Five players with most at stake at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship
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Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
COLUMBUS, Ohio. – Tension has filled the air in central Ohio, and it has nothing to do with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Korn Ferry Tour has descended upon The Ohio State University Golf Club (Scarlet Course) for this week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, the third of four Korn Ferry Tour Finals events.
Jobs are on the line this week, and the players know it. The top 75 after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship will secure fully exempt 2024 Korn Ferry Tour status and qualify for the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, after which 30 PGA TOUR cards will be awarded.
(Note: The 120-player Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship has extended to No. 122 on the Points List, as No. 100 Andrew Kozan (injury) and No. 115 Akshay Bhatia (TOUR winner) are not competing. Only the top 75 on the Points List after this week will qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour Championship; that field will not extend.)
For those who finish the week outside the top 75 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List, an autumn of uncertainty awaits, namely a trip to Q-School. This year’s reimagined eligibility structure delivers implications around Nos. 75, 85 and 100 on the season-long Points List – each number finalized after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.
Crucial Nos. 1 and 30 will be finalized after the Korn Ferry Tour Championship (as will No. 60, for access to Final Stage of Q-School).
There are many status and eligibility bubbles in play this week in central Ohio. Here’s a look at how these bubbles stack up, with a closer look at one player on each bubble who has plenty on the line at the Scarlet Course.
Chasing full PGA TOUR status (No. 1)
No. 1 Ben Kohles, 1,782 points
No. 2 Chan Kim, 1,549 points
No. 3 Rico Hoey, 1,528 points
No. 4 Ben Silverman, 1,506 points
No. 5 Alejandro Tosti, 1,462 points
The season-long Korn Ferry Tour Points Leader, finalized after the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, will become fully exempt on the 2024 PGA TOUR, not subject to reshuffle, and will gain access to the 2024 PLAYERS Championship and U.S. Open.
For Ben Kohles, a two-time winner this season, spots at THE PLAYERS and U.S. Open would bring extra meaning. Kohles spent his high school years in the Raleigh, North Carolina metroplex – not far from Pinehurst No. 2, which will host the 2024 U.S. Open – and he now resides in the Jacksonville (Fla.) beaches, not far from PLAYERS host venue TPC Sawgrass.
Kohles enters the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship on the strength of three consecutive top-10 finishes, keeping himself in the driver’s seat as he is chased by Chan Kim, who won back-to-back starts at the Magnit Championship and Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron in August.
The vibes come easy for Kohles at the Scarlet Course; he won here in his first professional start in 2012. Another strong showing in central Ohio would move him closer to that No. 1 spot and all its laurels.
Chasing a PGA TOUR card (No. 30)
No. 28 Jackson Suber, 765 points
No. 29 Rhein Gibson, 755 points
No. 30 Wilson Furr, 754 points
No. 31 Cody Blick, 754 points
No. 32 Brett Drewitt, 747 points
The top 30 on the Points List after the Korn Ferry Tour Championship will earn 2024 PGA TOUR membership. It’s what everyone on the Korn Ferry Tour is fighting for. With two events remaining in the Finals, the race couldn’t be much tighter.
Wilson Furr currently holds the all-important 30th spot with 753.791 points, mere fractions of a point ahead of No. 31 Cody Blick (753.576 points). Whenever Furr describes the story of this season to future generations, he might need a few evenings of bonfires to properly tell the tale. Furr, a native of Jackson, Mississippi, began the season with eight guaranteed starts but finished no better than T54 in that span, leaving his status for the remainder of the season in question. He was on the brink of reshuffling into a spot that would potentially leave him out of most fields, meaning a summer of Monday qualifiers and potentially mini-tour events.
Wilson Furr sets his second tournament course record of the season
Undeterred, Furr went T7-T2 at the HomeTown Lenders Championship and AdventHealth Championship to vault to No. 26 on the Points List and set up his season. The University of Alabama alum drifted back to No. 50 on the Points List by midsummer but again flipped the switch with back-to-back top-six showings at the Magnit Championship and Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron in late August, propelling him back inside the top 30 with two events to play. His spot inside the top 30 is certainly tenuous with two events to play; he needs to play well, and he knows it. But a legitimate chance at a TOUR card is eons away from a summer of Korn Ferry Tour Monday qualifiers, to say the least.
Fighting to keep full Korn Ferry Tour status (No. 75)
No. 73 Brandon Harkins, 343 points
No. 74 Michael Johnson, 337 points
No. 75 Nelson Ledesma, 335 points
No. 76 Jack Maguire, 335 points
No. 77 Isaiah Salinda, 326 points
The top 75 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship will cement full 2024 Korn Ferry Tour status and advance to the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, keeping their hopes alive for 2024 PGA TOUR membership via the top 30. The significance is two-pronged: keep your job and also maintain an opportunity for a promotion.
Michael Johnson relishes just the chance to be playing golf at this level, while also striving for his childhood goal of reaching the PGA TOUR. The Auburn alum was a highly touted collegiate player before finishing third in his TOUR debut at the 2016 Barbasol Championship, shortly after turning pro, and he advanced to the Korn Ferry Tour via Q-School that fall. Johnson lost status in fall 2019, though, and a 2020-21 season without status cultivated a newfound appreciation for the gig.
Johnson, 30, contended into the weekend at last week’s Simmons Bank Open but slowed to rounds of 72-73 on the weekend for a T26 finish. He neither gained nor lost ground in the season-long standings; he began the week at No. 74 and ended the week at No. 74. Now he takes center stage on the bubble this week in Ohio – but a veteran perspective should serve him well as he tackles the Scarlet Course.
Michael Johnson cozies tee shot to yield birdie at Simmons Bank Open
“My wife (Rachel) has a real job, so I’m consistently reminded what it’s like to be in an office, but just the fact that I didn’t have status two years ago and now I have status, you have to have better perspective, and if not, you’re just a negative person,” Johnson said last week. “I’ve been known to be pretty negative at times, but I’d like to think I have a little better perspective.”
Q-School implications (No. 85)
No. 83 Joey Garber, 298 points
No. 84 Daniel Miernicki, 291 points
No. 85 Patrick Newcomb, 278 points
No. 86 Peter Knade, 278 points
No. 87 Colin Featherstone, 268 points
The top 85 after this week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship will earn access to Second Stage of PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry (at minimum) this fall. The reimagined Q-School structure provides direct access to Final Stage for Nos. 31-60 on the Points List (finalized after the Korn Ferry Tour Championship), with Nos. 61-85 securing direct access to Second Stage.
Players on this tightly contested bubble, of course, will also have designs of moving inside the top 75 this week to maintain full Korn Ferry Tour status and advance to the Korn Ferry Tour Championship. One such player is Joey Garber, who authored a T12 at last week’s Simmons Bank Open to move from No. 95 to No. 83 on the Points List. Garber fared well at last year’s Korn Ferry Tour Championship, finishing in a five-way T12 to ultimately miss a PGA TOUR return by the narrowest of margins (he would have earned a TOUR card with a three-way T12 or better). The Michigan native would love nothing more than to secure another tee time at Victoria National – after a strong showing in Music City, he has improved his chances into this week in Ohio.
Keeping conditional Korn Ferry Tour status (No. 100)
No. 98 Alan Wagner, 238 points
No. 99 T.J. Vogel, 238 points
No. 100 Andrew Kozan, 235 points
No. 101 Patrick Flavin, 235 points
No. 102 Brendon Jelley, 231 points
For those who finish outside the top 75 on the Points List after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, the sting will certainly linger for some time, as a trip to Q-School beckons.
The stakes remain significant on the No. 100 bubble, though, as Nos. 76-100 on the Points List will assure conditional status at minimum for the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour (still with a chance to improve their position via Q-School). Conditional status is crucial, as it deems players eligible for the reshuffle if they gain access to an event (either via Monday qualifying or a sponsor exemption), make a cut and accrue points.
Patrick Flavin is one player who knows the importance of status. After missing at Second Stage of Q-School in fall 2021, Flavin zestfully hit the Monday qualifier circuit in 2022, ultimately playing in nine TOUR events – on a combination of Monday qualifiers and sponsor exemptions – and earned enough points to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. He made the most of that road but would prefer not to travel it again. The Miami (Ohio) alum has made 11 cuts in 23 Korn Ferry Tour starts this season, including four top-25 finishes, but he has missed five cuts in his last seven starts to fall from No. 79 to No. 101 on the Points List.
Flavin trails No. 100 Andrew Kozan on the Points List by fractions of a point. Cracking the top 100 is very doable, but he knows he needs to make the cut at the Scarlet Course to have a chance at moving inside the top 100 – from there, he would of course turn his attention to moving inside the top 75. He has proven an ability to thrive with his back against the wall, a trait he’ll look to channel this week.
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.