PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club


This tour pro is now on the verge of a PGA Tour battlefield promotion


Davis Riley won his second Korn Ferry Tour title on Saturday at the TPC San Antonio Championship.

Ben Jared

Davis Riley is one step away from a PGA Tour card. Granted, it’s no small step—he’ll have to win another Korn Ferry Tour event before the end of 2021. But given the way he performed over the weekend en route to victory at the TPC San Antonio Championship, it’s a reasonable one.

A closing 67 on Saturday at the AT&T Oaks course at TPC San Antonio gave the 23-year-old former All-American at Alabama a two-stroke win over Paul Barjon and Taylor Pendrith. It was his second Korn Ferry Tour title in 2020, the first coming in February when he won the Panama Championship. A third win during the season earns a golfer a “battlefield” promotion to the PGA Tour, something that’s happened only 11 times in Korn Ferry Tour history. The last came in 2016, when Wesley Bryan played his way up to the PGA Tour.

The battlefield promotion was something PGA Tour officials carried over after restructuring the Korn Ferry Tour schedule in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It became essentially the only way players could graduate to the PGA Tour off the Korn Ferry Tour until the end of 2021, officials restructuring the KFT calendar to create a 2020-’21 season. Originally, players who were among the top 25 on the Korn Ferry Tour points list at the end of the regular season in 2020 would have earned PGA Tour cards for 2020-’21. But when the PGA Tour decided to maintain the status of all players on both tours through 2021, it also meant that KFT golfers would have to wait to move off the developmental tour.

That situation was one that looked like it would hurt Riley, who had grabbed the early season win and was in great position to be among the 25. Yet Riley took the news in stride and stayed focused on trying to play well on the Korn Ferry circuit.

“It’s a bummer,” he told, “but there’s not much you can do about it. All I can do is control what I can and try to be prepared every week.”

Riley started one stroke off the lead entering Saturday’s final round in San Antonio, and made the turn in one under. At one point he was among a seven-way tie for the lead, but they Riley stepped up over the closing stretch of holes. He holed out for a birdie on the 15th from a bunker, then hit his approach on the 16th hole to 18 inches, setting up another birdie. He burned the end of the hole with his birdie putt on the 17th before making one more on the 18th after hitting his approach on the par-4 home hole to two feet.

“I’m really proud of the way I handled myself,” Riley said. “I give a lot of props to Panama week, being able to pull from those memories.”

Riley shares a place in Dallas with fellow KFT member Will Zalatoris, who won the TPC Colorado Championship two weeks ago. Riley stood by the 18th green that day to congratulate his friend. Conversely, Zalatoris stuck around to watch Riley close things out on Saturday.

“I know what he felt and it’s a really good feeling to win. … You’re happy for him but at the same time it kind of fired me up. I was ready to go this week. Now we have three trophies in there, hopefully we can just keep building that up.

“We just push each other every day and play a lot of golf together. It’s good to have someone just as good or maybe better than you to play with, it’s a lot of fun.”