Scramble to crack Top 30 a tense affair at BMW
As always, the margin was razor-thin at Medinah
August 18, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Jason Kokrak's approach to 4 feet leads to birdie at BMW Championship
MEDINAH, Ill. – The line of demarcation signifying the Top 30 in the FedExCup was dotted with equal parts joys and sorrows at the BMW Championship at Medinah No. 3.
Those inside the line were headed for next week’s TOUR Championship at East Lake, a cherry on top that comes with financial rewards and invitations to most every elite tournament in the game. Those outside the line saw their seasons abruptly come to an end.
“Being eight years on TOUR, that would mean the world,” journeyman Jason Kokrak said, still uncertain whether or not he was headed to East Lake for the first time after making birdie at the 18th hole for a bogey-free 69.
When a charging J.T. Poston bogeyed the same hole minutes later, and Kevin Tway could only manage a par there after four-straight birdies from holes 14-17, they had each missed the Top 30 by a single stroke, and the 30th and final spot belonged to Kokrak.
“Little jittery,” he said of his final stroke, from just inside four feet on 18.
Indeed, it was a tense day, so much so that Poston said the nerves were worse than they’d been as he authored his first PGA TOUR win at the Wyndham Championship two weeks ago.
“I knew on 18 a par would probably do it,” he said, “but I just hit a bad tee ball. I had driver in my hands, switched to 3-wood, and just didn’t put a good swing on it. East Lake would get me into two more majors and WGCs that I don’t think I’m in right now. That’s why we play.”
Kokrak will no doubt long remember his final-hole birdie, which began with a 307-yard drive into the middle of the fairway, setting up one of the best birdies of his life.
“I had 141,” he said, “wind off the left. I hit a little three-quarter pitching wedge.
“I never played The Masters,” he added, his mind still racing at the implications of what he’d accomplished. “That would definitely mean I’m in all the big events. I can make my own schedule a little bit easier, go through the year a little bit differently than I normally do.”
Hideki Matsuyama (63, solo third) and Lucas Glover (69, T7) were the other two players to work their way from outside to inside the Top 30 with their play at Medinah.
“I’m really, really happy,” Matsuyama said through an interpreter after bouncing back from a third-round 73. “After yesterday’s round, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to East Lake. I had some doubts, but thankfully I played well today, and I’ll be there again.”
Matsuyama has never missed a TOUR Championship since joining the TOUR in 2014.
Glover will return to the TOUR Championship for the first time since 2009, the year he won the U.S. Open. “I’m thrilled with the end result," he said, "but I’m still pretty hungry to win. I didn’t do that again this week. I had a great year, but I want more.”
Watching it all play out was a little like watching to see where the roulette wheel would come to a stop. Kokrak’s birdie on 18 put him in the 30st spot, but he fell to 31st as Poston birdied the 16th hole, his third straight. It was looking like heartache for Kokrak, 34.
Alas, Poston bogeyed 18 to bring Kokrak back to 30th and drop Poston to 31st. Tway’s four late birdies bumped Poston to 32nd, but it was immaterial. At Nos. 31 and 32, they were both out.
Rory Sabbatini was projected to move into the Top 30 all week, but struggled to a final-round 74 for a T16 finish and ended the season at 36th in the FedExCup. He was trying to make his first TOUR Championship since 2007, when he was fourth in the inaugural FedExCup Playoffs.
Who’s in/out of Top 30
Here’s who made it to East Lake and who’s going home after the BMW Championship:
MOVING INSIDE TOP 30: Hideki Matsuyama (33 to 15), Lucas Glover (41 to 29), Jason Kokrak (32 to 30).
FALLING OUTSIDE TOP 30: Andrew Putnam (30 to 34), Shane Lowry (25 to 33), Harold Varner III (29 to 38).
Im only rookie to qualify for TOUR Championship
Sungjae Im took a big step toward possible Rookie of the Year honors when he shot a final-round 67 to finish T11 in the BMW and 24th in the FedExCup.
Of the five rookies in the BMW field, he was the only one to advance to East Lake, and no rookie has ever led first-year players in FedExCup points and not won Rookie of the Year.
“I had a good start, which took some pressure off,” Im said through an interpreter. (He went 4 under for his first seven holes, including a pitch-in for eagle at the par-5 seventh.) “I’m really happy to make it to the TOUR Championship, which was my entire goal for this season.”
Oosthuizen gets through to East Lake
At the 2017 BMW Championship, Louis Oosthuizen shot 66-67 on the weekend, but finished 31st in the FedExCup, 0.72 points behind No. 30 Jason Dufner – the third closest margin between 30th and 31st in Playoffs history.
Determined not to be left out again, Oosthuizen, who began the week 28th in the FedExCup, holed out for eagle from 160 yards at the ninth and went out in 32. At that point he was 13 under and just needed to avoid disaster. He did, shooting 68 for T11 at the BMW, 27th in the FedExCup.
Shot of the Day
Louis Oosthuizen's eagle hole-out is the Shot of the Day
“It was a week like just when I started doing something good, I would make a stupid mistake,” Oosthuizen said. “I don’t know. I think, end of the season, mind all over the place. I need to do something just to get everything straight for next week, if I make it.”
Big names fail to advance
Tiger Woods started well with three front-nine birdies, but the only two-time FedExCup champion saw his progress stall with bogeys at the sixth and ninth holes. His even-par 72 left him T37 for the BMW, 42nd in the FedExCup, and unable to defend his title at East Lake. For more on Woods, click here.
Jason Day, whose streak of six straight TOUR Championship starts was tops on TOUR, started on the back nine and birdied three of his first five holes, only to double-bogey Nos. 16 and 17. His 74 ended his chances at making it to East Lake – he wound up FedExCup No. 54 – and also ensured he would not make the top eight in International Presidents Cup points.
Phil Mickelson hit driver from the fairway at the par-5 14th hole, and the same club to go for the green at the par-4 15th. He birdied both, but double-bogeyed the par-3 17th as he shot 71 to finish T48 and a projected FedExCup 47th. He will miss the TOUR Championship for the fourth time in the last six years. For more on Mickelson, click here.
Jordan Spieth shot a 2-under 70, and while his scores were consistent at Medinah (70-71-70-70), he needed something more. The 2015 FedExCup champion finished T37 at the BMW and 44th in the FedExCup standings, missing the TOUR Championship for the second straight year.