What We Learned: Brian Gay rallies in Bermuda

Will Gray
·5 min read

There are lessons to be learned each week on the PGA Tour. Some can be applied to handicapping the following week's event, while some may come into play weeks down the road. Still others may be useful to tuck away for the Tour's return to a given venue the following year.

So let's take a look back at some of the insight gleaned from the Bermuda Championship, where Brian Gay rallied from a two-shot deficit and ultimately beat Wyndham Clark in a playoff for his first victory since 2013:

Gay is a horse for (certain) courses

As a +20000 longshot at the start of the week Gay was on some (but not many) radars. He had battled injury issues in recent years, had missed four straight cuts and hadn't cracked the top 10 since the inaugural Bermuda event a year ago. But his resurgent victory showed that recent form can sometimes go out the window when the veteran arrives at a layout that fits his skillset.

Last season Gay ranked 162nd on Tour in driving distance, averaging less than 289 yards per pop. Those figures are more line line with 2002 numbers than 2020, and it's a big reason why Gay has trouble keeping pace with his peers on longer tracks. But his accurate style is more than equipped to hang when the scene shifts to a more...quirky layout. Three of his five career victories have come on courses that either force driver out of players' hands or require them to be especially accurate off the tee: Mayakoba (2008), Harbour Town (2009) and Bermuda (2020).

It's no wonder that the only two finishes of note for Gay in the last year came at two of those three venues: he finished T-3 in Bermuda in the inaugural edition, with four straight rounds in the 60s, then followed with a T-14 finish at Mayakoba that included a Sunday 65. He won't be +20000 next month in Mexico, but he might be worth circling for another solid performance on a course that fits his eye.

Slim 54-hole leads may not be a position of strength

If you have faded players with a one-shot lead heading into the final round since March, you've made some serious bank. Doc Redman is the latest to fall victim to a surprising trend, as he dropped from a one-shot lead through 54 holes into a T-4 finish after closing with a final-round 69.

Redman was in search of his first career win on Tour, so his failure to capitalize on the opportunity isn't much of a stunner - even though he didn't exactly play poorly in the final round. But it means that seven straight players have now failed to convert a 54-hole lead of exactly one shot. The drought dates back to Justin Thomas at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February and also includes Tommy Fleetwood (Honda), Xander Schauffele (Colonial), Brendon Todd (Memphis), Dustin Johnson (PGA Championship) and Thomas again (Zozo).

The last time a player won on Tour after leading by exactly a shot heading into the final round? That would be Viktor Hovland's breakthrough win at the Puerto Rico Open in February, when he drained a lengthy birdie putt on the final green to edge Josh Teater by a shot.

The old guard continues to thrive in the new Tour season

With his 49th birthday less than two months away, Gay became the oldest winner on the PGA Tour since Woody Austin won the 2013 Sanderson Farms Championship at age 49. His victory also continued an early-season run of success for some of the Tour's more seasoned veterans.

We may be in the midst of an era where younger players are thriving at a considerable rate, but the over-40 crowd has now scored a trio of titles in the first eight weeks of the new season: Stewart Cink winning the season-opener in Napa at age 47, Sergio Garcia winning the Sanderson Farms at age 40 and Gay's triumph at age 48. Throw in Jason Kokrak getting his first win at the CJ Cup at age 35 and it's been a veritable boom for a group of players largely considered past their prime relative to their competition.

Eventually the trend may break back toward the young guns, and the most important event of the new campaign (U.S. Open) went to a certain bulky 27-year-old. But the notion that the over-40 crowd can't compete these days has now taken a few notable hits.

Will Zalatoris is officially here to stay

The darling of the Korn Ferry Tour last season officially clinched special temporary membership on the PGA Tour with his T-16 result in Bermuda. Zalatoris was originally viewed as one of the players most negatively impacted by the wraparound schedule and lack of promotion avenues between the two circuits in 2020, but he finished T-6 at the U.S. Open and has now finished T-16 or better in four of his five PGA Tour starts this season.

As a special temporary member, Zalatoris will now be eligible for unlimited sponsor invites as he chases full status for the 2021-22 season. Those invites could be tough to come by given the field restrictions and adjustments spurred by the pandemic, but the former Wake Forest standout has already racked up 334 non-member points. That total would put him 16th in the current standings and equates to 105th on last season's standings. While it's hard to pinpoint the exact threshold for what will equal No. 125 in the 2020-21 "super season" standings, it's likely that Zalatoris has already accrued enough points (or close to it) to earn a full card for next season. So don't expect him to head back to the Korn Ferry circuit anytime soon.

Zalatoris will also be watching the world rankings in the closing weeks of the year. His Bermuda result bumped him up two positions to No. 57 in the world, and if he cracks the top 50 by year's end he'll be exempt for the 2021 Masters. That top-50 threshold could also be important for gaining access to certain WGC events in 2021, regardless of his Tour affiliation or standing.