JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Chesson Hadley played bogey-free Thursday in the Sanderson Farms Championship and posted an 8-under 64 for a one-shot lead in his latest bid to secure his PGA Tour card.
This is the third straight year Hadley has been on the bubble to finish among the top 125 in the FedEx Cup. At least now he has time on his side, and faith in swing that he tweaked at the start of the year.
He had two stretches of three straight birdies on a day of ever-shifting weather at the Country Club of Jackson to move past Henrik Norlander, who had a 65 in the morning, and Brandon Wu, who made an 18-foot birdie putt on his final hole in the afternoon for a 65.
Ludvig Aberg, the 23-year-old Swede who made his Ryder Cup debut last week at Marco Simone, had a 67 that left him a little frustrated. He missed three birdie putts from 7 feet or closer on the back nine.
Aberg was the No. 1 in the PGA Tour University ranking, and thus is assured his PGA Tour card for 2024. Hadley isn’t so fortunate.
The FedEx Cup Fall is for players to secure their positions inside the top 125 at the end of the year. Hadley is at No. 122, with little room for error. He said he wasn’t in panic mode like he has been in previous year, mainly because he has more than a month left in the year.
“I’ve been feeling good. I feel dangerous. I’m feeling dangerous right now,” Hadley said. “I feel like some of the hard work and some of the shot-shape change that I’ve done has paid off, and my game feels good. Just need to keep it going. The gas is on the right.”
Hadley had to tie for eighth in the final regular-season event to secure his card last year. In 2022, he tied for 15th in the final event to get into the FedEx Cup playoffs.
So this kind of pressure is nothing new.
“It’s great,” Hadley said with a small measure of sarcasm. “I’m not as panicky as I have been the last couple of years. We’ve got plenty of golf left. I feel good. I’m thinking about it less than I have in years past.”
Norlander, who is No. 142 in the FedEx Cup, has a bit more urgency. He showed that on the back nine when he two-putted for eagle at No. 11, holed a 35-foot birdie putt on the next hole, followed with an 8-foot birdie and then holed a 100-foot chip for eagle on the par-5 14th.
The large group at 66 included Russell Knox, who needs to good fall to keep his card. Another shot behind was Kevin Kisner, who took the last two months of the regular season off because of a deep slump.
Aberg is among the star attractions at Sanderson Farms, mainly because of his rapid start since leaving Texas Tech after his senior season. He did well enough to get the attention of Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, and then won the European Masters in Switzerland that assured him getting one of the captain’s picks.
He teamed with Viktor Hovland for a Ryder Cup record 9-and-7 victory over Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns, and he spent Sunday night celebrating a European victory.
Three of his teammates made the short flight to Scotland for a European tour event. Aberg went to Mississippi to improve his FedEx Cup standing. While his card is assured, Aberg would love to get into The Players Championship and some of the $20 million events next year.
“Going into the day, I was a bit tired, not going to lie,” Aberg said. “But I knew what I was capable of doing, and it was pretty cool to see that showing up. Felt like I hit the ball solid today. Kind of a weird day on the greens, to be honest. I made a few longer ones but then I also missed a few shorter ones. It’s just one of them days.”
Also at 67 was Sam Ryder with a wild scorecard. Ryder had only one par on the back nine, 10 birdies for the day along with two bogeys and a double bogey.
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