Former Wofford golf star Andrew Novak riding hot streak on PGA Tour

Andrew Novak began his PGA Tour season with three consecutive missed cuts, a streak that can wreck a golfer’s confidence. But he liked the state of his game and stayed patient.

His reward? Three straight top-10 finishes that have his stock soaring and put him on the verge of qualifying for the Tour’s “signature” events.

“I’m playing as well as I ever have,” said Novak, a product of South Carolina’s junior golf program who grew up in Mount Pleasant and sparkled at Wofford College. “Really, it’s just solid golf, nothing special.”

His streak began with a tie for eighth in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He matched that finish two weeks later in the Mexico Open at Vidanta before sharing ninth in the Cognizant Classic in Florida.

“Nothing really different,” he said of the best string of performances of his professional career. “I’m striking the ball well, putting well, the short game is dialed in.

“I’m in a good spot and I’m going to keep riding the hot hand.”

Novak, who won the 2014 South Carolina Amateur championship, ranks eighth in perhaps the Tour’s most important statistic: total shots gained. He’s been strong on approaches to the green (seventh) and scrambling (10th). Ten of his past 12 rounds have been in the 60s.

Novak, 28, turned pro in 2017 and worked his way to the PGA Tour through the Canadian and Korn Ferry tours. He finished between 126th and 150th in the standings his rookie year, which game him limited status for 2022-23. He took advantage by placing in the top 125, which provides full eligibility for the current season.

The hot streak has boosted him to No. 52 in the season-long FedEx Cup standings and moved him within a whisker of qualifying for the next “signature” tournament that feature the Tour’s top players.

“I’m close; somebody said I had made (the ‘signature’ Arnold Palmer Invitational) after the Cognizant,” he said, “but I didn’t get in and will just take the week off before the Players.”

Novak tried out of the Wando High golf team as a seventh-grader — “I got cut that year and the next year, too” — before beginning his high school career that led him to Wofford and coach Vic Lipscomb.

His junior golf titles included the prestigious Junior Azalea, and he played on South Carolina all-star teams against squads from Georgia and Canada. At Wofford, he earned Southern Conference player of the year honors, twice qualified for the NCAA Championships and has been inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame. In addition to his State Amateur win, he captured the 2015 South Carolina Match-Play title.

He earned his 2021-22 PGA Tour spot by placing among the leaders on the Korn Ferry points list and posted four top-25s his rookie season. A year ago, he had a pair of top 10s and five top 25s.

Next up is the Players Championship and hopefully earning a spot in the “signature” tournaments.

“That’s another challenge,” Novak said. “If I can get into those events, that’s a major step.”

If he overcomes that obstacle the same way he tackled the three missed-cuts streak, the possibilities are exciting.

Chip shots. Hannah Darling tied for first individually, and USC’s fifth-ranked women’s team placed fourth in the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island. The tournament featured 11 of the nation’s top 25 teams. ... West Columbia’s Sam Jackson (men), Lexington’s Isabella Rawl (women) and Myrtle Beach’s Madison Messismer (junior girls) earned Carolina Golf Association’s player of the year awards in their respective divisions. Jackson, the SCGA’s top player in 2022 and ’23, began his ’24 season with an 11th-place finish in the Gasparilla Invitational in Tampa, Florida. ... Andrew Swanson placed sixth individually, leading Clemson’s men to a tie for fourth in the Wake Forest Invitational in Pinehurst, North Carolina. ... Kyle Bearden (Barnwell) and Walt Todd Jr. (Greenville) won the SCGA’s Partners Championship in a playoff over Chris Essay and Yancey Johnson (Simpsonville). ... Chloe Holder tied for third, leading Clemson’s women to a second-place finish in the Gator Invitational in Gainesville, Florida. ... David Gibson (Columbia) and Lee Gronkiewicz (Lexington) won both the gross and net divisions in the SCGA’s Forty Plus Series four-ball event at the River Club in North Augusta. Robert Andrews and John Obrien (Columbia) teamed to lead the senior division.