Australian Curtis Luck's first Korn Ferry Tour win sets up possible U.S. Open start
Curtis Luck finally broke through for his first professional title. And that was only half of the good news Sunday for the 24-year-old Australian, who fought his swing all day but counterpunched with his putter to record a one-stroke victory in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, Ohio.
Thanks to one-putt greens on three of the last four holes at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course, including a par save from seven feet at the 72nd hole, Luck converted his 54-hole lead into his first Korn Ferry Tour title. The 2016 U.S. Amateur champion closed with an even-par 71 and 11-under 273 total, one ahead of Theo Humphrey, Taylor Montgomery and Cameron Young, who missed a tying birdie try that was on the same line and just inches inside the putt Luck converted.
Five players finished at 9-under 275, including tour points leader Will Zalatoris, who stumbled with bogeys on the last two holes after briefly taking the lead.
In the process of rebuilding his swing – and he admits he’s “not on top of them yet" – Luck was all over the Scarlet Course on Sunday, which kept him from putting red on his scorecard until consecutive birdies on 15 and 16. Then he snagged tough pars on the final two holes for an unlikely victory in a season in which he didn’t have a top 10. Luck had missed the cut in his last three starts, but he did have good vibes about the Scarlet Course where in three previous appearances he placed T-19, T-5 and T-7.
“Luckily, I hit a few good shots coming down the stretch and holed some putts to save my skin,” said Luck, ranked third on the Korn Ferry Tour in putting average.
The win came with a potential bonus beyond the $180,000 prize money.
Luck should now get into the field at next month’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot. It would be his first. As U.S. Amateur champion, Luck earned an exemption into the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, but he forfeited it when he turned pro after the Masters. The Nationwide Children’s event is part of a three-tournament qualifying series that ends at next week’s Korn Ferry Tour Championship. The top five in points make the U.S. Open field. Luck earned 600 points with his win, elevating him to second behind Stephen Jaeger, who won last week in Boise. Which makes Luck all but a lock, as it were.
“That's obviously a bit of a cherry at the end of the year,” Luck said. “If I can lock up that spot is awesome.
“Golf's really tough,” he added after winning in his 44th Korn Ferry start and after one disappointing year on the PGA Tour. “It's probably not gone 100 percent to plan with the way I wanted to when I turned pro, but yeah, I've just stuck with it, and I'm still working hard. Obviously, to get a win out here is massive because not only does it give me status for the next couple years out here on the Korn Ferry Tour, it just shows that I'm able to compete, which is nice.”
Zalatoris added to his lead in the season-long points race. PGA Tour cards cannot be earned during this pandemic-shortened season, but the top-10 players in the Korn Ferry standings at the conclusion of next week's final get rewarded with guaranteed entry into opposite field events on the PGA Tour next season. The race for 25 PGA Tour cards extends into 2021 and ends at the WinCo Foods Portland Open.