Justin Suh wins KFT Championship, now fully exempt for rookie PGA Tour season

For three years, Justin Suh has had to hear about it. How in the summer of 2019, he joined Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff for a photo op following their pre-tournament presser at the Travelers Championship, yet he was still the only one of the four in the shot who hadn't made it to the PGA Tour.

While Morikawa, Hovland and Wolff have all gone on to win on Tour - Morikawa is a two-time major winner, and Hovland, along with Morikawa, a Ryder Cupper - Suh, a four-time All-American at USC, battled injury and had to cut his teeth on the Tour's minor-league levels.

Now, though, Suh has rewritten the caption to that famous photo.

From left: Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, Justin Suh and Matthew Wolff, sponsor exemptions for the 2019 Travelers Championship - and now all having made it to the PGA Tour.

PGA Tour
PGA Tour  

Suh clinched his Tour card a few weeks ago as one of the Korn Ferry Tour's top 25 finishers in regular-season points. But on Sunday at Victoria National, he improved his status by winning the Korn Ferry Tour Championship and becoming one of two players who are fully exempt for the 2022-23 PGA Tour season (fellow 2019 college grad Will Gordon of Vanderbilt is the other as the top Finals-only point-getter).

"A lot of validation ... it's just very gratifying," Suh said. "In college, I learned how to win, got to No. 1 in the amateur rankings, and to win on the Korn Ferry Tour and progress that way, it feels great."

For finishing as the top earner in combined regular-season and Finals points, Suh also receives a berth next year's Players Championship and U.S. Open.

It's a huge accomplishment for Suh, who struggled with his initial batch of PGA Tour sponsor exemptions while suffering from an injured left wrist, missing six of seven cuts that year before heading off to play PGA Tour Latinamerica. The pandemic killed more momentum, and Suh spent the next two years bouncing between developmental tours and occasional spot starts on the PGA Tour and KFT.

Last November at the final stage of Q-School, Suh was staring conditional KFT status in the face until he birdied two of his final four holes and drained a 5-footer for par on his last to secure eight guaranteed starts on KFT for 2022.

Suh then made up for lost time in a big way, racking up nine top-10s on the KFT this season and finishing seventh in points heading into the Finals. This week, knowing he needed to win to secure fully exempt status on Tour next season, he staked himself the 54-hole lead and then shot 4-under 68 Sunday to finish at 21 under, two shots clear of Oklahoma State product Austin Eckroat.

"We've been close so many times throughout the season," Suh said. "It felt great to prove to myself that I can win."

Full-field scores from Korn Ferry Tour Championship

Eckroat, a 2021 PGA Tour University graduate, was among the 25 players who earned Tour cards via the Finals. He rose from T-64 to third on the Finals points list with his solo-second performance.

Other notables to join Eckroat in securing their cards at Finals:

• Former Tour regulars David Lingmerth, Joseph Bramlett, Austin Cook, Henrik Norlander, Ryan Armour, Brice Garnett and Brian Stuard

• Former Illinois standout Nick Hardy, who regained his card after a rookie year marred by a slow start and injury

• DP World Tour members Dean Burmester, Thomas Detry and Matti Schmid

• Kyle Westmoreland, who was T-52 at Victoria National to edge Joey Garber for the 25th and final card. Garber had birdied each of his final four holes Sunday before ending up T-12 and 26th in Finals points. Westmoreland, who served five years in the Air Force before starting his PGA Tour chase in mid-2019, is the first Air Force Academy graduate to earn his PGA Tour card.


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