UCLA alum, Tour rookie Jake Knapp hopes to play way into Genesis

Jake Knapp is all about timing.

The PGA Tour rookie met his mental coach while working security for a wedding. He met the president of his favorite NHL team, the Anaheim Ducks, while playing a round at his home course, and it turned into a sponsorship opportunity once he reached the Korn Ferry Tour.

Knapp certainly picked a good time to play four steady rounds of golf last month, when his 69-69-70-69 produced a T3 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. That has propelled Knapp, 29, to the sixth spot in the new Aon Swing 5 standings by which players can qualify for signature events.

If Knapp cracks the top five after this week’s WM Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz., he will be earn a spot in the Genesis Invitational next week outside Los Angeles.

That would be particularly special for a Southern California native and former UCLA golfer like Knapp.

“Obviously I’d love to be in that Aon Swing 5,” Knapp said Wednesday. “But I’ve just kind of always said, you play well, it takes care of itself. If you start watching for points and things like that, you start kind of get down on yourself and you don’t hit those marks.

“Obviously I’d love to play my way into the Genesis at Riviera. Being from So Cal and going to UCLA, playing there a decent amount, it would be a pretty awesome event to get into. But just going to go out this week, try to have a solid week, and see where it puts me.”

The five players in front of Knapp are France’s Matthieu Pavon, Grayson Murray, Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa, Kevin Yu of Taiwan and Germany’s Stephan Jaeger. The standings are determined by FedEx Cup points earned in the tournaments leading up to a signature event.

This is Knapp’s first season on the PGA Tour, having earned his card via the Korn Ferry Tour last fall.

It’s been a remarkable bounce-back after he lost Korn Ferry Tour status in 2021. He took time away from golf and, to make ends meet, earned money working as a bouncer at a restaurant/bar in his hometown of Costa Mesa.

While California is home, TPC Scottsdale is not unfamiliar to Knapp. He now lives “across the street” from the Stadium Course, where this week’s tournament will be played. He’s looking forward to playing the famed Stadium Hole, the par-3 16th, where he said he and his caddie plan to throw some Ducks gear into the stands for fans.

“I think I got my PGA Tour card at the right time,” Knapp said. “I think if you would have put me out here three, four years ago, I don’t think I would have been ready to handle it in terms of the preparation, the style of courses, everything else that goes on. I think it just would have been a lot for me to take in. Now I feel super comfortable, kind of feel like where I’m supposed to be.”