Upper Arlington News

Golf

Columbus now pivotal stop on path to PGA Tour

By DON DELCO
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Ben Kohles will return to Ohio State's Scarlet Course on Monday, Sept. 9.

He wasn't expecting to be back so soon.

Since January, Kohles was competing as a rookie on the PGA Tour. He played in 25 events this season, making the cut 12 times, finishing in the top 25 twice and top 10 once. He earned $419,416 and 286 FedExCup points. The latter was not enough for him to continue on to the PGA Tour's FedExCup Playoffs.

And so Kohles will find himself back in central Ohio. It was here last summer that he began his lightning-fast rise from recent college graduate to PGA Tour rookie. The Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational was Kohles' first event as a professional. He won and then won again the following week at the Cox Classic in Omaha, Neb., to earn his status on the PGA Tour for 2013.

"It is great to get back (to central Ohio) where it all started and I kicked off my career," said Kohles, 23, who was an All-American at Virginia. "I gained a lot of experience playing with the best players in the world this past year. I have a lot of confidence to get my (PGA Tour) card back."

Kohles now holds the distinction of being the first defending champion to return to play in the seven-year-old Nationwide Children's Hospital event.

But the stakes have changed. Gone is the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, or Q-School. Enter the Web.com Tour Finals.

The re-named Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship now is the third of four finals events, which will culminate Sept. 26-29 at the Web.com Tour Championship with 50 players earning their PGA Tour card for the 2014 season.

On Aug. 18, the regular seasons on the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour ended. The top 75 money winners on the Web.com Tour and Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour's FedExCup points list were combined to make up the Web.com Tour Finals. Of those 75 players from the Web.com Tour, the top 25 on the money list earn their PGA Tour cards for next season. An additional 25 players who earn the most money during the finals will receive their PGA Tour cards.

"So much will be at stake," Web.com Tour president Bill Calfee said.

There are 11 past major winners among the PGA Tour players from Nos. 126-200, including Fred Couples (1992 Masters), Ben Curtis ('03 British Open), Retief Goosen ('01, '04 U.S. Open), Padraig Harrington ('07, '08 British; '08 PGA), Trevor Immelman ('08 Masters), Davis Love III ('97 PGA), Louis Oosthuizen ('10 British), Vijay Singh ('98, '04 PGA; '00 Masters), David Toms ('01 PGA), Mike Weir ('03 Masters) and Y.E. Yang ('09 PGA).

Calfee doesn't expect some of those players to compete in the central Ohio event, which will conclude Sept. 15, because they can enact other forms of PGA Tour exemptions. Regardless, he expects a strong field.

"Fifty percent of the players on the Web.com Tour have played on the PGA Tour," Calfee said. "It's easy to call this the minor leagues. I challenge you to rethink that. While other major sports have expanded, the PGA Tour hasn't. These guys have games to play at the highest level. They just don't have room on the PGA Tour."

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