Power Rankings: Final Stage
December 09, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Chase Koepka finished T46 in his last PGA TOUR start at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Final Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament is set for this week at Orange Country National (Panther Lake and Crooked Cat) just outside Orlando, Florida, as the multi-month journey known as Q-School comes to its conclusion.
More than 150 golfers will compete this week across the two courses for a chance to improve their status or earn guaranteed starts on the Korn Ferry Tour for 2020. From pre-qualifying to First and Second Stages, players have moved through a variety of sites and conditions to tee it up this week.
Here’s a breakdown of what they’re playing for:
· The medalist at Final Stage (and ties) will receive fully exempt status for the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season.
· Finishers 2-10 (and ties) at Final Stage will receive exempt status for the first 12 events of the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season, and will be subject to subsequent reshuffles (which occur in four-event intervals).
· Finishers 11-40 (and ties) at Final Stage will receive exempt status for the first eight events of the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season and will be subject to subsequent reshuffles (which occur in four-event intervals).
This week’s field includes Korn Ferry Tour, Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, and PGA TOUR China winners, past Final Stage medalists, Low Amateur winners at majors, and star collegiate golfers.
The drama, as it always does, is set to unfold this week in Orlando.
Here are the top players to watch at Final Stage.
1. Chase Koepka: The younger Koepka has taken big-brother Brooks’ route and has played mostly in Europe the last couple of years. The 25-year-old finished T14 at his Second Stage site in Texas and played a handful of PGA TOUR events this fall. Koepka used Brooks’ usual caddie, Ricky Elliott, to get him through his Second Stage qualifier.
2. John VanDerLaan: Talk about making a statement at Second Stage. VanDerLaan, the 2018 NCAA DII Player of the Year, fired 23 under in Brooksville and won his site by eight shots – the biggest such margin in 2019.
3. Taylor Pendrith: A two-time winner on the Mackenzie Tour this year, Pendrith already has guaranteed starts for the Korn Ferry Tour next year via his runner-up finish on the money list in Canada. Hard to bet against a guy with as much firepower as Pendrith in a week when he has nothing to lose.
4. Curtis Thompson: Thompson had a 2019 to forget, until a few weeks at Second Stage that is. A star at LSU, Thompson had a solid two years on the Korn Ferry Tour before falling down golf’s deep bottom. He didn’t tee it up in any PGA TOUR-sanctioned event this year but worked hard rebuilding his swing and psyche. He was the medalist at his Second Stage site.
5. Braden Thornberry: Although Thornberry, a former No.1-ranked amateur golfer and past NCAA DI champ, did not have the start to his professional career (he finished 101st on the Regular Season Points List in 2019) he envisioned, you can’t count out experience on a big stage – and Thornberry has that in bunches.
6. Jordan Niebrugge: An experienced golfer who just hasn’t yet made the leap, Niebrugge played his first full season on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019, but made only nine cuts. Niebrugge was a star amateur and at 26, seems primed to break through.
7. Chip McDaniel: ‘Mr. Monday’ on the PGA TOUR this year – McDaniel Monday Qualified into three TOUR events and played 10 total, including his first major championship, the U.S. Open. He also got a sponsor exemption into the Rocket Mortgage Classic after building up a bit of a cult following for his Monday exploits – McDaniel finished T8 at Second Stage. He’s already proven he can perform under-the-gun.
8. Jake Knapp: Another two-time winner on the Mackenzie Tour in 2019, Knapp finished third on the Tour’s order of merit. Not only did he have two victories, but the UCLA product also had a runner-up and a third place, finishing at 20-under or better four times this year. Like Taylor Pendrith, Knapp is playing with nothing to lose. He’s proven he can take it low.
9. Martin Piller: When the pressure is on, something can certainly be said for experience. That’s why Piller – a six-time Korn Ferry Tour winner, including as recently as 2017 – should be considered a veteran to watch this week. Piller remains as steady as ever, despite not being a young 20-sometihng anymore. He’s a new dad, and as focused as ever on the next stage of his career.
10. Ollie Schniederjans: It’s been quite the ride for Schniederjans from can’t-miss college prospect to Korn Ferry Tour winner to losing status on the PGA TOUR in just a couple of years. But, there is no denying that Schniederjans – he of the majestic quaff – can still play at a high level.
Other Notables …
Lorens Chan finished with the lowest scoring average in the history of the Mackenzie Tour this year and had eight top-10 finishes … Danny Walker was the medalist at last year’s Final Stage … Jared Wolfe won the first event of the 2019 PGA TOUR Latinoamerica season and ended up third on that Tour’s Order of Merit … Curtis Thompson’s brother Nicholas Thompson is also in the field – they qualified via the same Second Stage site.