U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)



RSM Classic

Ryan Moore snags last-minute PGA Tour card, plus other winners and losers from the season finale

November 19, 2023
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Gregory Shamus

With the advent of the FedEx Cup Fall, the end of the PGA Tour "regular" season has moved from August to November, and the drama of players fighting for PGA Tour cards in the grand finale has been transferred from the Wyndham Championship to this week's RSM Classic. At Sea Island on Sunday, it was Ryan Moore who finished as the day's big winner, with a brilliant 62-65 propelling him into a T-8 performance and, more importantly, moving him from outside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings into position No. 118. All players inside that 125 cutoff receive full status for the following season, while those from 126-150 must settle for conditional status.

Moore was the only player to move from outside that bubble to inside, and his rise meant someone had to fall. That someone was China's Carl Yuan, whose T-68 finish wasn't quite enough to hold off Moore. Yuan dropped from 125th to 126th, just a single point behind Troy Merritt in 125th place.

For Moore, the highlight came at 17, when he holed a 12-foot birdie putt that put him definitively over the line.

"I thought I needed that birdie on 17 to get it done, or at least one in those last two," he said. "I somehow just made that one go in. Fortunately that went in and I was able to sneak in a two-putt there on 18 and just secure it."

Moore started the fall far outside the cutoff. But a new caddie and a new set of irons refreshed his perspective and gave him the chance on Sunday to seize control of his year.

"As someone with a family that likes to spend as much time at home as I can, just being able to plan out your weeks is huge," he said. When asked about his nerves on the closing stretch, he added, "I'm not gonna lie, it was close to what I felt trying to win a golf tournament coming down the stretch. It means a lot."

Further down the points list, Vince Whaley and Kelly Kraft were able to rise into the top 150 with a T-13 and T-19 finish, respectively. That was bad news for Satoshi Kodaira and Stewart Cink, who dropped beneath that threshold despite both making the cut at the RSM. Cink will have status next season by virtue of his win at the 2021 RBC Heritage, but Kodaira is not so fortunate.

"It's just super stressful," Kraft said after his round. "You never want to be in this position, let alone I'm fighting to stay inside the top 150 because I played so terrible the first half of the year. Would have been a little more fun trying to stay inside the 125, but the way I played for most of the year until really towards the end and then now the fall, I played terrible and I kind of deserved to lose my card after playing that way."

Still, Kraft was grateful for not falling all the way down, and spoke of what it meant to be inside the top 150.

"It means you still get starts out here," he said. "You're not picking your schedule, but I've had a lot of buddies that have played out of the 150 category and played well enough to get back in that 125 for the next year. So you just have to be ready to play. You're not going to get in as many tournaments, which actually sounds kind of nice because I'm tired of playing 32 tournaments a year or whatever. Maybe a forced week or two off every once in a while wouldn't be so bad."

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Alex Slitz

The other big prize up for grabs was a spot in the so-called "Next 10," positions number 51-60 on the FedEx Cup points list, which confer entry into two signature events early in 2024, Pebble Beach and Riviera, and access to all the money up for grabs there. With his victory, Ludvig Aberg rose from 96th to 53rd to join that club, while Luke List, Sam Ryder and JJ Spaun managed to stay inside the cutoff with top-20 finishes. Aberg displaced Alex Smalley, who fell from 57th to 61st with a T-44 showing at the RSM.

Spaun in particular had a clutch day, shooting 63 early to stake his claim on one of the final spots.

"I didn't have the greatest of Thursday and Friday and turned it on on the weekend," he said. "I really like this course, and it fits my game, so I did what I needed to do as best I could have. Maybe I left a few out there, but also can't really say that because certain putts dropped that shouldn't have anyway … it's out of my hands at this point."

In the non-member category, Peter Kuest and Ryan Gerard came into the week with a chance to post a higher point total than No. 125 on the list, which would grant them full status. Gerard missed the cut, and while Kuest had a better chance, two straight weekend 66s left him in a tie for 13th place; he needed a tie for third or better to reach the 441 points necessary.

It was a day of triumph and heartbreak, but it was also a day of relief. Andrew Novak had told his best friend K.J. Spencer two years ago that he should hold his wedding in the fall, since the stress would be off Novak at that point in the season and he could be in the wedding without a problem. As it happened, the tour's format changed, and Novak spent this fall in a state of constant stress as he fought to keep his card. He debated whether he should still go to the wedding or not, and decided to honor his obligation by skipping the tournament in Mexico.

"I kind of bet on myself," he said. "The entire time I was feeling a lot of stress this whole fall."

Novak made the cut without much room to spare, and finished low on the leaderboard at T-73, but it was enough; he retained his card, and he doesn't care if he had to limp to the finish. As he said Sunday afternoon, he's playing at the pinnacle of his sport, and now he gets to do it for another year.