Pro comes painfully close to PGA Tour card: ‘It stings, but I’m not done trying’
Wesley Bryan knew he was going to need a good one.
He entered Sunday’s final round at the Valspar Championship in a share of 53rd position. Typically, Tour pros near the bottom of the leaderboard approach final rounds with apathy; there’s neither stress nor fear of consequence. Bryan is no stranger to that approach, having once blitzed through his final round at the BMW Championship in less than 90 minutes.
But this was no ordinary round. Bryan was making the final start of his major medical extension, an exemption category that allowed him a certain number of starts with which he could regain his card. He needed a sixth-place finish to retain full PGA Tour status, while solo 51st or better would allow him to claim partial status alongside pros who finished Nos. 126-150 on the FedEx Cup points list last season.
For Bryan, even getting to the weekend was no simple task. With three holes to play on Friday, he sat just outside the cut line. He make a 16-footer for birdie at No. 7 (his 16th hole of the day) to get just inside that cut line. At No. 8 he found a bush, hacked out of it (below) and got up-and-down for a miraculous bogey that gave himself a chance. And then he striped a drive down the fairway at No. 9, hit a wedge to three feet and rolled it in to make the weekend.
Bryan played well on Saturday but finished with a bogey to post one-under 70, leaving him just outside the top 50 as he stared down Sunday.
“It’s going to take a special one,” Bryan said post-round to the PGA Tour.
But on Sunday, as conditions toughened, Bryan’s birdie reserves seemed to dry up. He hit just eight of 18 greens and spent most of the day scrambling for par. As he reached the Valpsar’s Snake Pit — the challenging trio of 16, 17 and 18 — he needed to play them in at least one under par to have a chance. Instead he bogeyed 16, made two more pars to finish and signed for a two-over 73 and a share of 62nd.
After the round he took to Twitter to express his thanks to those who have followed his chase for status.
“Been a long few years, spent most of it rehabbing shoulder and wrist,” he wrote. “Thank you to everyone for the support this week….definitely felt the love out there. I tried my hardest….came up short. It stings, but I’m not done trying.”
What “not done trying” means is that Bryan will continue to hunt for starts on Tour for the rest of the season using his status as a past champion. He’ll hope to tee it up as soon as next week’s Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship and is confirmed in the field at the RBC Heritage the week after the Masters.
At the time of his victory at the 2017 RBC, Bryan was on a rapid ascent through the world rankings. The trick-shot-artist-turned-pro won three times on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2016 before bursting onto the PGA Tour and winning that following April. He had four other top-seven finishes that year.
But since then Bryan has battled injuries and struggled to find his form. His T12 at the 2020 Sanderson Farms Championship was his best result since 2017. He made zero starts in 2019 and just 23 total in the three years since. Bryan’s 2022 began with a promising T27 at the Sony Open but he missed his next three cuts entering this week’s Valspar.
He finished the week at two under par. Four under would have given him a 10-way tie of 48th place; five under would have guaranteed him partial status for next season. Instead he’ll start on the steepest road in the golf world: the one that leads back to the gates of the PGA Tour.