The Korn Ferry Tour (or Web.com Tour as it was once known) is the secondary level of men’s professional golf in America. As such all the competitors on the tour are aiming to do enough to earn their place on the PGA Tour. It can sometimes be the same with tournaments. The Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship is a case in point having initially been held as a Web.com Tour event in 2016 and 2017 before it was promoted to the PGA Tour in 2018.
The Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship isn’t quite at the level of a regular PGA Tour event though. It’s what is known as an alternate event, held at the same time as the WGC Match Play which means fewer FedEx Cup points up for grabs and no invitation to the Masters but still, and crucially, a PGA Tour card for the next two seasons.
|2021||Corales Golf Club||Joel Dahmen|
|2020||Corales Golf Club||Hudson Swafford|
|2019||Corales Golf Club||Graeme McDowell|
|2018||Corales Golf Club||Brice Garnett|
2021: Joel Dahmen
Joel Dahmen won himself a lot of fans in his first five years on the PGA Tour. As happy as he is with that popularity, the only thing Dahmen has ever really been interested in winning is a PGA Tour event. That dream came true for the 33 year old courtesy of a one-shot victory at the 2021 Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship.
For the first time in the history of this young event, the winner did not reach -18 under par. A score of -12 was enough for Dahmen to win, with more challenging conditions to blame for the difference. The difficulty and relative paucity of birdies didn’t detract from the drama, though; if anything, it added to it. A lead never felt safe and players were as worried about keeping bogeys at bay as they were about crafting scoring opportunities.
In the end, the conditions, the scoring and the course were of little consequence to Dahmen. He was far too busy being delighted. “Making it five years on tour, getting a first win … it’s just pretty special,” Dahmen was quoted as saying after a tournament which made him all the more popular.
2020: Hudson Swafford
For the second time in the three editions of the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship, the winner got the job done with a score of -18. The wins of Brice Garnett and Graeme McDowell showed that there is more than one way of getting the job done and Hudson Swafford charted his own path to success with his win in 2020. The American held a share of the first-round lead and despite being the only player to break 70 on all four days, he had to come back from a one-shot deficit on Sunday.
This was a great time for Swafford to win this tournament. For the first time since becoming a PGA Tour event, the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship was not an alternate event. After being postponed earlier in the year, the Dominican event was promoted to a fully-fledged PGA Tour event carrying full FedEx Cup points. That meant there was a greater level of competition for Swafford to overcome and there was more closing drama than at any of the previous two editions.
Tyler McCumber and Mackenzie Hughes, who finished one and two shots behind Swafford respectively, both had their moments on Sunday. Indeed, McCumber was in a great position to get into at least a playoff before two big putts, first for birdie on 17 and then for par on 18, saw Swafford over the line.
2019: Graeme McDowell
Brice Garnett laid down an early marker in the 2018 Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship with an opening round of 63. It’s fair to say that Graeme McDowell did not do likewise one year on as he took 10 shots more in his first round of the 2019 edition. The experienced Northern Irishman knows that tournaments are not won after 18 holes though and he bounced back from that early disappointment incredibly strongly to win his fourth title on the PGA Tour.
When McDowell turned up to the golf course on Friday his first job was to make the cut. It quickly became clear that he was going to have no issues making playing on the weekend and he went round on Friday in nine shots fewer than on Thursday. Another eight under par round of 64 followed on Saturday which was enough for a one-shot lead at the 54 hole stage. From then on, it was all about experience, not making mistakes and holding off the chasing pack which McDowell did expertly well.
That McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion and multiple Ryder Cup player, summed up a win at an alternate event by saying, “this is big”, tells you a lot about how much he had struggled in recent years. This win was a hard-earned reward for his work while proving he still knows how to win.
2018: Brice Garnett
As the action at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship takes place away from the full glare of the world of golf the atmosphere is a bit more relaxed than we’re used to on the PGA Tour. Brice Garnett, however, was not afforded much room to relax during the 2018 Corales Puntacana Resort Championship. The American ended the first round with a three-shot lead and the pressure of trying to secure a wire to wire win.
While he had to remain on top of his game throughout the tournament, Garnett did not look like a player burdened by the weight of trying to win his first PGA Tour title. No doubt he was helped in that regard by the fact that he had won twice on the Web.com Tour the year before. When asked about how the nerves affected his sleep on Saturday night, he responded, “I slept good, actually.” Garnett continued, “We talked last night that the obstacles were opportunities, so it’s fun.” That attitude served him well but there was no doubt that things got tougher the closer he got to winning as his scores gradually got worse from round to round. There is plenty of wiggle room when you start with 63 though and rounds of 68, 69 and 70 were all positive at the par 72 course and saw him win by a comfortable four-shot margin.