After Will Gordon opened with a 66 at the Travelers Championship last week, he texted his Vanderbilt coach Scott Limbaugh this simple message: “I’m trending.”
Indeed, he was. The 23-year-old Gordon, the 2019 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, made the most of a special invite and followed with a 62 on Friday en route to a career-best T-3 finish that earned him special temporary membership for the remainder of the PGA Tour season.
That’s a big deal for Gordon, who had already earned enough FedEx Cup points to qualify for the Korn Ferry Finals only to see those events postponed until next year and thus no potential promotion to the Pga Tour until the fall of 2021.
Gordon was overshadowed by his graduating class’s Big 3 of Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff. While they were making noise on Tour last summer, Gordon made nine starts on Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, making eight cuts and earning two top-10 finishes to end the season No. 21 on the Order of Merit. Then he flunked out of the second stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School. A return to Canada appeared to be his best option until the season north of the border was canceled due to the global pandemic.
Gordon has made seven starts on the PGA Tour this season, and can receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the season – he said he’s got one secured for the Wyndham Championship and is waiting on others. To earn full status for the 2020-21 season, Gordon must earn as many or more points through the non-member FedExCup points list as No. 125 on the 2019-20 season FedExCup standings. Gordon currently has 296 points, which would fall between Nos. 78 and 79 in the current FedExCup standings. (No. 125 currently has 191 points.)
Gordon had three invites into tournaments canceled by COVID-19. But Limbaugh said that when he visited Nashville during quarantine he never had a woe-is-me attitude. Gordon spent most of his time in Charlotte and played in regular money games with the likes of Webb Simpson and Harold Varner III. Gordon is a bomber, but he learned a great deal playing alongside Simpson, who is known for shaping the ball and suggested they play some holes from the member’s tees, taking driver out of Gordon’s hands. As part of his effort to become a more complete player, Gordon began working with Sea Island Resort instructor Justin Parsons, and the mentorship of Simpson and Patton Kizzire bolstered his confidence.
“It just furthers my belief in myself that I can hang with those guys,” Gordon said.
Gordon has displayed his power game, routinely ranking in the top-5 in driving distance, and posted four top-25 finishes in his last five starts, but it was his putter that did the most damage at TPC River Highlands.
“The overlooked aspect of his game is his putter,” Limbaugh said. “The dude hoops with his putter.”
All Gordon wanted was a chance to compete and he capitalized on his opportunity at the Travelers. On his 10-hour drive from Hartford to Detroit for this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, Gordon FaceTimed his coach (while his caddie drove) and opened by saying, “Thank you.”
“You don’t get a ton of those moments as a coach,” Limbaugh said, “but you could just tell that it was starting to hit him that he’s got a really good chance to be a PGA Tour member now.”