What to watch in golf this week: Vu’s victory and Harman’s homecoming

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SAINT SIMONS ISLAND, Georgia — After another tumultuous season in men’s professional golf, the PGA Tour’s last wrap-around schedule for the foreseeable future wraps up this week at the RSM Classic.

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It’s also the LPGA Tour’s season finale, where the CME Group Tour Championship winner will collect a $2 million check, the largest in women’s professional golf.

There’s more than that at stake at the LPGA’s Tour Championship. Only 27 points separate Lilia Vu and Celine Boutier in the season-long points race. Vu moved past Boutier with her fourth victory of the season at The Annika last week.

We’ll have to wait another seven weeks for the next PGA Tour event, The Sentry, which kicks off the 2024 season at Kapalua Resort in Hawaii. Next year’s schedule will run from January through the first day of September.

Here’s what to watch in professional golf this week:

What’s next on the PGA Tour

RSM Classic
When: Thursday-Sunday
Where: Sea Island Resort, Saint Simons Island, Georgia
Defending champion: Adam Svensson
Purse: $8.4 million

The last chance

There’s plenty at stake in the last tournament of the season for those players trying to get into the fields in elevated events in 2024 — and those just trying to hang onto their PGA Tour cards.

“The buzz now is kind of that guys are playing for their card,” said RSM Classic host Davis Love III. “I was just on the range with [swing coach] Justin Parsons, and he’s going to help some of his guys get to certain levels, whatever that is, and playing for the Next 10, playing to keep your job. It’s an exciting week, great storylines and I’m excited to get out there and mix it up with them.”

The players who are ranked Nos. 51-60 in the FedEx Cup Fall points standings after the RSM Classic will qualify for the fields at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Genesis Invitational in 2024.

Ahead of the RSM Classic, Beau Hassler is No. 51 in FedEx Cup Fall points standings. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Here are the players on the right side of the bubble: Beau Hossler (1,243 points), Matt Kuchar (1,041), Mackenzie Hughes (1,014), Ben Griffin (983), Taylor Montgomery (980), Nick Hardy (980), Alex Smalley (954), Luke List (935), J.J. Spaun (935) and Sam Ryder (925). All but Hossler is in this week’s field.

Those players just outside the bubble to qualify for the first two elevated events include Mark Hubbard (914), Stephan Jaeger (912), Thomas Detry (891), Alex Noren (890) and Erik van Rooyen (876), who was a winner at the World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico two weeks ago. van Rooyen is not in the RSM Classic field.

The top 125 players in the fall points standings after the RSM Classic will earn their PGA Tour cards and be eligible for full-field events next season.

The players on the right side of the Top 125 bubble include: Matti Schmid (444 points), Doug Ghim (443), Nico Echavarria (442), Troy Merritt (441), Andrew Novak (440) and Carl Yuan (437).

The players who need to play well this week — or have others above them in the standings not play well — include Henrik Norlander (431), Maverick McNealy (414), Ryan Moore (385), C.T. Pan (383) and Patton Kizzire (381). McNealy battled injuries for much of this season and is eligible for a medical exemption.

Harman’s home event

Open Championship winner Brian Harman especially enjoys the RSM Classic because he lives in the area and gets to sleep in his own bed. He’s among several PGA Tour players who call Georgia’s coastal islands home; Zach Johnson, Harris English and Keith Mitchell do as well.

Harman raised some eyebrows Tuesday when he told reporters that he reached out to his agent, Jeremy Elliott, in June about giving up competitive golf to become an on-air analyst.

“Yeah, we’re not going to do that,” Elliott quickly told him.

Brian Harman confirmed his commitment to competitive golf this week. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

“We all get there, we all have those thoughts,” Harman said. “Everyone’s in a place [where] we operate on these razor-thin margins, and a couple shots a day and you’re out of the game. I mean, it can happen so quickly. And I like operating on that edge. I like it mattering. I like when it means the most. I like where that puts my head as far as how hard I work.”

Harman won his first major championship at The Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England, on July 23. He qualified for the U.S. Ryder Cup team and is ranked ninth in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I ponder it all the time,” Harman said. “I think anybody thinks about it. I mean, I don’t think it’s bad to have those thoughts. What’s bad is when you let them become your reality.”

A long time coming

It’s been quite a whirlwind season for PGA Tour rookie Eric Cole. The 35-year-old won 56 times on mini tours before tying for third at the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour Championship to earn his PGA Tour card. Along with his playoff loss to Kirk at the Honda Classic, he tied for second at the Zozo Championship in Japan last month.

Cole is the favorite to win the Arnold Palmer Award as the tour’s rookie of the year. He would be the second member of his family to receive the honor; his mother, Laura Baugh was the 1973 LPGA Rookie of the Year. His father, Bobby Cole, is a former PGA Tour player and British Amateur champion.

Eric Cole, the son of two former pro golfers, has made name for himself this season — and could be the second member of his family to receive rookie of the year honors. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

“I think it would be very cool,” Cole said. “I don’t know if that’s ever happened before, so it’s something that would be really special and something that it would be a cool thing to share with her.”

Cole has more to look forward to. He’s getting married to his longtime girlfriend, Stephanie Williams, next month. He proposed to her before the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.

Cole is also ranked No. 48 in the world. The top 50 in the OWGR at the end of the year will qualify for the Masters in April.

“My mom actually lived in Augusta for a short time,” Cole said. “She was teaching at a course up there. I’ve driven past the front entrance, but that’s it. My dad played in the Masters a few times, so I’ve heard a lot of stories from him, but I’ve never been on property.”

What’s next on the LPGA Tour

CME Group
Tour Championship
When: Thursday-Sunday
Where: Tiburon Golf Club, Naples, Florida
Defending champion: Lydia Ko
Purse: $7 million

No defending champ

Stunningly, Ko isn’t in the field this week to try to defend her CME Group Tour Championship title. Last year, she won the season-ending tournament by two shots over Ireland’s Leona Maguire to collect the $2 million winner’s purse, the richest in women’s professional golf history.

Ko, from New Zealand, won three times on the LPGA Tour last season, was named Player of the Year and collected $4,364,404, just $591 shy of the all-time record in a single season. This season, the former world No. 1 golfer had just two top-10 finishes in 20 starts and earned $247,335. She finished 100th in the season-long points race; the top 60 advanced to the Tour Championship.

Lexi Thompson also missed out on making the field for the first time in her career after finishing 79th in points.

Not at full strength

The Golf Channel reported Tuesday that Jin Young Ko, who is ranked No. 4 in the world, was wearing a brace on her left knee after suffering an injury in the opening round of The Annika last week. She battled wrist injuries at the Tour Championship the past two years.

A two-time winner of the event in 2020 and 2021, Ko’s team told the Golf Channel that she planned to get an MRI on her left knee this week. She is suffering pain when she walks and swings.

Ko won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March and the Cognizant Founders Cup in May. She finished fifth in the season-long points race and collected more than $1.5 million.

A strategic Angel

Angel Yin was rewarded for her decision-making on the LPGA’s most challenging holes throughout the season. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Angel Yin, who picked up her first LPGA Tour victory at the Buick LPGA Shanghai on Oct. 15, collected another $1 million when she won the Aon Risk Reward Challenge that “highlights golf’s best strategic decision makers.”

When Yin was asked Tuesday what she planned to do with the money, she said, “Save it. Pay my caddie. Pay tax. Don’t get in a white-collar jail. Don’t get arrested. Yeah, and then see what I can do with it. Maybe invest it. Do what I want to do.”

Yin, 25, said she has already invested in a few companies, including one that makes putters. She also invested in a clothing company, Fairmont, that was started by two Malaysian women she met at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.

“They are very, very small,” Yin said. “They’re a start-up. I wanted to invest a little bit of capital. I don’t have that much to just throw around, but invest a little capital and then invest my time, because I want to see them grow. I think girls work really hard and a really smart person told me, you don’t invest in things, you invest in people.

“When you invest in a company you’re looking for what kind of people are driving it. That’s what is going to create more opportunities. … I really like the girls and they’re hard working, so that’s where I wanted to put my time and energy in.”

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