What rookies are coming up on the PGA TOUR? Here’s who to watch in 2020.
With 53-man rosters and 32 teams, the National Football League employs more than 1,500 players each season. Major League Baseball consists of 30 teams of 25-man rosters. That’s 750 players. On the PGA TOUR, approximately 150 players are fully exempt each season, a small fraction compared with those team sports.
Considering the extremely high level of play required to earn a TOUR card, it stands to reason that the PGA TOUR’s developmental circuits necessitate a major-league level of play in order to contend, win titles and advance to the highest stage of the game.
Despite falling short of PGA TOUR cards via The 25 and The Finals 25, a handful of returning Korn Ferry Tour members are primed to make the jump to the next level as they hone their skills over the offseason in readiness for another crack, beginning at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay in January.
Players who finish Nos. 26-75 on the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List will carry fully exempt status into the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour season, and they’ll be joined for the Tour’s 31st season by players who successfully navigate the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament—First Stage in October, Second Stage in November, and Final Stage in December.
The top-40 and ties at Final Stage of Q-School, contested at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge in the Orlando metroplex, will receive guaranteed starts on the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour. All players who advance to Final Stage will earn at least conditional Korn Ferry Tour status in 2020, as will those who finish top-10 on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and PGA TOUR Series-China.
Order of Merit leaders on these three International Tours will be fully exempt on the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour.
What rookies are positioned to make a run at a TOUR card next season?
Here are five rising stars to consider.
Paul Barjon The 27-year-old Frenchman first played the Korn Ferry Tour in 2017, making just four cuts in 20 starts and finishing well short of maintaining status. A solid 2018 campaign on the Mackenzie Tour—No. 39 on the Order of Merit—helped move things in the right direction, and his progression continued in 2019. With 10 top-25 finishes in 12 starts, including two victories, he finished the year atop the Order of Merit and will hold full Korn Ferry Tour status in 2020.
Kevin Dougherty The Oklahoma State product fell an inch shy of a TOUR card on a birdie chip at the 72nd hole of the 2018 WinCo Foods Portland Open, finishing No. 26 on The 25. He had a good chance down the stretch of the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season, finishing No. 33. Again on the precipice of a TOUR card entering this year’s Korn Ferry Tour Championship, he made double bogey on the final hole of Round 2 to miss the cut by a shot, ultimately falling short of The Finals 25. Dougherty could trade the close calls for a card in 2020.
Patrick Fishburn The BYU alum won the Mackenzie Tour’s season-ending Canada Life Championship to finish No. 5 on the Order of Merit and earn a spot on the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour. The long-hitting Utah native, 27, made 11 cuts in 12 PGA TOUR Canada starts this season and was the beneficiary of a $40,000 grant from the Tony Finau Foundation to pursue his TOUR dreams. Confidence from a strong finish to 2019 could extend into the early portion of 2020.
Max McGreevy After an uneven season on the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour—without a top-25 in 16 starts—the former University of Oklahoma golfer honed his game over the offseason, then traveled overseas for a 2019 season on PGA TOUR Series-China. The 24-year-old excelled, to say the least. McGreevy recorded 11 top-25 finishes in 13 starts, with four top-three finishes including a victory, en route to the top spot on the Order of Merit. He’ll be fully exempt on the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour, with another crack at his first TOUR card.
Will Zalatoris A standout collegian at Wake Forest, he began the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour season with no status, but took advantage of his opportunities, recording six top-25 finishes in 15 starts, including a third-place finish at the LECOM Health Challenge in July. Zalatoris, 23, took online classes toward his psychology degree throughout the season, yet still maintained the focus to finish second on Tour in total driving, third in greens in regulation, and earn full 2020 Korn Ferry Tour status. For the California native, the sky appears the limit.
This article first appeared in the PGA TOUR December 2019-May 2020 issue, which can be read here.