KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Takeaways from 2020 Korn Ferry Tour slate, Return to Golf
TOUR cards to be awarded via 2020-21 combined season; Riley, Wolfe on verge of Three-Victory Promotion
October 14, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Wake Forest alum Will Zalatoris recorded 10 top-10 Korn Ferry Tour finishes in 2020, and he leads The 25. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
It has been a historic year for the Korn Ferry Tour – in more ways than one.
This year marked the 30th season of the Korn Ferry Tour, which made its debut in February of 1990 with an event in California won by Mike Springer – with whom PGA TOUR Digital spoke in February to commence the 30th anniversary celebrations – and has been the proving ground for countless TOUR winners ever since.
The summer of 2020 was unlike any other, not just for members of the PGA TOUR and its affiliated Tours but also for everyone around the world. Society as a whole had to navigate COVID-19 and its immense impact.
But the Korn Ferry Tour, as part of the PGA TOUR family, pressed on with its Return to Golf in June. And for the first time, the Korn Ferry Tour season will wrap around the winter holiday season and into the following calendar year before 25 PGA TOUR cards are awarded next August.
After a 23-event year, there was still much to celebrate, analyze and explore further.
With the final event of 2020 now in the rearview, here are five takeaways from 2020 – a season unlike any other.
ZALATORIS ZIPPING ALONG
Will Zalatoris started the year pretty well. He has ended it in record-breaking fashion.
The 24-year-old had two top-10 finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour prior to the COVID-19 break and didn’t miss a cut in his first five events.
But Zalatoris hasn’t missed a cut on the Korn Ferry Tour for the whole of 2020. And those two top-10s earlier in the year? He has added eight more in 11 Korn Ferry Tour events since the Tour returned to action.
Oh, and he has three top-10s on the PGA TOUR this fall, including a T6 at the U.S. Open.
The former Arnold Palmer Scholarship winner at Wake Forest has become not just one of the best players on the Korn Ferry Tour, but one of the best in the world. He has earned nearly enough non-member FedExCup points to earn Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR (needing just a top-69 finish at this month’s Bermuda Championship) – and he remains No. 1 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List as the 2020 schedule comes to a close.
In the last 17 weeks (until mid-October), Zalatoris played 14 tournaments worldwide on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR. He has 10 top-10 results. Other names on that worldwide success list: FedExCup winners Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, along with U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau (11 events, six top-10s). Not bad company to keep.
It’s possible Zalatoris will earn TOUR membership via his fine play on TOUR this fall and will bypass the rest of the Korn Ferry Tour – which would leave the race to No. 1 wide open in 2021 – but for now, fans can sit back and celebrate some truly excellent golf by 2020’s No. 1 player on the Korn Ferry Tour.
12th straight top-20. 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/Uv1LQRja16— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) September 20, 2020
COVID-19 BREAKS UP HISTORIC SEASON
At THE PLAYERS Championship in March, the PGA TOUR canceled the event after the first round with COVID-19 hitting a fever pitch around the world – other sports leagues were canceling games and “social distancing” entered the worldwide lexicon.
The Korn Ferry Tour ended up having 10 events canceled in 2020. The last event before the COVID-19 break, the El Bosque Mexico Championship, wrapped up on March 1. The Return to Golf was scheduled for June 11 at a new tournament, the Korn Ferry Challenge at TPC Sawgrass, and so began a new run of tournaments through October with no fans on-site, new COVID-19 testing and travel protocols, and a few more questions than answers with respect to how the rest of the year was going to look.
However, tournament organizers, Korn Ferry Tour staff, and the players themselves all persevered.
The Tour played 17 events in an 18-week stretch, including five new tournaments that were added to the schedule to make up for some of the canceled tournaments through the summer.
The Tour started with back-to-back events in Florida (Korn Ferry Challenge at TPC Sawgrass and The King & Bear Classic at World Golf Village) and then in July there were back-to-back events in Texas (TPC San Antonio Challenge at the Canyons and TPC San Antonio Championship at the Oaks).
The final event of the 2020 portion of the season was another new tournament, the Orange County National Championship presented by Knight 39, just outside Orlando.
While COVID-19 caused an unprecedented break in the Korn Ferry Tour’s 2020 season, players maintained the same objective before and after the break – play well, and try to move on to the PGA TOUR.
17 winners in 18 weeks! 🏆— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) October 12, 2020
Cheers to the champions of our Return to Golf. pic.twitter.com/L6C8sSDFMo
DOUBLE THE FUN
It’s happened before, and with an extra-large schedule there’s a good chance it’ll happen again.
Davis Riley and Jared Wolfe have won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour already in 2020 and will look to add a third victory – and an automatic promotion to the PGA TOUR – when the 2021 season gets going.
Riley, a star at the University of Alabama (and inspired by Zalatoris all season … who just happens to be his roommate) won the Panama Championship in January. When the Korn Ferry Tour returned to action, he won again – this time at the new TPC San Antonio Championship at the Oaks in July. With his second victory in just 10 events on the schedule, Riley was primed to become the first Korn Ferry Tour pro to earn a three-win promotion since Wesley Bryan in 2016.
But not so fast.
Jared Wolfe, who won the event prior to Riley in January (The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at Baha Mar), notched his second win at the Wichita Open Supporting Wichita’s Youth.
With a full slate of tournaments pegged for 2021, there are two players in Riley – a young star with a lengthy collegiate resume – and Wolfe – a 32-year-old father who has never held PGA TOUR status in his 10-year professional career – who are on the cusp of making some history.
The Korn Ferry Tour cobbled together an eclectic 2020 schedule after the Tour returned from its COVID-19 break that included some new tournaments, and some return trips to old favorites.
The TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes took place one week earlier than scheduled, while the Lincoln Land Championship presented by LRS, Evans Scholars Invitational, Wichita Open Supporting Wichita’s Youth, and Savannah Golf Championship all moved from the spring or summer into the fall.
The newly created 2020-21 season will conclude with 25 PGA TOUR cards being awarded next August, with an additional 25 cards being awarded via the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
Korn Ferry Tour events to be contested in 2021 will be announced later this year.
Local twins had the exciting opportunity to play with @davisriley68.— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) October 7, 2020
He had some advice to give them and other junior golfers who aspire to take their game to the next level. pic.twitter.com/NfFLu7HETd
THE 25 … SO FAR
Usually at this point in a calendar year, The 25 will have played their first couple of PGA TOUR events and begun to rack up FedExCup points. Alas, the 2020 season did not allow for a Korn Ferry Tour graduating class, but many players are now in prime position to chase The 25 PGA TOUR cards that will be awarded next summer.
Here are some highlights from The 25, as it stands right now.
• Taylor Pendrith (No. 2): Pendrith did not pick up a club for nine weeks during the COVID-19 hiatus while he returned to his native Canada to rest a nagging shoulder injury and get engaged to his longtime girlfriend Meg. Out of the gates after the break, he went on a hot streak that included results of T3-2-T2-T2. He added four more top-15s before the end of the year, plus a top-25 at the U.S. Open to boot.
• Brandon Wu (No. 4): After beginning the season on conditional status, the Stanford alum bolstered his position in the reshuffle via a top-10 at the Price Cutter Charity Championship, and he hasn’t looked back. Wu won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, and he finished T2 at the Orange County National Championship to put a bow on the year.
• Lee Hodges (No. 6): Hodges missed just one cut during the Return to Golf and had seven top-20 finishes, including a win at the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by KraftHeinz.
• Greyson Sigg (No. 7): Sigg had one of the most consistent seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour this side of Will Zalatoris – he missed just two cuts and had 14 top-25 results in the 18 events where he found the weekend. His best two results of the year came in his last four starts. Even without a victory, his steady play (he’s first on Tour in All-Around Ranking) has been rewarded with an excellent spot on The 25 going into 2021.
• Curtis Thompson (No. 14): Thompson was co-medalist at Final Stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School in 2019 after saying he was thinking about giving up the game entirely. This has been a bit of a redemption year for him, culminating with a victory at the Evans Scholars Invitational in September. He’s now in prime position to earn a PGA TOUR card.
Boston Bruins' Charlie McAvoy caddies for James Nicholas at Orange County