It’s been a long journey, but Peter Uihlein finally has his PGA Tour card.
Uihlein fired a 6-under 65 on Sunday at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship to storm from four behind to a one-shot victory.
The Web.com Tour Finals, a four-event series where the top-25 finishers in the money standings who haven’t already got PGA Tour spots earn Tour cards at the end, kicked off at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship – played at Ohio State University Golf Club’s Scarlet Course.
While three events remain, Uihlein is guaranteed a PGA Tour card for the 2017-18 season as his win earns him more than enough cash ($180,000, to be exact) to for sure finish top 25 by the end of the four-tournament series.
This is Uihlein’s first victory in four years, as he captured his maiden and lone European Tour title at the 2013 Madiera Islands Open.
But more importantly, he has that PGA Tour card, and he got it his way.
Uihlein, 28, was a superstar at Oklahoma State, winning the 2010 U.S. Amateur and rising to No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. But, like buddy Brooks Koepka, he decided to leave the U.S. to embark on his pro career.
The Cowboys player went to European to make his hay in golf, with a plan to return to the U.S. for PGA Tour play down the road. His decision seemed to pay off early, as Uihlein played well enough on the Challenge Tour in 2012 to earn his European Tour card. In his 2013 rookie season on the circuit came that Madiera Islands Open win, along with a pair of runner-up finishes.
But injuries derailed him in the ensuing years, and he hadn’t recaptured his 2013 form in the following three years.
He’s seen a change in 2017, though, finishing top 10 in four European Tour events, including a runner-up at the HNA French Open. He currently ranks 12th in the Race to Dubai (he finished 14th in that race in 2013).
Uihlein also placed T-5 at the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open and T-23 at the Shell Houston Open. Those results earned him enough non-member points to qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals (grabbing enough points to have finished top 200 in FedEx Cup points if he were a member was what he needed to qualify; Uihlein would’ve placed 180th with 135 points).
But Koepka earned his PGA Tour card years ago and already has a major to his name after first starting out in Europe as well. Now Uihlein no longer has to wonder when he’ll join him on the PGA Tour: The time is coming in 2017-18.
Does the 28-year-old regret not trying his hand in the United States right away? Not at all: He relishes the path he took.
“I’ve logged a lot of air miles, I’ve been to a lot of places, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Uihlein said on Golf Channel after the round. “It’s obviously an unconventional route but something that I would do over in a second.”
Uihlein secured his place on the Tour in style Sunday, birdieing three of his first six holes in the final round. After a bogey at No. 8, Uihlein proceeded to birdie Nos. 11-12 and 14-15 to take control for good.
His finish at 14 under proved just enough, as 54-hole leader Ryan Armour could only muster a 1-under 70 to finish one back at 13 under.
Armour does secure his PGA Tour card for 2017-18, though, with his runner-up finish. Tom Lovelady also got his Tour card with a T-3 finish at 11 under. His T-3 compatriot Andrew Landry already secured his with a top-25 finish on the regular season money list.
Uihlein has his card now, but there’s still the fight for higher priority ranking to come. And if Uihlein can finish No. 1 in money at the Web.com Tour Finals, he’ll earn a fully exempt position on the 2017-18 PGA Tour rather than a simple Tour card that would subject him to the Web.com Tour graduate reshuffle list.
This marks the second straight year a touted young star wins the opening Web.com Tour Finals event, as Bryson DeChambeau did so in 2016. He went on to capture the John Deere Classic in his 2016-17 PGA Tour rookie season.
Uihlein appears to be setting his expectations that high at least for his own rookie campaign.
“It’s obviously a dream come true to play on the PGA Tour, but you really don’t want to stop there,” Uihlein said. “You want to keep getting better, I want to try to contend and win. This is a first step in the right direction.”