Kevin Yu secures second career 54-hole lead at Simmons Bank Open for Snedeker Foundation

COLLEGE GROVE, Tenn. — In his 16th Korn Ferry Tour start, Kevin Yu surged to the top of the leaderboard Saturday at the Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation, taking the 54-hole lead with a 5-under 67 at The Grove. With a bird’s eye shot at the par-5 18th, Yu hit a par of 14 under on the week and edged out Zecheng Dou and Brent Grant by a stroke.

Yu, who has played in the last eight regular season events on the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour schedule through the PGA TOUR University presented by Velocity Global, has his second 54-hole lead. Yu previously led the 2021 Wichita Open to benefit KU Wichita Pediatrics, his second career start on the Korn Ferry Tour, by two strokes; it ended week T5.

The 23-year-old from Chinese Taipei started the day three shots shy of 36 holes and birdied six against a bogey in the third round.

Yu’s bogey at the first par-4 was entirely taken away by consecutive birdies at the fourth par-4 and the fifth par-3. Yu birdied two of the first three holes on the back nine (Nos. 10 and 12), poured another on the par-3 15th and hit a short 2-foot pitch on the par-5 18th for his 19th in head of the pack. birdie of the week.

“I feel good,” Yu said. “I played well too. I missed a few cuts before this one, but I feel like my game went pretty well. This week I’m continuing to do what I do on the course, and so far it’s worked out pretty well.

Yu first announced his presence in the world of golf with a victory at the 2015 Western Junior, the oldest national junior golf tournament in the United States. The event’s list of past champions includes accomplished PGA TOUR players Collin Morikawa (2013), Rickie Fowler (2005) and Jim Furyk (1987).

Arizona State University alumni traveled to the Korn Ferry Tour via the new University PGA TOUR presented by Velocity Global. The mission of PGA TOUR University is to elevate the path to the PGA TOUR for the best seniors in college golf. It also incentivizes players to stay in school longer and keep working towards a degree. The five best players of the first PGA TOUR College Class of 2021 earned Korn Ferry Tour status and an exemption to the final stage of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying tournament. Numbers 6-15 have earned PGA TOUR Canada status and a bye to Stage Two of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament.

Yu finished No. 4 in the inaugural class and earned starts for the final eight events of the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour season.

“Last year, I played eight events right out of college,” Yu said. “I think that was one of the best things that happened to me. A lot of guys come out of college and have nowhere to play. I had the Korn Ferry (Tour) to play for eight events and get to know all the courses and all the guys. Tournaments are a bit different from college, so it prepared me mentally as well.

Yu took full advantage of these opportunities, first competing at the Wichita Open benefiting KU Wichita Pediatrics and then again at The Ascendant presented by Blue, where he briefly held the top spot in the final round, but eventually fell into a threesome. playoff death and settled for a T2 finish. Yu added three more top 25s, giving him five of his eight starts.

“I was leading (to) Wichita…I wasn’t really comfortable,” Yu said. “I felt good, but I just felt a little weird. My game was good, but my mind…I just felt a little weird, and then I didn’t play my best golf there. Being comfortable there is really important. I just have to trust my game and do what I’ve been doing for the past few days.

Between the end of last season and last March, Yu Monday qualified for the 2021 RSM Classic and received sponsor exemptions for four other PGA TOUR events. His best finish was a T7 at the 2022 Puerto Rico Open, which gave him an automatic exemption to the Valspar Championship the following week.

However, a T63 finish in the final round of the Korn Ferry Tour 2021 qualifying tournament last November left Yu out of the field for the 2022 season-opening events in the Bahamas.

Yu’s first starts of the season were at the Panama Championship (missed cut) and the Astara Golf Championship presented by Mastercard (T30), to which he was admitted via his priority ranking. A T65 at the LECOM Suncoast Classic as an exemption sponsor and a T21 at the Lake Charles Championship (in the field on his number) provided enough points to climb the priority standings following the April 3 reshuffle.

Ahead of the Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation, Yu missed three straight cuts and posted just one top 25 finish in seven starts this year, but he is hopeful heading into the final round.

“You can’t give up on each other,” Yu said. “You absolutely have to trust each other. Last week I missed the cut, a bit disappointed, but coming out this week I feel like a new man and everything went pretty well.

“Tomorrow is another day and I will just carry on and never look back.”

Final round pairings will take place from 7:04 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. local time from the first tee.

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