Why this tour pro might have just saved his 2020-'21 season in only his second start

September 28, 2020

Tyler McCumber plays his second shot on the eighth hole during the final round of the 2020 Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.

Andy Lyons

Tyler McCumber’s first career PGA Tour start came at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in 2018, where he impressively played his way into the final pairing on the final day. But that Sunday didn’t come with a storybook finish; McCumber shot a 75, finished T-19 and watched playing partner Brice Garnett walk off with the title.

Thirty months later, in his 24th career tour start, McCumber used that finish as motivation when he played in the third-to-last pairing at Puntacana on Sunday. And while the 29-year-old didn’t win the tournament, his closing 66 was good enough for solo second, one stroke out of a playoff with Hudson Swafford. More importantly, it offered a much needed confidence boost.

“All the stuff I was working on I feel like I did pretty well this week, staying patient and staying focused,” said McCumber, a 2019 Korn Ferry Tour graduate, whose $436,000 prize money payout more than double his career earnings on the PGA Tour. “So a lot of positives out this week obviously. And hats off to him for a clutch finish, too, birdieing 17 and two-putting from where he did on 18, it’s just really good.”

McCumber’s first career top-10 tour finish secured a start in this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship. He’ll arrive there with 300 FedEx Cup points locked in, putting him T-5 very early in what will be a long 2020-’21 season. Yet, if history is any measure, he’s only need roughly 100-120 more points to finish inside the top 125 and secure his card for another season.

Of course, Swafford with his win on Sunday locked up PGA Tour playing privileges through the end of 2022 and got himself starts in several big events in the next year (you’ve heard of the Masters, right?). Yet McCumber’s performance, and the net effect of it on his game and his psyche, could be viewed in a very similar light when you consider the trajectory his 2020 has been following.

Since the PGA Tour restart, McCumber had played in eights events prior to arriving in the Dominican Republic and had made the cut in just one (T-29 at the Barrcuda Championship). The son of former 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber wound up finishing 161st on the FedEx Cup points list at the end of the abbreviated 2019-’20 season which in any other campaign would have meant losing his tour card and needed to win it back in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals series. But when the tour decided to freeze everybody’s status because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the schedule, McCumber could clear his mind of the mess from the summer and start over this fall.

“I think you can take confidence out of it,” McCumber said. “Keep using that word ‘momentum,’ I don’t know why I like it so much, but yeah, any good finishes out here, try to roll with them and keep it going.”