If it seems almost like yesterday that Rory McIlroy captured the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, well, that’s nor far wrong. After 18 days off, the PGA Tour started anew, and the tournament that ends Sunday in Las Vegas is already the fifth in the 2016-17 season.
That schedule has become business as usual, and South Carolina’s contingent is pretty much the same. That translates into pretty strong.
U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson (Columbia/Coastal Carolina), the tour player of the year last season, headlines four state players ranked among the top 50 in the world at No. 3. Joining him among those who earn places in all the majors and World Golf Championship events are Bill Haas (Greenville) at No. 38, Kevin Kisner (Aiken) at No. 40 and William McGirt (Boiling Springs) at No, 44.
Johnson also won the WCG Bridgestone and the FedEx playoff’s BMW and posted 14 top-10 finishes in 22 starts. Kisner, in the RSM at Sea Island, and McGirt, in Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial, earned their first wins last season.
Naturally, Johnson holds the top priority on the Tour’s eligibility list, and McGirt’s win the Memorial puts him second among the state players. Kisner, Haas and Ben Martin (Greenville/Clemson) follow, thanks to tournament wins over the past two seasons.
In the 19th category, the last spot that assures places in all tournaments outside the majors, WGCs and invitationals, are Scott Brown (Aiken/USC Aiken), Lucas Glover (Greenville/Clemson), Russell Henley (Charleston) and Kyle Stanley (Clemson). They also finished in the top 125 in the FedEx standings.
Right behind is Wesley Bryan (Chapin/USC), who dominated the 2016 Web.com Tour and earned a promotion to the PGA Tour with his three wins.
Those having lower priority include Mark Anderson (Beaufort/USC) based on Web.com earnings and Sam Saunders (Clemson), based on 126-150 in FedEx Cup points. Those with former champion status include Jonathan Byrd (Columbia/Clemson), Tommy Gainey (Hartsville), D.J. Trahan (Mt. Pleasant/Clemson) and Matt Bettencourt (Duncan).
In addition, players can earn spots in tournaments during Monday qualifying and sponsor’s exemptions. For example, Matt Atkins (USC Aiken) earned a spot in the Sanderson Farm tourney and tied for 72nd.
With the fall season completed, Furman (7), South Carolina (13) and Clemson (42) are ranked among the top 50 in women’s golf in Golfweek. Individually, USC’s Katelyn Dambaugh is No. 6 and Clemson’s Alice Hewson is No, 24. Lexington’s Lauren Stephenson, who transferred from Clemson to Alabama this year, is No. 8. In the women’s world amateur rankings, Dambaugh is 9th, Stephension 26th and Hewson 29th. . . .Following clean-up from Hurricane Matthew, Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, home of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage, will open for play Wednesday. . . . Dataw Island Club assistant pro Chris Fearn will hold his third Military Golf Marathon on Monday. He hopes to match the 156 holes in played in one day and better the $19,000 raised last year. Salute Military Golf Association will be this year’s beneficiary.