NEWBURGH, INDIANA – SEPTEMBER 01: Carl Yuan of China plays his shot from the 8th tee during the first round of the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing and Financing at Victoria National Golf Club on September 01, 2022 in Newburgh, Indiana. (Photo by James Gilbert/PGA TOUR)

China’s Carl Yuan fired seven birdies en route to a first round of 6-under 66 and tied second place in the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance on Thursday to boost his hopes of finishing No. 1 in the season-long points race.

The 25-year-old Yuan, who has already secured his PGA TOUR card for the new season, has made it his mission to earn the top ranking which offers exemptions into next year’s THE PLAYERS Championship and U.S. Open.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat opened with a 67 to share eighth place and keep his hopes of regaining his PGA TOUR card alive while three other Asian golfers who have already secured their PGA TOUR cards through the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season – Korea’s Byeong Hun An, Kevin Yu of Chinese Taipei and China’s Marty Zecheng Dou – enjoyed solid starts with rounds of 67, 67 and 68 respectively.

Canadian Michael Gligic posted an 8-under 64 to hold a two-shot first round lead at Victoria National Golf Club.

Yuan was pleased with his first day’s effort which included three birdies over his closing four holes which kept him close to the lead. The closing stretch at Victoria National is rated amongst the toughest on the Korn Ferry Tour.

“I was very pleased with how I played those holes. 16 is a tough par 3 and I made a long putt there and on 18,  I was glad it was a bit downwind off the tee which made it a bit easier. Only had a wedge into the green. If it’s straight into the wind, it’ll be a great finishing hole,” said Yuan.

With one victory and three runner-up finishes, Yuan had held the top spot on the Korn Ferry Tour rankings from mid-March before being overtaken last week by Paul Haley II, who shot an opening 69 on Thursday.

Yuan knows a strong finish to his Korn Ferry Tour campaign will also be the springboard when he begins life on the PGA TOUR next week with the season-opening Fortinet Championship in Napa, California. “For sure, we’re right around the corner next week. If I play some solid golf, it’ll definitely bring some momentum and confidence into the PGA TOUR season,” he said.

Kiradech, a multiple winner on the DP World Tour, is playing in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, a three-events series which offers the top-25 players with PGA TOUR cards, for the second straight year after failing to retain his PGA TOUR card.

With seven birdies and two bogeys on the card, his current position after the first round is projected to move him up to 26th position, one rung outside the qualifying mark.

First-Round Notes

  • Carl Yuan (T2 / -6) projects to pass Paul Haley II (T26 / -3) for the No. 1 spot in the season-long points race, which awards fully exempt status for the 2022-23 PGA TOUR season, an exemption into the 2023 PLAYERS Championship and, for the first time in history, an exemption into the 2023 U.S. Open
  • Making his 42nd career Korn Ferry Tour start, Michael Gligic (1st /-8) holds his first 18-hole lead in a Korn Ferry Tour event; his previous career-high standing through 18 holes in a Korn Ferry Tour event was T2 at the 2017 AdventHealth Championship
  • This season on the PGA TOUR, Gligic’s highest 18-hole position was solo-second at the John Deere Classic, where he eventually finished T10 for his only top-10 of the season
  • Gligic led the field with nine birdies in the first round
  • Tano Goya (T2 / -6) holds his highest 18-hole position on the Korn Ferry Tour; previously best 18-hole position being T7 at the season opener The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, eventually finishing T19
  • Three of the six players sitting T2 are 2022 champions: Brent Grant (T2 / -6), Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation; Carl Yuan (T2 / -6), Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS; and Will Gordon (T2 / -6), Albertson Boise Open presented by Chevron
  • Two players carded bogey-free rounds: Tom Whitney (T8 / -5) and Vaughn Taylor (T8 / -5)
  • The Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance is the third and final tournament of the three-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals, in addition to being the 26th and final event of the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour season
  • The Finals 25 will be determined following the conclusion of Sunday’s final round, with PGA TOUR cards being awarded to each member of The Finals 25
  • This week’s purse is $1,000,000, with $180,000 going to the champion; the champion will also receive 1,000 Korn Ferry Tour points

First-Round Course Statistics

  • Scoring Average (Total – Par 72): 71.543 [-0.457]
  • Scoring Average (Front Nine): 35.565 [-0.435]
  • Scoring Average (Back Nine): 35.978 [-0.022]
  • Toughest Hole: No. 14, Par 4, 471 yards – 4.312 [+0.312]
  • Easiest Hole: No. 9, Par 5, 558 yards – 4.536 [-0.464]
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