The culmination of the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Finals and the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour season wrapped up on Sunday at Victoria National Golf Club as Joseph Bramlett won his first tournament title. Bramlett pulled away during the final round to finish four clear of the field at 20-under to win the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, joining 24 other graduates on Sunday evening in securing 2021-22 PGA TOUR membership through the Finals points standings.
The Korn Ferry Tour awarded the first set of 25 PGA TOUR cards for the 2021-22 season at the conclusion of the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna in August, with a second set awarded this week after the conclusion of the Finals. The first set was presented to the top-25 players in the Korn Ferry Tour regular season points standings while this week’s set was presented to the top-25 players in the three-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
Bramlett was neck and neck with University of Alabama alum Trey Mullinax early on Sunday before an explosive back nine helped him distance himself from the field. Bramlett posted seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch (Nos. 9-16) to reach 20-under. With the win, Bramlett secures his return to the PGA TOUR where he has competed for the last two seasons.
“Extremely excited, yeah, I can't wait; I've had a taste the last couple years and to have it again is really, really gratifying,” said Bramlett. “It's a huge deal, man. Every week you're playing for life-changing opportunities. Yeah, it took me a long time to get my card back in 2019 and it was one of the biggest days of my life. So I'm just so excited and congratulatory to everybody who got their first card today. It's a really, really big deal.”
The win at Victoria National was especially gratifying for Bramlett who had had mixed emotions at the venue in year’s past. In 2013, he was in contention before closing bogey-bogey-double bogey to finish outside the top-10. The following week, Bramlett’s back gave out, setting off essentially a five-year period away from professional golf.
“The last tournament I played in 2013 was here and so I spent four and a half years thinking a lot about this course and a lot about my finish that day,” said Bramlett. “I went bogey-bogey-double bogey my last three holes before I got hurt, so that really stuck with me. To be able to come full circle and get my first victory here is very great.”
Other players who clinched their PGA TOUR cards with strong finishes at Victoria National this week include runner-up Trey Mullinax and rookies Hayden Buckley (T4) and Sahith Theegala (sixth). Justin Lower earned the 25th and final card after a T15 finish, edging Taylor Montgomery by 5.273 points. Montgomery finished 26th in both the regular season points list and the Finals points list, missing his first PGA TOUR card by the narrowest of margins in both races.
Lower provided the highlight of the afternoon, three years after an excruciating finish at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in 2018 in which he finished 26th in the Finals points standings after missing an eight-foot birdie putt at the final hole that would have sent him to the TOUR. On Sunday he got up and down for par to clinch his first TOUR card.
“No words really,” said a visibly emotional Lower after the round. “It means everything and I don’t think it’s it. I don’t think my journey is over at all. I think it’s just getting started. I’m pretty happy, I’m not going to lie…Taylor Montgomery, if you’re listening, I’ve been in your spot before and I know it’s not any fun. You’re a heck of a player and just keep grinding. Good things will come.”
Nine of Sunday’s 25 card-earners will be rookies on the PGA TOUR in 2021-22. More details on The 25.
German native and Chattanooga resident Stephan Jaeger finished atop the combined regular season and Finals points standings, earning fully exempt status on the PGA TOUR during the 2021-22 season as well as an exemption into the 2022 PLAYERS Championship. Joseph Bramlett also earned fully exempt status and a PLAYERS exemption by virtue of topping the Finals points standings.
“I’ve never had that before, so it's a big deal,” said Bramlett of his elevated status. “I'm sure it will set in. I honestly don't even know what it means yet, so I'm going to learn more about it. But the fact that I know I'm going to Sawgrass next year is sick, man. I can't wait.”
Weather: Mostly sunny, high showers, high of 79 degrees, wind N/NW at 8-14 mph
The Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance was the third and final event of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, a three-event series that determined the second set of 25 PGA TOUR cards given out for the upcoming 2021-22 season; the first set of 25 PGA TOUR cards was awarded to the top 25 points earners upon the conclusion of the 43-event 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour regular season three weeks ago in Omaha, Nebraska
Lower edged Taylor Montgomery by 5.273 points for the final TOUR card, which is the equivalent of a two-way T73 finish or better at any of the three Finals events; Montgomery missed the cut this week in Evansville
Christiaan Bezuidenhout carded the low round on Sunday with a closing 64, good enough to a career-best finish of third to lock in his first PGA TOUR card
The nine rookies who are headed to the PGA TOUR through the Finals 25 are: Aaron Rai, Hayden Buckley, Sahith Theegala, Matthias Schwab, Alex Smalley, Joshua Creel, Callum Tarren, Kurt Kitayama and Justin Lower
This year marked the 10th year of Korn Ferry Tour golf at Victoria National Golf Club; the venue hosted a regular season event from 2012 to 2018 before hosting the Tour’s flagship finale event beginning in 2019
This week’s purse was $1,000,000, with $180,000 going to the champion, Joseph Bramlett; Bramlett also receives 1,000 Korn Ferry Tour points
Final-Round Course Statistics
Toughest Hole – Par-4 14th (4.263)
Easiest Hole – Par-5 10th (4.474)
Scoring Average (Front 9) – 35.487
Scoring Average (Back 9) – 34.737
Scoring Average (Total) – 70.224
Scoring Average (Cumulative) – 71.431