past year (or several) on the Korn Ferry Tour. Others will strive to regain their TOUR card after losing status.
There’s no shortage of questions as the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour season gets underway. Here are nine questions to be answered throughout the season – with several more certainly to develop along the way.
Will Generation U continue?
Adrien Dumont de Chassart didn’t waste time in establishing the PGA TOUR University’s Class of 2023, winning the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX in his first Korn Ferry Tour start, after finishing No. 3 on the 20023 PGA TOUR University Ranking. The Belgian native proceeded to earn his TOUR card via the season-long standings; he’ll join fellow 2023 PGA TOUR University classmate Ludvig Åberg on TOUR.
Dumont de Chassart was named 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Rookie of the Year. Åberg, who earned automatic TOUR status as No. 1 on the 2023 PGA TOUR University Ranking, was named 2023 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year – his season included a win at The RSM Classic.
Adrien Dumont de Chassart on his goals this season before Sony Open
Safe to say Generation U has arrived, and several of their classmates will look to join them on TOUR in 2025. They’ll look to do so via the Korn Ferry Tour.
University of Florida alum Ricky Castillo won his first Korn Ferry Tour start as a member – the week after Dumont de Chassart’s maiden title – at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Wichita Open, thereby securing full 2024 Korn Ferry Tour status. A fellow Gator, Fred Biondi, finished T10 at Q-School’s Final Stage to earn 12 guaranteed starts, and Georgia Tech’s Ross Steelman finished T28 at Final Stage to also secure 12 starts.
University of Oklahoma alum Patrick Welch finished No. 73 on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Points List – making 12 cuts in 14 starts – to cement full 2024 status. Welch came up clutch last fall with a T24 at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship (the final event before the top 75 was finalized), moving from No. 79 to No. 74 on the Points List and securing his full Korn Ferry Tour card regardless of Q-School outcome.
The top finisher on the PGA TOUR University Ranking earns direct TOUR access, while Nos. 2-10 earn Korn Ferry Tour membership (five spots in each Korn Ferry Tour event after the NCAA Championship, prior to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, are allocated to PGA TOUR University graduates). This summer there will be a new crop of PGA TOUR University grads hungry to make a quick impact, and they’ll have no shortage of role models to follow.
Which rookies will break out?
One of Q-School’s enduring elements is that the meritocratic structure produces a wide range of rookies, from prodigious talents (like 19-year-old Aldrich Potgieter) to dreamers who have worked various jobs through the years to keep their professional golf careers alive (like 29-year-old Dylan Healey).
If past is prescient, several Korn Ferry Tour rookies will assert themselves quickly in 2024 and graduate to the PGA TOUR via the season-long standings. Among incoming Korn Ferry Tour rookies to earn guaranteed starts via Q-School: Bryce Hendrix, Sudarshan Yellamaraju, Cooper Dossey, Trey Winstead, Étienne Papineau and Myles Creighton. Others will begin the season with strong conditional status and make quick hay once they procure tournament starts.
It might be tricky to predict which Korn Ferry Tour rookies will break out in 2024, but it’s safe to say that some will.
Check out our "10 players to watch" file to learn more about some of these intriguing rookie talents.
Which veteran returners will achieve a breakthrough?
Thirty players earned PGA TOUR dreams via the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour. The other side of the coin, though, brings those players who narrowly missed TOUR cards via the top 30 on the season-long standings.
Argentina’s Jorge Fernandez Valdes entered the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship at No. 24 on the season-long standings, but he placed T61 for the week and fell to No. 31 on the final standings, less than six points shy of his first TOUR card. Shad Tuten experienced the most severe heartbreak of all; the Georgia native was projected to finish No. 30 and earn his first TOUR card, but a two-stroke penalty assessed on the 15th hole of the season’s final round (failing to properly replace his ball in the fairway) moved him to No. 32.
University of North Carolina alum Carter Jenkins entered the season finale at No. 26 on the Points List but opened in 84 at Victoria National and couldn’t fight all the way back; he followed with rounds of 70-67-71 for a T46 finish, and he fell to No. 34 on the Points List. Mason Andersen and Matt McCarty were among those who had a genuine chance on the season’s final weekend but came up just shy.
These players will be back on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2024, hungrier than ever to fulfill their lifelong dreams of competing on the PGA TOUR full-time.
Which conditional members can earn and seize early opportunities?
Nobody is immune to Q-School’s unique pressure, not even Sam Bennett – whose star blossomed across the golf world with a T16 at the 2023 Masters, which included a spot in Saturday’s final grouping at Augusta National.
Bennett’s final round at Q-School’s Final Stage was derailed by a quadruple bogey on the par-3 fifth at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course, leading to a final-round 75 and a T81 finish. He’ll begin 2024 with conditional Korn Ferry Tour status, hoping to take advantage of opportunities and improve his reshuffle position.
Other notable players who will begin the season with conditional status include Marcus Byrd (T64 at Final Stage), Julian Suri (T71) and Taylor Funk (T97). Byrd has found great success on the APGA; he amassed four titles last season including the APGA Farmers Insurance Invitational (the final round was contested at Torrey Pines’ South Course, the day after the final round of the TOUR’s Farmers Insurance Open). Suri, who has won on the DP World Tour and Challenge Tour, was derailed by a triple bogey on his final hole at Final Stage and will begin 2024 with an uncertain schedule.
No player earned status in more dramatic fashion than Funk, who made birdie on seven of his final 11 holes at Second Stage in Valdosta, Georgia, to advance on the number. Funk, the son of eight-time TOUR winner Fred Funk, has made 32 career starts across PGA TOUR Canada and PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and will look to break onto the Korn Ferry Tour early this season and earn points that he can parlay into a full season.
Will conditional members get early starts on their number?
After the top-five finishers at Q-School’s Final Stage who earned 2024 PGA TOUR membership, the next 40 and ties earned guaranteed starts on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour. The next 25 and ties earned 12 guaranteed starts, with remaining finishers earning eight guaranteed starts.
Important to note: several finishers within this category already held full Korn Ferry Tour status for 2024 (e.g. top 75 on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Points List; Nos. 126-150 on TOUR’s FedExCup standings) and will play the season from a higher category on the Priority Ranking. Consequently, it’s expected that some conditional members will receive early-season starts, with the chance to make cuts and improve their Priority Ranking position in future reshuffles. (In years past, players with full Korn Ferry Tour status for the following season wouldn’t have any reason to play Q-School; several players with this status now compete for their TOUR card at Q-School.)
The ’next 40 and ties’ category is thinned out, and players who missed by a stroke or two at Final Stage could be the beneficiaries. They’ll follow early-season alternate lists with a watchful eye.
What will Keita Nakajima do?
Former top-ranked amateur Keita Nakajima has been consistent through his late amateur and early pro days that he has one vision for his career ascent: playing on the PGA TOUR.
This season, the Japanese phenom will have two potential paths to get there.
Keita Nakajima’s pre-round warm-up routine
Nakajima finished T45 at Q-School’s Final Stage, earning eight guaranteed starts on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour. Nakajima, 23, gained direct access to Final Stage as the No. 1 finisher on the Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit – which also earned him a DP World Tour card.
The top 30 on the season-long Korn Ferry Tour Points List will earn 2025 PGA TOUR membership. The top 10 on the DP World Tour’s season-ending Race to Dubai will earn dual membership on TOUR as well.
Two paths, one goal.
Will Doc Redman regain past form?
For the first time in his career, Doc Redman will play the Korn Ferry Tour full-time.
It might seem the Clemson alum would take a negative vantage of this prospect, after a decorated amateur career and quick success on TOUR – finishing runner-up at the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic as a Monday qualifier, sparking a path to a TOUR card that he had yet to relinquish. But after finishing No. 159 on the 2023 FedExCup and narrowly missing a top-five spot at PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry’s Final Stage (tied for seventh, two strokes back), he’s headed to the Korn Ferry Tour for 2024.
While other players in similar positions declined to meet the media on the final day of Q-School, Redman headed to the podium and shared insight on his journey to this point. Based on his play, he didn’t deserve to play on TOUR this season, he knew. He looks forward to earning back that privilege, and he knows the Korn Ferry Tour is the spot to do so.
Redman’s play will be a source of intrigue in 2024.
Can Danny Walker channel his Cinderella Q-School run?
After a decade-long hiatus, Q-School awards PGA TOUR cards once again. It opened the door for the ultimate Cinderella stories, players who began Q-School without status on any TOUR-sanctioned circuit but emerged as PGA TOUR members. University of Oklahoma alum Blaine Hale, Jr. did just that with a top-five finish at Final Stage.
Danny Walker didn’t quite get there, but he came jarringly close. And he hopes the accompanying momentum will spark him to his first TOUR card via the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour.
Walker, who finished as 2018 Q-School medalist when no TOUR cards were awarded, lost his Korn Ferry Tour card with a No. 121 finish on the 2023 season-long standings. It meant a return trip to First Stage, where he began the final round near the bubble. If he didn’t get through, he admitted, his future as a professional golfer was uncertain. He closed in 6 under to advance with a stroke to spare. Then he rolled through Second Stage, sharing site medalist honors in Port St. Lucie, Florida, to secure eight guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts at minimum – with a free roll at a TOUR card at Final Stage.
He almost did it. Walker finished T7 at Final Stage, just two strokes back of a TOUR card. His former University of Virginia teammate Jimmy Stanger was in attendance for the final round at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course, hoping to see Walker join him as a 2024 TOUR rookie. Despite a closing birdie, Walker’s final-round 70 was just short; he needed 68. Still, considering where he was three months ago, it’s a radical change in fortune. Walker can write his schedule in pen to begin the 2024 season (he has 12 starts guaranteed), as he resumes the chase for his first TOUR card.
What will we see from a new finale venue?
After five years at Victoria National Golf Club, the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance will move an hour across southern Indiana for the 2024 iteration – to French Lick Resort’s Pete Dye Course.
The course is no stranger to high-level golf, having hosted the 2015 Senior PGA Championship – where Colin Montgomerie won at 8 under, four strokes clear of Esteban Toledo. It’s a demanding layout that measures 8,102 yards from the back tees and requires strong play throughout the bag, a fitting final exam for those seeking a TOUR card. Originally conceived by Dye as a sketch on a napkin at a nearby restaurant, the course sits on one of Indiana’s highest elevation points, providing 40-mile panoramic views of the southern Indiana countryside, and features a variety of elevation changes, narrow fairways, and rugged, intense terrain. Chances are pars will be at a premium down the stretch, especially considering the week’s heightened stakes.
The top 75 players on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour Points List after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship (the third of four Korn Ferry Tour Finals events) will advance to the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, where 30 PGA TOUR cards will be finalized.
Same stakes, new setting.
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.