Brandon Wu grew up in Scarsdale, New York, less than 10 minutes from Winged Foot. He’ll now get to spend a week at home, eating his dad’s homemade Chinese food, while he competes in his second straight U.S. Open.
The 23-year-old Wu, who qualified for and tied for 35th at last year’s national championship at Pebble Beach, won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship on Sunday at Victoria National in Newburgh, Indiana. It was his first victory on the developmental tour and thanks to some one-time eligibility changes by the USGA, it earned him a berth in next month’s U.S. Open.
“It hasn’t even set in yet,” Wu said. “I’ve run through the scenarios so many times the past few days, you know, what it would feel like going home, getting to play and getting to tell my friends that I can play this year. It’s hard to believe. I’m just really happy.”
Wu was among five players who received their tickets to Winged Foot on Sunday. He was joined by Stephan Jaeger, Curtis Luck, Greyson Sigg and Dan McCarthy, the four other top point-getters from the KFT’s three-event “Finals” series, which was negated in its original purpose after the COVID-19 pandemic nixed graduation and extended the tour’s season through next summer. Instead, it served as one of several makeshift qualifiers for the year's second of three majors. (Will Zalatoris, Davis Riley, Lee Hodges, Taylor Pendrith and Paul Barjon previously qualified for the U.S. Open for finishing the "regular season" among the top five in points.)
Sunday's spoils were the reward for an unconventional journey by Wu, the former Stanford standout who began the season with only conditional status after falling short of his full card at KFT Q-School last winter.
Wu began the year playing in Monday qualifiers. When the pandemic halted play, he won a professional event at Maridoe Golf Club near Dallas. The victory gave him some momentum entering his first KFT start in Colorado, only he never got to tee it up after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
He finally cracked a field for the Price Cutter Charity Championship in late July, and he tied for ninth after holding the 54-hole lead. This week’s start was his sixth event in a row, a stretch that also included a runner-up finish at the Albertsons Boise Open.
Wu was five back of Sigg’s lead entering the final round at Victoria National, which played unusually docile this week. He figured he’d need to shoot 6 under to get into the U.S. Open. He did one better, firing a 7-under 65 to finish at 18 under and clip Sigg by a shot.
Wu only had to hit two chip shots all day, as he made seven birdies and no bogeys. The final chip came on the par-4 finishing hole, where he got up and down by holing a 3-footer for par to secure his first world-ranked win as a pro. The victory also pushed Wu to fifth in KFT points, and though he'll have to wait until next July to potentially earn his PGA Tour card, he will be among 10 players to receive some opposite-field starts on Tour next season.
"Just to be able to compete in these three playoff events ... that's a testament to you just gotta stay patient and be prepared," Wu said. "I've come a long way for sure."
McCarthy tied for third with Vince India and Seth Reeves at 16 under.