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Lewis’ late decision paying off at Korn Ferry Tour finale; Baker still leads

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It was less than two weeks ago that Tom Lewis decided to skip the Omega European Masters in Switzerland and instead make his first career Korn Ferry Tour start this week at Victoria National.

“I’m not very good at altitude, so I decided I’d come here and sweat a lot,” said the 28-year-old Lewis, who has played almost exclusively in Europe since turning pro in 2011.

The last-minute decision is paying off so far.

Lewis shot 6-under 66 Saturday to climb into a tie for second at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship and move into position to secure a PGA Tour card for the first time.

Lewis, who at 10 under is two shots back of leader Chris Baker, currently is a member on the European Tour and sits 47th in the Race to Dubai standings with nine events left before the European Tour’s three-event playoffs begin. He also is No. 85 in the Official World Golf Ranking and is trying to get into the top 50 by the end of the year in order to secure a Masters invite.

“Europe obviously is my main focus,” Lewis said, “and I wanted to not miss too many events and lose too much ground in Europe in the Race to Dubai because obviously top 30 is going to be big for me, and obviously top 50 in the world is big, as well. … Hopefully, it’s going to be a good decision made.”

Full-field scores from the Korn Ferry Tour Championship

Finals points list | 'The 25' regular-season and playoff points

Lewis is best known for a strong 2011 in which the Englishman was low amateur at The Open, helped the GB&I win the Walker Cup and picked up his first pro win at the Portugal Masters. The next handful of years saw Lewis struggle and drop outside the top 600 in the world, but he won twice last year, including his second European Tour event, and has continued his resurgence this year, nearly winning in Saudi Arabia and tying for 11th at The Open.

Recently, though, Lewis has struggled, playing just twice since Royal Portrush and not finishing better than T-59, hence why he decided to give a run at a PGA Tour card. He’s currently projected to rise to seventh in The Finals points list. (The top 25 after Monday’s finish earn cards.)

“My aspirations are to be as good a player as a I can, and being over on the PGA Tour would be a dream of mine,” Lewis said. “Maybe I thought I’d already be out here at some point in my career.”

Joining Lewis at T-2 is Lanto Griffin, who shot 65. Griffin already secured his card via the regular-season points list. Joseph Bramlett and Kramer Hickok are tied for fourth at 9 under. Neither has their card locked up yet, though both entered the week top 25 in Finals points.

Scottie Scheffler’s second-round 65 moved the Texas product to solo sixth. Scheffler is trying to earn fully-exempt status as the top player in combined regular-season and Finals points. He leads the list at the moment.

Among the notables to miss the cut and clinch a return to the Korn Ferry Tour next season: Cody Gribble, Johnson Wagner, Shawn Stefani, John Oda and Smylie Kaufman, who withdrew Friday.