While the PGA Tour kicks off its playoff run to an eight-figure top prize in New Jersey, drama of a far different magnitude will play out on the other side of the country.
The Korn Ferry Tour will conclude its regular season this week at the Winco Foods Portland Open, with 25 players earning guaranteed promotions to the PGA Tour for the 2019-20 season. China's Xinjun Zhang currently tops the season-long points race, with veterans Henrik Norlander (eighth), Mark Hubbard (ninth) and Zac Blair (10th) all set to return to the main circuit.
Former college standouts Robby Shelton and Scottie Scheffler are second and third, respectively, in the standings, and they'll become PGA Tour rookies next season. So, too, will Maverick McNealy, who moved from 28th to 20th at the regular season's penultimate event.
But there's plenty of suspense near the top-25 cutoff, with 23-year-old Aussie Brett Coletta currently occupying the all-important spot. He's 24 points ahead of Marty Dou, meaning Dou could pass him with a top-35 finish this week should Coletta miss the cut in Portland. Other notables with a chance to earn a card with a big finish include two-time heart transplant recipient and former U.S. Open runner-up Erik Compton, who sits in 37th place with one event to go.
There's another significant bubble in play this week, as only the top 75 in points after this week will be eligible to compete in the Korn Ferry Finals, where another 25 PGA Tour cards will be up for grabs. Those that finish inside the top 75 are guaranteed to at least retain full Korn Ferry status next year, while those outside the top-75 cutoff face a perilous path that will likely include a trip back to Q-School this fall to regain Korn Ferry privileges for 2020. The current margin between Greg Yates (75th) and Grant Hirschman (76th) is less than 0.25 points.
Among those on the outside looking in is former NCAA individual champ Braden Thornberry. Thornberry finished T-4 as an amateur at the 2017 FedEx St. Jude Classic in his PGA Tour debut, but his year on the developmental circuit hasn't gone as planned. He heads to Portland at 94th in points, needing at least a top-12 finish to have any chance to qualify for Finals.
Others needing a big result at the buzzer to move inside the top-75 bubble include veterans Steve Marino (83rd), Nicholas Thompson (100th), Edward Loar (102nd), Casey Wittenberg (110th), Jordan Niebrugge (113th) and Daniel Summerhays (122nd).
The three-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals, which include Nos. 1-75 from the Korn Ferry points list and Nos. 126-200 from the FedExCup points list, begin next week in Columbus, Ohio.