Viktor Hovland makes history, Will Gordon comes up clutch and other stories you might’ve missed
Dustin Johnson’s come-from-behind win at the Travelers Championship might’ve been the main focus of the golf world over the weekend, but plenty of other great storylines went down. Here are four stories you might’ve missed last week.
Daniel Summerhays makes the most of final career start
Daniel Summerhays announced Monday that the Utah Championship would be his last as a touring professional, with retirement waiting for him at the end of the week. A solid 72 holes would have been a feel-good story for the 36-year-old as he transitions into his next profession as a teacher. And then Sunday happened.
Summerhays started the day in a tie for 28th. By mid-afternoon, he was the leader in the clubhouse, a Sunday 62 capping an almost-too-good-to-be-true final round of his career — an 18th-hole bogey the only blemish on the card.
But even with a Disney-esque finish within his grasp, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Kyle Jones birdied the 17th hole to force a three-way playoff with Summerhays and Paul Haley II before delivering the finishing blow with a birdie on the second playoff hole. The win was the first in his Korn Ferry Tour career.
Summerhays’ previous claim to fame was being the only amateur to ever win on the Korn Ferry Tour. A win would have (presumably) made him the only Korn Ferry Tour pro to win in his final start. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
Will Gordon earns special temporary member status on the PGA Tour
Although Will Gordon was playing in the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship, his lack of playing status coming into the week fits the ethos of this column. Although the former Vanderbilt standout had oodles of talent coming out of college, he failed to gain any status on any major tour last fall. So, he leaned on sponsor’s exemptions and Monday qualifiers for playing opportunities.
He’s converted nicely on the opportunities he’s had thus far this season, cashing three top 25s and a top 10 in six starts. But as a non-member, he was coming up on the max of six sponsor’s exemptions.
On the strength of 27 birdies on the week — a number that led the field — the 23-year-old finished T3 at the Travelers, a finish that secures him special temporary membership for the remainder of the season. A birdie at the 18th combined with a back-nine meltdown by Brendon Todd all but secured his fate. This is significant as it allows him to accept unlimited sponsor’s exemptions for the rest of the year.
The tweet below from Jack Ryan of PGA Tour communications helps sum up Gordon’s situation.
Gordon was slated to receive a sponsor’s exemption into next week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, but with a top-10 finish in Connecticut, it won’t be needed. Not a bad week at the Travelers for the young gun.
Viktor Hovland breaks into the top 50
Viktor Hovland has been a household name since the moment he burst onto the PGA Tour scene last summer, but despite that fanfare, he had never broken into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. That changed this week after a T11 finish at the Travelers Championship.
With yet another solid week, the 22-year-old becomes the first Norwegian-born player to break into the top 50 in the world. A spot on the upcoming Ryder Cup team might be out of reach (or maybe not?), but Hovland has the makings of a stalwart for the European squad for years to come.
Erik Barnes capitalizes after bagging groceries mid-pandemic
When the pandemic hit and forced a stoppage of golf, many players on the PGA Tour’s development circuits were left wondering when their next paychecks would come. Count Erik Barnes among that unfortunate fraternity. So with golf — and with it, a means to provide for his family — shelved for several months, Barnes took on a new job.
Each morning, he woke at 3 a.m. and drove to his local Publix grocery store to begin restocking the shelves. With the bills piling up, he had no other choice.
“I’m just doing what’s right for my family,” Barnes told PGATour.com. “I think most people would do the same thing.”
Once his shift was over, he would head to the course to hone his craft for his other job, pounding range balls and rolling putts until heading home and getting ready to start the cycle again the next day.
All that grinding paid off this week at the Utah Championship as Barnes finished T13 in his first tournament since the restart. The finish is also mightily important for Barnes as he has only conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour, so he needs as many quality finishes as he can get to improve his number and secure starts. This week will go a long way in that regard.