Drama often abounds during the PGA Tour’s season-ending competition. It may change your career to rank among the top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings. After the Wyndham Championship, if you can maintain your ranking in the top 125, you not only secure your card for the next year, but you also ensure your participation in the first playoff event and the associated FedEx Cup bonus money.
Austin Smotherman was unfortunate to experience one of the most severe drops outside the top 125 of all time on Saturday morning. Smotherman arrived at Wyndham RIGHT on the edge, ranking precisely 125th in terms of FedEx Cup eligibility. The 28-year-old rookie had a fantastic chance to qualify for the FedEx St. Jude in Memphis’ first playoff event the following week if he made the cut.
After a 65 in the first round put him at T-5 heading into Friday, things were looking up for him. Then Friday came along.
With weather delays on Friday afternoon, Smotherman’s disastrous second round got no easier. Few players, including him, had to return to Sedgefield Country Club early on Saturday to complete their second rounds. On the eighth hole, which was also his 17th, he had a 13-foot birdie opportunity that he had spent many hours mentally analysing. He backed off.
He was still one under par at this point, so there was no need to worry. If he could just par his final hole, the cut line would stay at one under, and he would be able to play the rest of the weekend. At No. 9, he had 157 yards after striking the fairway, but he missed the green by 19 yards and was unable to get up and down, finishing with a double bogey.
The horrifying sequence was featured on the tour’s video feed:
Simply heartbreaking news for the former SMU golfer. Datagolf, a company that provides statistics on golf, gave Smotherman a 49.6% chance of keeping his PGA Tour card overnight. His current likelihood of preserving it is 6.7%. Just before the third round begins, according to PGA Tour forecasts, he will slide to No. 129 on the list of players with the most eligibility points.
Brutal material. With some great results in the Korn Ferry Tour finals, Smotherman can still hope to keep his card, but those weren’t the competitions he had in mind when he was in the middle of the fairway on his penultimate hole of the second round.
Smotherman also had an impact on a tonne of players’ weekend plans. Smotherman had the opportunity to raise the cut line to two under if he had birdied one of his final two holes when 64 players had entered at two under. The Wyndham cut line remained at one under, which implies that the most players to make the cut in a very long time did so.
Some of the 22 (!) players who were at one under and are now participating in the weekend tournament should gift Smotherman a bottle of wine in appreciation for all the help he just provided.