|GREER (Korn Ferry Tour) – Facing firm and fast conditions late Sunday afternoon, Robby Shelton figured if he broke par it would be enough to win the BMW Charity Pro-Am Presented by TD SYNNEX.|
As it turned out, Shelton was right. Well, sort of. A sub-par round would have won the tournament in regulation, but Shelton carded an even-par 71 and parred back-to-back playoff holes for his third career Korn Ferry Tour victory.
Shelton carried a five-stroke lead into the final round and had not made a bogey through 54 holes, but his playing partner, Ben Griffin, fired a 5-under 66 and rendered it meaningless, as the two stood tied at 22-under par following regulation.
Shelton and Griffin both parred the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th.
The two returned to No. 18 tee for the second playoff hole, and only Shelton left with a par the second time around, as Griffin missed a 9-footer which would have extended the playoff.
“It’s been three long years I’ve been fighting and fighting and trying to get a win, trying to just play some good golf,” Shelton said. “I’ve been trending and trending and trending, and finally it felt really good this week. It felt great and I ran with it.
Made it a little tough on myself this last day, but I tend to do that.” Shelton’s subtle poke at himself hearkened back to his first Korn Ferry Tour win, which came at the 2019 Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation.
Like this week, Shelton carried a sizeable lead (three strokes) into the final round.
The native Alabaman bogeyed his first four holes, rebounded and carded a 1-under par 71, but found himself in a playoff with future World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.
Shelton made a 9-footer for birdie and the win, then won again two weeks later at the Visit Knoxville Open.
This time around, Shelton gave nothing away early in the round; he was just stuck in neutral.
Shelton made one birdie and one bogey in the first 11 holes, then wiped out a birdie at the par-4 12th with a bogey at the par-4 13th.
Shelton still kept Griffin at arm’s length, as he birdied the par-5 15th and held a three-stroke advantage.
Back-to-back birdies by Griffin at the par-5 16th and par-3 17th gave him a puncher’s chance (pun intended, given the fact Canelo Alvarez played this week’s celebrity pro-am) on the 72nd hole.
An errant drive left Shelton well out of position in the left rough.
An iron into the greenside bunker left Shelton with a difficult up and down.
Shelton’s lengthy par putt grazed the edge of the cup but stayed out, and Griffin knocked in a 7-footer for par and forced the playoff.
“We changed our game plan, shouldn’t have done that,” Shelton said of errant tee shot and bogey at No. 18.
“We hit 3‑wood off the tee. We hadn’t done it all week. I don’t know why. It was a little downwind, we were thinking we’d get in the bunker, but in the playoff I hit two drivers and played really well.
That’s the only mental mistake we had all day really.”
The win signified Shelton’s emergence from a rabbit hole he sent himself down after a stellar rookie season on the PGA TOUR.
Shelton, who earned his TOUR card following the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour season, had just finished No. 66 in the 2019-20 FedExCup Standings and T59 at the 2020 BMW Championship, the second of three events in the FedExCup Playoffs.
For reasons even he cannot discern, Shelton tinkered with his swing and changed his ball flight from a draw to a cut.
The end result was a No. 166 finish on the 2020-21 FedExCup Standings, followed by lackluster outings at the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Finals which sent Shelton back to the Korn Ferry Tour.
“I’m very frustrated at doing it to myself,” Shelton said.
“Golfers are trying to chase perfection and it’s just not going to happen.
I got on TOUR and I just kind of wanted to be somebody else. Now I know my game, and I know everything about it now because I studied it, studied it, studied it to where I know what’s going to happen on the course when something goes on.
It made me stronger, it made me better. “I did not look down on it at all,” Shelton said of his relegation to the Korn Ferry Tour.
“I played pretty bad last year and I was just happy to get full status out here from the wins (in 2019).
We left Korn Ferry [Tour] Finals last year and didn’t think we had status, thought I had to go back to Q‑School.
Being able to have full status out here, set my schedule, I was looking forward to it.”
With the help of Tampa, Florida-based teaching professional Matt Mitchell, Shelton rediscovered his former self.
Back was the three-time All-America First Team selection and 2014 National Freshman of the Year from the University of Alabama, the rising star who finished T3 at the 2015 Barbasol Championship between his sophomore and junior seasons, the rookie who won his third start on PGA TOUR Canada in 2017 and catapulted himself onto the Korn Ferry Tour before his 23rd birthday.
Sure, he made it a little tough on himself, but Shelton’s finally back on the path to the PGA TOUR.
The win moved Shelton from No. 63 to No. 14 on the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List, giving him a rather comfortable 138-point cushion between himself and the No. 25 spot.
“You just want to win,” Shelton said.
“It solves everything. I feel amazing. I definitely want to make the next step again and, hopefully, stay out there a little longer.”
A major consolation for Griffin was the fact he and Brandon Matthews both earned #TOURBound status. Griffin, a three-time runner-up this season, and Matthews crossed the 875-point mark the Korn Ferry Tour is currently using as its fail-safe threshold for players to finish inside The 25 and earn a PGA TOUR card at regular season’s end.
The 2022 Korn Ferry Tour season continues Thursday with the first round of the Wichita Open Benefiting KU Wichita Pediatrics at Crestview Country Club in Wichita, Kansas.
This week marked the fifth event decided in a playoff this season, while another eight tournaments were decided by one stroke
Sunday marked the 15th consecutive time a Korn Ferry Tour player carried a lead of five-plus strokes into the final round and went on to win, a streak which dates back to 2010
Robby Shelton (1st / -22) and Ben Griffin (2nd / -22) tied the lowest 72-hole score relative to par on the Korn Ferry Tour this seasonShelton’s three bogeys this week were tied for the fewest scores of bogey or worse among all players in the field
Shelton became the third consecutive 54-hole leader / co-leader who went on to win, after only two 54-hole leaders / co-leaders won the first 13 events of the season Shelton became the 12th winner under the age of 30 on the Korn Ferry Tour this season
Griffin’s previous runner-up finishes this season were T2s in back-to-back events at the Astara Golf Championship presented by Mastercard and LECOM Suncoast Classic Augusto Núñez (T3 / -20) recorded the second-highest finish of his career, only behind a solo-second at the 2017 Coarles Puntacana Championship
Ryan McCormick (T3 / -20) recorded his second top-3 of the season and logged the second-highest finish of his career; he finished T2 at the 2022 Astara Golf Championship presented by Mastercard, and prior to this season his career-high finish was a trio of T6s
In his second professional start, PGA TOUR University presented by Velocity Global Class of 2022 graduate Jacob Bridgeman (T5 / -19) rose to a top-10 finish with a 6-under 65 Sunday
Bridgeman led the field with 29 total birdies (28 birdies, one eagle), three more than any other player this week
Brent Grant (T22 / -13) carded the low round of the day with an 8-under 63 and tied his career-low round, a 9-under 63 from the second round of the 2021 Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper
The BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX Open was the 16th of 23 regular season events on the 26-event 2022 Korn Ferry Tour schedule; the first set of 25 PGA TOUR cards will be awarded at the regular season finale, the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna (August 11-14), and an additional 25 TOUR cards will be awarded following the three-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals, which conclude with the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance (September 1-4)
This week’s purse was $750,000, with $135,000 going to the champion, Robby Shelton; he also earned 500 Korn Ferry Tour points All 2022 Korn Ferry Tour regular season events feature a minimum purse of $750,000, a 25 percent increase from last season, and will boast minimum purses of $1 million in 2023 for a total increase of 66.7 percent from 2021 to 2022
Final-Round Course Statistics
Scoring Average (Total – Par 71): 69.189 [-1.811]
Scoring Average (Front Nine- Par 35): 33.716 [-1.284]
Scoring Average (Back Nine- Par 36): 35.473 [-0.527]
Toughest Hole: No. 11, Par 3, 507 yards – 3.189 [+0.189]
Easiest Hole: No. 2, Par 5, 575 yards – 4.338 [-0.662]