Tano Goya one of many 18 holes away from PGA Tour dream at KFT Champ.

·3 min read

For many players, achieving a lifelong dream of playing on the PGA Tour has come down to 18 holes.

Justin Suh holds the Korn Ferry Tour Championship's 54-hole lead at 17 under, but he won't be playing the final round with the anxiousness of not knowing his fate for next season  — he already secured his Tour card.

Tano Goya, however, is one of those players for whom a good or bad round Sunday at Victoria National Golf Club can decide their Tour destiny.

The 34-year-old Argentine came into the KFT Championship 64th on the points list and needed a big week to move inside the Finals 25 and notch Tour status for 2022-23.

Despite playing professionally since 2007, Goya has only 69 PGA Tour-sanctioned starts to his name. Just five of those came on the PGA Tour, with 40 coming on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica and 24 this past year on the KFT, where he recorded one top 10.

But in arguably the biggest event of his career, he's one stroke back of the lead and on the verge of claiming one of the 17 Tour cards at stake this week  — and this is exactly why he kept pushing through the hardships.

Full-field scores from Korn Ferry Tour Championship

"I've been up and down a lot," Goya said after Round 3. "I had a great start of my career, but I went down pretty quickly. Come to a point that you consider maybe doing something else, quitting, but something inside me said, 'No, just kept going and I've just been here today, tomorrow having a chance to make it on Tour. I mean, been working my whole life for it and I'm ready for it."

Though his quest for a Tour card hasn't been as strenuous as Goya's, Austin Eckroat, 23, who like Goya needed to move up almost 40 spots into the top 25 this week, is another name on the precipice of earning Tour status for next season.

After a standout college career at Oklahoma State where he won a national championship in 2018, Eckroat has played on the KFT the past two seasons, while getting a few sponsor's exemptions on Tour.

Sitting T-3 at 15 under, Eckroat hopes to extend his strong play through one more round so he no longer has to rely on exemptions to tee it up alongside his college teammate Viktor Hovland.

Eckroat is tied with Nicholas Lindheim and Michael Gligic. Lindheim entered the week inside the Finals 25, while Gligic, the 36-hole leader, has already locked up a Tour card, but is trying to finish first on the points list to earn full Tour status plus a spot in The Players and U.S. Open.

A few more near the top of the leaderboard, such as Eric Cole, Carson Young, Brent Grant, Ben Martin and Nick Hardy are one solid round away from earning their cards.

Other bubble players like Aaron Baddeley, Grayson Murray, Sean O'Hair and Hurly Long will need to move the chains Sunday and may also need some of their competitors to drop.

Patrick Fishburn was No. 26 coming into this week and played his way into the top 25 with consecutive 67s. However, with a third-round 76, he has his work cut out for him on Sunday.

Camilo Villegas followed up his course-record 62 with a 73 and fell several spots out of the top 25.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who came into the second round T-2, shot 81 Saturday and now sits T-65, likely costing him a chance at regaining his card.

It will be a nerve-wracking Sunday, and how a player handles the pressure can be the difference between spending next season on the Korn Ferry Tour, or living out a dream by regularly playing against the world's best on the PGA Tour.

"It's just at the end of the day when the moment comes, it's all about how much work you put into it," Goya said. "Nothing can save you from it and it's you against the golf course, nothing else."