PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Finals End Here.
In case you weren’t aware, a quick look around TPC Sawgrass’ Valley Course will remind you. It’s printed on every sign. But that’s really only half of the story.
This is the beginning. Fifty guys making the leap, a chance to make it in the big leagues. The rest are left to try again.
As players came off the 18th green Sunday at the Web.com Tour Championship, it was evident whether they knew they were moving on or had fallen short - or had absolutely no idea.
Some had achieved their dream for the first time and reflected it with a big smile.
“It hasn’t hit me yet. It was probably my best round of the year, maybe life, and I’m still probably in a little bit of shock," said Nick Taylor, 26, after closing out his quest for a PGA Tour card with a sizzling 63. "It’s nice to actually know, but it definitely hasn’t hit me yet. My goal was to get under par and luckily I was a couple better than that, but I was trying to make birdies and have fun.”
Others are getting another shot at the big time. That group includes Sunday’s winner, Derek Fathauer, who held off Zac Blair down the stretch for his first Web.com Tour victory, and eighth top 10 this season.
“I’m ready to give it a shot again,” said Fathauer, of getting back to the PGA Tour for the first time since 2009. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. I need a couple days to recharge.”
Plenty of others were left wondering what could have been, and left rationalizing as best they could.
“I’m still playing golf for a living, which is good. I’d like to be able to control my schedule, so I can hang out with my family and my kids,” said Tag Ridings, who entered the day just one spot outside of the top 50 but slipped to No. 54 with a closing 73. “At the end of the day I still got a nice tour to play on, and I get a little more time off at this stage and I get a little more time off to heal so it’s going to be OK.”
And those were just the ones who knew their fate.
Chad Collins shot an even-par 70 and summed up how a lot of players were probably feeling after their rounds when he said, “Hopefully it’s good enough.” He ended up 47th on the priority list, and admitted he couldn’t keep the top-50 bubble off of his mind coming down the stretch.
“You’re not human if you’re not,” he said. “Anything can happen on those [last three or four] holes.”
Collins was one of the players throughout the day who were in, then out, then back in, then out again. He was one of the lucky ones whose day ended inside the top 50. It makes you feel for Roberto Castro, who finished at No. 51, $31.66 out of the 50th spot.
Last year, the first of this Finals format since the switch from Q-School, six of the top 10 from the priority ranking were able to keep their PGA Tour cards by the end of the year, while none from Nos. 41-50 were able to retain full-time status, leaving several players to openly complain about the limited starts.
Sunday, however, those who made it inside the top 50 didn’t seem too worried about their odds of succeeding next season. Even if they were one in a million, the mood as they held their cards tight and smiled for the cameras in the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse was classic Lloyd Christmas … “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
Makes sense. After all, it’s the attitude that got them this far in the first place.