Monday Finish: Five things from Bermuda Championship
November 02, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Brian Gay’s news conference after winning Bermuda
At times it was wild and windy, and in the end a worthy winner returned to the top of a leaderboard for the first time in a long time. Here are some storylines you might have missed as Brian Gay needed an extra hole to get the job done in the Bermuda Championship.
1. Gay proves accuracy can still be winning factor on TOUR
Brian Gay can’t hit the long bomb. He knows it. He’s 48, long away from his prime strength years. But he’s still cunning. And usually very accurate. And while a surge towards prodigious distance is happening in the world of golf, Gay showed that accuracy and solid nerves on the right course at the right time can very much still prevail in this sport.
Gay birdied the final hole in regulation to put a bow on a final round 7-under 64 and then stood up and birdied the hole again in a sudden death playoff to capture a fifth career win, but first since 2013. With Stewart Cink (Safeway Open) and Sergio Garcia (Sanderson Farms Championship) recently proving wins aren’t exclusive to the young, fit and strong on the PGA TOUR, Gay felt energized coming to Bermuda where he’d been third a year prior.
Despite tough winds through most of the tournament, Gay ranked fourth in driving accuracy and on Sunday hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation as he put on a clinic to overcome the two-shot deficit he started with in the final round.
Outdriven in the playoff, he applied pressure with a great wedge to 15-feet only to see Wyndham Clark hit his approach inside 10 feet. Gay wasn’t deterred – sinking his birdie putt in the heart of the cup to reapply the pressure. Clark tried to ram his effort in to match but it fell low and the trophy was won.
Now instead of counting the days until PGA TOUR Champions status, Gay is mapping out a few more years of big TOUR starts including THE PLAYERS Championship, Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Masters. Get more on a brilliant win here.
Brian Gay’s Round 4 highlights from Bermuda
2. Zalatoris completes mission one; next missions begin
It was all but a formality that Will Zalatoris would claim Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR after an incredible run of golf lately. The Korn Ferry Tour points leader needed to make it to the weekend to ensure he can accept an unlimited amount of sponsor invites this season and he impressed with a T16 finish in Bermuda.
Now the focus turns to whether or not he will earn enough non-member points this season to secure playing privileges into next season. This is also basically a formality as with 334 of those already on his plate it would take a serious dip in form for him to fall outside whatever mark the 125th player in the FedExCup sets. As it stands right now, Zalatoris would be 16th on the current FedExCup list if he was eligible, slotting in right ahead of Jon Rahm. And even if he were to falter, chances are he’s not going to drop 26 slots on the KFT list either.
So the real focus actually shifts to whether he can find a way to win on the PGA TOUR this season, thus becoming eligible for the Playoffs. And whether he can continue his climb up the world rankings before year end. At 57th, Zalatoris could work his way into the 2021 Masters should he get inside the top 50 on Dec. 31.
3. Off the Schnied
It had been a lean experience for Ollie Schniederjans in PGA TOUR events. The once-celebrated amateur has been an afterthought amongst a plethora of young talent bursting on the TOUR scene in the last few seasons, thanks mainly to a 2018-19 season of woe that ended at 180th in the FedExCup.
Prior to his third place finish this week in Bermuda, Schniederjans' last 10 TOUR starts had provided eight missed cuts – including in Bermuda a year ago – and a best finish of T47. This week provided his first top-10 since August of 2018 when he was fifth at the Barracuda Championship.
But time back on the Korn Ferry TOUR has allowed him to work things out away from the spotlight. And perhaps the arrival of his brother in the Bermuda field was the little competitive spark the sponsor invite needed.
The result brings with it another start on TOUR this week at the Vivint Houston Open where he hopes to prove, as was once touted almost as an afterthought, he rightfully belongs.
4. Wounded Clark can take heart
Losing a playoff always hurts and Wyndham Clark was certainly far from pleased when he missed three critical putts during the final two holes in regulation and during the playoff.
“I'm pretty bummed. Obviously, I would have liked to have won. I played so good, just had a little mishap on 16 and 17 and then really didn't make those two putts on 18,” he said in the immediate aftermath. “I played great. It was a great tournament. Obviously I'm disappointed. I had chances, I just didn't capitalize.”
Hopefully Clark can feel many positives as he continues to debrief, particularly given how he ended last season. The return to golf wasn’t great for Clark, who in his nine starts after the COVID-19 break dropped from 81st to 125th in the FedExCup. He snuck into the Playoffs despite missing the cut at the Wyndham Championship, a sixth MC in those nine starts that also included a walk off WD.
He’s now 14th in the FedExCup this season thanks to his runner-up result, a first top-10 in just over a year and his best TOUR finish ever.
5. The Funk in the Cink brings family fun
Brian Gay wasn’t the only veteran having a great time in Bermuda, a paradise where family fun was the order of the week for the Cinks and the Funks.
Stewart Cink, the recent winner in the season-opening Safeway Open, continued his impressive resurgence by finishing fourth. As was the case at his win, son Reagan was on the bag as his caddie. It’s a partnership hard to ignore.
“It's been a couple of factors. Reagan caddying for me, my son, we have great chemistry. Half his DNA is mine and we just see things the same way on the golf course and we have really good communication out there on our shots,” Cink explained. “It makes me be really decisive and committed. That certainly helps when you're searching for ways to separate you from the competition out here where everybody is so good.”
Cink also tinkered with his equipment. The two factors have him second in the FedExCup just four points behind Bryson DeChambeau’s lead.
“I kind of lowered my spin rates through my whole bag, driver all the way down through my irons, and when we came here and we had the crazy winds there for a couple days, I think I was able to keep my ball sort of like mildly, less out of control than maybe I would have before,” he added.
Fred Funk had the pleasure of playing with his son Taylor in the opening two rounds and while the younger Funk didn’t bring his absolute best stuff the 64-year-old produced another highlight to his impressive resume.
Facing what at the time seemed a birdie or bust scenario on his final hole of the second round, the elder Funk chipped in from just off the green to become just the fourth player aged 64 or older to make the cut in a TOUR event since 1970. He joined Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead and Tom Watson.
The family celebration on the green was everything that can make this sport great and more.
TOUR TOP 10
The PGA TOUR Regular Season top 10 will receive bonuses for their efforts.
This week Last week Player Points 1 1 Bryson DeChambeau 675 2 5 Stewart Cink 671 3 2 Patrick Cantlay 604 4 3 Jason Kokrak 596 5 4 Matthew Wolff 585 6 6 Sergio Garcia 548 7 7 Martin Laird 532 8 8 Hudson Swafford 510 9 Brian Gay 500 10 9 Xander Schauffele 463