Sahith Theegala and Kiradech Aphibarnrat secure PGA TOUR cards

Kiradech Aphibarnrat emulates the path Anirban Lahiri took in 2019 to finish inside the top 25 to secure his PGA TOUR status through 2021-22

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Kiradech Aphibarnrat - Getty Images

06 September 2021: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat regained his PGA TOUR card after surviving a pressure-packed final day at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship. Pepperdine graduate Sahith Theegala secured his card by finishing eighth – he was tied fourth and sixth in the last two events of the Korn Ferry Tour finals, collecting 400 points along the way. Aaron Rai has also secured his playing rights for the next season.

Sahith Theegala - Getty Images
Sahith Theegala (Photo by James Gilbert/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Earlier in the year, Sahith earned a ticket to the US Open through the final qualifying events. He also finished 14th in the Safeway Open, playing on a sponsor exemption, in September 2020. Sahith finished the week at 13-under in the KFT Championship. Last week, he was T4 in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship with a 14-under total for that week. 

The 32-year-old Kiradech, who lost his TOUR card after finishing outside the top-125 of the FedExCup ranking last month, signed for a final round of 1-under 71 at Victoria National Golf Club to end his campaign in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals The 25 ranking in 21st position. The top-25 earned PGA TOUR memberships for the new 2021-22 Season.

“It’s an amazing day, amazing week. I’ve played bad golf for almost two years because of my (knee) injury and COVID situation but I just feel the last three months I’ve played solid golf and I deserved to get something back. It was a difficult day, a lot of pressure and I just tried to enjoy every single minute which was very difficult,” said a relieved Kiradech after he ended the tournament in tied 27th position.

The big-hitting Kiradech made five birdies against four bogeys, including on the 15th and 18th holes which made for a nervous finish to determine if he had done enough to regain his PGA TOUR card. “I knew I had to be under par to stay in the top-25. This golf course is difficult especially over the last five holes. I had to stay patient and stay focused. The putter didn’t roll too well, maybe there was a lot of stress in there. I hit a bad second shot into water on the last hole but I did good with a two-putt there to make bogey,” he said.

The Thai is now looking forward to his fourth season on the PGA TOUR and believes the challenges and pressure he faced over the past few weeks in trying to regain his playing status in the U.S. will put him in good stead.

“This will help me definitely. I haven’t played under pressure for a while as I’ve not been on top of leaderboards. It’s nice to get some pressure and it will surely help when I get back to the PGA TOUR,” said Kiradech, who is a four-time winner on the European Tour.

“I know I have to keep the score and scramble around the greens better and make less bogeys. I made a lot of birdies but just too many bogeys too. I’m not too far off as in the last three months, I’ve been striking the ball well.”

He gave credit to his family for providing him with morale support over the past few months after his wife, mother and sister flew to the U.S. and travelled with him across the three Korn Ferry Tour Finals events. “It’s always good to have family around. Get to eat some Thai food and you just feel more comfortable having family with you. Otherwise, you can feel lonely on tour and I certainly enjoyed myself the last few months,” said Kiradech.

The culmination of the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Finals and the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour season wrapped up 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 tournament, joining 24 other graduates 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.

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.

Korea’s Byeong Hun An finished tied 20th after a final round of 69 to miss out on a chance for a quick return to the PGA TOUR while compatriot Seungyul Noh finished tied 71st following a closing 68.

Full list of the Finals 25:

1. Joseph Bramlett
2. Trey Mullinax
3. Aaron Rai*
4. Bronson Burgoon
5. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
6. J.J. Spaun
7. Hayden Buckley*
8. Sahith Theegala*
9. Matthias Schwab*
10. Vincent Whaley
11. John Huh
12. Alex Smalley*
13. Joshua Creel*
14. Lucas Herbert
15. Callum Tarren*
16. Scott Gutschewski
17. Dawie van der Walt
18. Kelly Kraft
19. Michael Gligic
20. Patrick Rodgers
21. Kiradech Aphibarnrat
T22. Austin Cook
T22. Kurt Kitayama*
24. Peter Uihlein
25. Justin Lower*

*Will be a rookie on the PGA TOUR