Analyzing Dustin Johnson’s golf swing
The PGA Tour’s version of an off-season — 11 days this year — ends Thursday with the first event of the 2019-20 campaign, and the addition of a pair of former college All-Americans should bolster the strength of the South Carolina contingent.
Matt NeSmith, who sparkled at USC, steps into the big time after leading the Korn Ferry Tour’s three-tournament playoffs in points, and Doc Redman, the 2017 U.S. Amateur champion who played at Clemson, will begin his first full year in golf’s major league.
NeSmith, who grew up in North Augusta, climbed from 2,006 to 289 in the world rankings in his first full Korn Ferry Tour season. His playoff tournament win put an exclamation point on his year that included four top-10 finishes.
Redman, a Raleigh, North Carolina native who played two seasons at Clemson before turning professional, came from nowhere to seize a spot on the PGA Tour. Competing on the Canadian Tour, he earned spot in the PGA’s Detroit tournament in Monday qualifying, then finished second in the main event. He climbed to 157 in the world rankings and earned enough FedEx Cup points in limited events to play the PGA this season.
Otherwise, the Palmetto State lineup starts, as usual, with Dustin Johnson and Kevin Kisner. Johnson (Columbia/Coastal Carolina) is ranked No. 3 in the world and Kisner (Aiken) is No. 27, and both won World Golf Championship events last season.
After a sizzling start — his WGC win in Mexico, a tie for second in the Masters and solo second in the PGA — Johnson did not have a top 15 after May and underwent recent knee surgery. He is expected to return to competition late in the fall.
Kisner won the WGC match-play in March, then finished strong with T12, T9 and T9 in the tour’s three playoff tournaments.
Wesley Bryan (Chapin/USC) and William McGirt (Spartanburg/Wofford) both missed most or all of last season after undergoing surgeries and will have priority under major medical exemptions. Ben Martin (Greenville/Clemson) missed most of last season with a back injury and also starts the year on a medical exemption. He needs to earn 111 FedEx points in six tournaments to regain full status.
All have one PGA Tournament victory, McGirt in the Memorial, Bryan in the RBC Heritage and Martin in the Shriners tourney in Las Vegas.
Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover (Greenville/Clemson) forged his best season in several years and made the 30-player Tour Championship field. He joins Scott Brown (Aiken/USC Aiken), Russell Henley (Charleston) and Kyle Stanley (Clemson) with priority based on top 125 finishes in the FedEx standings.
In addition to NeSmith, veterans Mark Anderson (Beaufort/USC) and DJ Trahan (Mount Pleasant/Clemson) return to the PGA Tour via Korn Ferry performances, Anderson in the regular season and Trahan in the playoffs.
Bill Haas (Greenville), who has six career victories, struggled after being involved in an automobile accident and finished 140 in FedEx points. He will be playing out of priority 32 and have limited starts.
Both Jonathan Byrd (Columbia/Clemson) and Tommy Gainey (Hartsville) will have limited opportunities out of past champions category.
The schedule that starts Thursday at the Greenbrier in West Virginia will have 11 events before taking the month of December off. Changes in competition include dropping the number of players to make the cut from 70 and ties to 65 and ties, and reducing the field from 132 to 120 in events played opposite WGC tournament or major championships.
Chip shots. Former USC golfer Sarah Schmelzel posted her best LPGA Tour finish in the Portland Classic, earning sixth place at 14 under par. The performance boosted the tour rookie to 64th in the season-long standings. . . . In addition to Schmelzel, four others with Palmetto State connections are ranked in the LPGA’s top 100 in points _ Mi Hyang Lee (Blythewood resident) at 27, Austin Ernst (Seneca) at 62, Nanna Madsen (USC) at 70 and Lauren Stephenson (Lexington) at 83. . . . USC, ranked 22nd in Golfweek’s preseason poll, and Clemson, No. 17, open their men’s fall seasons in the Carpet Capital Collegiate that winds up Sunday in Dalton, Ga.