Jonathan Byrd stays steady to earn his PGA Tour card

By Garry Smits
Published on
Jonathan Byrd stays steady to earn his PGA Tour card

Jonathan Byrd said he will never take winning for granted, regardless of the circumstances.

"Every win is special ... but this one is very gratifying," the 39-year-old St. Simons Island, Ga., resident said on Monday after he fired a bogey-free 67 in swirling wind at the Atlantic Beach Country Club to win the Tour Championship by four shots over Sam Saunders (69) and Shawn Stefani (65) with a tournament-record score of 24-under-par 260.

"I think a lot more hard work went into getting this win. It's been awhile."

Byrd is a five-time PGA Tour winner who last won at the 2011 Tournament of Champions. He becomes the first Tour Championship winner in the 25-year history of the event to have already won on the PGA Tour but unlike his previous Tour wins, there was little stress involved.

Byrd began the day with a two-shot lead over Saunders and it never dipped below that as he closed the tournament with 29 bogey-free holes in a row to earn $180,000 and jump 63 spots on the Finals money list.

He had won his five Tour titles by one shot three times and in playoffs twice.

"Jonathan won this golf tournament ... he deserves it," said Saunders, who shot 59 in the first round on Thursday. "He played well. He was on."

Byrd had the toughest path of the 25 players who earned their PGA Tour cards for the 2017-2018 season as the Tour Championship closed out the fourth edition of the Finals. He began the week tied for 65th among players who had to qualify solely on Finals earnings (the top-25 on the regular-season money list already had their cards), and unless he finished seventh or higher, he was headed back to the Tour for a third season.

He lost his PGA Tour status in 2015 after finishing 170th on the FedEx Cup standings, and failed to get back to the Tour through the Finals. Byrd finished 48th on the money list last year and again fell far short in the Finals.

He also never got the chance to make up ground at Atlantic Beach, a course he said suits his game that features the ability to hit iron shots low and knock wedges close when he's on form. Hurricane Matthew forced cancellation of the tournament and Byrd was back on the Tour.

"The last three years have felt really long," he said. "A little bit of trial and tribulation. Golf hasn't come real easy and I've struggled with my confidence."

But after missing the cut in the previous two Finals events, he did little wrong at Atlantic Beach. He started by hitting all 18 greens during an opening-round 64, matched that score in the wind and rain on Saturday to take the tournament lead and during the last two rounds, missed only two fairways and eight greens.

"You never know when you're going to have good weeks ... you can't ever give up," he said. "You've got to keep learning and you keep learning if you're paying attention."

Stefani matched the day's low round to also come from far behind to get his card. He began the week tied for 48th in Finals earnings and shot up to seventh. Saunders, who was 24th in Finals earnings to start the week moved to sixth to regain his Tour card.

Another success story was Steve Wheatcroft of Jacksonville, who began the day too close for comfort to the No 25 bubble. But the ABCC member had a 67 with no bogeys and tied for 16th, finishing 21st in Finals earnings.

"My only game plan was just to completely focus on every golf shot out there, not let my mind wander and don't get too far ahead of myself and think too much," Wheatcroft said. "I just literally wanted to stand over every shot, focus on that shot and let whatever happened happened." ___

This article is written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to