Rickie Fowler picked a good year to try to get his PGA Tour card without going to Q-School.
The former Oklahoma State star tied for seventh in Las Vegas, then lost in a three-way playoff at the Frys.com Open in Arizona, giving him $553,700 in two starts. He has at least one tournament left, the Viking Classic this week in Mississippi.
A year ago, Martin Laird finished 125th on the PGA Tour money list with $852,752, a record amount required to keep a card. Fowler would have needed a runner-up finish at the Viking Classic to match that figure.
But the money is way down this year.
David Duval is holding down the 125th spot at $623,824. With two tournaments remaining, Fowler might be able to finish 10th at the Viking Classic and have enough money to get the equivalent of 125th, thereby skipping Q-School.
A year ago with two tournaments remaining, the 125th spot was at $795,320 – that's $171,505 more than this year.
PGA Tour officials attribute the drastic shortfall in the loss of two tournaments from the Fall Series. The Ginn sur Mer Classic is no longer on the schedule, and the Texas Open moved to the spring when the Atlanta tournament couldn't find a sponsor.
Total prize money on the PGA Tour for official events is $275 million, nearly $5 million less than a year ago (part of that includes a drop in the British Open purse because of the exchange rate).
The difference is found at the bottom of the money list.
Vijay Singh won the money title last year at $6.6 million, mainly because Tiger Woods only played six tournaments until knee surgery. This year, Woods has clinched the title with $10.5 million.
Otherwise, the distribution of cash looks very similar.
Three players have earned over $5 million this year, same as 2008. Fourteen players have made at least $3 million, same as last year. And with two tournament remaining, 36 players already have topped $2 million, compared with 37 players in 2008.
Go farther down the money list, however, to find that 104 players made over $1 million last year. Only 88 players are over $1 million this year with two tournaments left.
Closer to where it counts – 125th on the money list – shows how much those two missing tournaments make a difference.
It also shows up in a most peculiar way, highlighted by the playoff loss of Fowler and Jamie Lovemark .
Fowler became a special temporary member because he earned the equivalent of 150th on the money list in 2008 (Todd Hamilton was 150th at $537,958).
Lovemark has made $453,872, which wasn't enough for special temporary membership. However, Lovemark is equal to 147th on this year's money list. If he gets through first stage this week and manages to stay in the top 150 after the PGA Tour season ends Nov. 15 at Disney – unlikely – he would be exempt into the final stage of Q-school.
Meanwhile, Disney still has one exemption left to offer, and it could be torn between two very worthy candidates – Fowler and Lovemark. Disney already used one of its exemptions on a “Big Break” contestant.
LEFTY'S BOOK: Phil Mickelson already has a highly successful DVD called “Secrets of the Short Game” that made its debut in April. Next up is the companion book, which has a retail price of $29.95 and went on sale Tuesday.
Published by HarperCollins, it had a first print run of 200,000.
BACK FROM INJURY: The Race to Dubai was looking like a two-man race between Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy entering the final month. That changed with the return of two top players.
Martin Kaymer of Germany injured his foot in a go-cart accident and missed six weeks. He returned last week at the Castello Masters and was runner-up, moving him to second in the standings.
The next return belongs to Paul Casey , who was leading the Race to Dubai when he suffered a rib injury at the British Open. He hasn't completed a tournament since. Casey withdrew from the Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship, both offering big money that could have helped in the standings.
Casey is playing this week at the World Match Play Championship, a 16-man field in Spain. He since has slipped to No. 4 in the standings.
“I am pretty much recovered,” Casey said. “It has been a a very frustrating time, but I feel my patience is being rewarded now, having practiced with no ill effects. This is the longest I've been out of action, and I am really eager to get back out on the course.”
He opens against Scott Strange in the round-robin tournament, in which the top players from each of four brackets advance to the semifinals. Casey won the World Match Play at Wentworth in 2006.
TWEET: Parker McLachlin was waiting to tee off on the fifth hole Sunday at the Frys.com Open when he faced a backup, whipped out his cell phone and decided to go on Twitter.
“Just made birdie on 4. Waiting on 5th tee. First tweet during a tourney round. Don't want to get too used to this!”
Uh, that would be a good idea.
McLachlin violated a PGA Tour policy by using his cell phone during competition. Players can only use their cell phones during practice rounds, and only on the practice range during pro-am rounds.
Along with using his cell phone for a tweet, McLachlin used it to answer a call from the PGA Tour.
“We did have a conversation with Parker,” said Rick George, the tour's chief of operations. “He was unaware of our cell phone policy. It won't happen again.”
DIVOTS: Danny Lee , the former U.S. Amateur champion who became Europe's youngest champion when he won the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia this year, failed to get through the first stage of Q-School. His next tournament? He is eligible for a $7 million World Golf Championship next week in Shanghai. … Rickie Fowler made it through two years at Oklahoma State without ever going to Eskimo Joe's. “I was never old enough, never into that whole scene,” the 20-year-old Fowler said. … For those who think the Presidents Cup pairings are contrived minus the blind draw, consider what it has delivered. Tiger Woods' opponents in the Presidents Cup have been Greg Norman , Vijay Singh, Ernie Els , Retief Goosen , Mike Weir and Y.E. Yang . In the Ryder Cup, he has faced compelling matches against Costantino Rocca , Andrew Coltart , Jesper Parnevik , Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson .
STAT OF THE WEEK: Tom Pernice Jr. earned $334,000 in 23 starts the first eight months. Since turning 50 on Sept. 6, he has earned $506,800 in three starts – one on the Champions Tour, two on the PGA Tour.
FINAL WORD: “You can definitely have a good year without winning a major. But it cannot be a perfect year if you don't win a major.” – Masters champion Angel Cabrera.