Top 125 isn't the key number this week

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2011, 9:16 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The dichotomy of the circuit’s Disney stop hits you the moment you come face to face with the world’s most iconic rodent and realize there’s a reason why Mickey Mouse is always smiling: He’s never had to play to keep his PGA Tour card.

To hear the hype, the Tour turns the happiest place on earth into the place where golf dreams go to die. The bubble, as the loosely defined area around No. 125 on the money list is known, will become an ever-present line of demarcation that no professional wants to cross.

On this, however, art doesn’t exactly imitate life. Media-driven hyperbole aside, the top 125 is more of a soft cap when it comes to Tour status.

“Everyone wants to make a bigger deal out of things than they are,” said Bobby Gates, No. 124 in earnings entering this week’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

Keep your happiness to yourself, OK?

Before you dismiss Gates’ take as sports psychology mumbo jumbo, know that his laissez faire attitude has more to do with Tour minutia than mind games. Finishing inside the top 125 is certainly a way to make the holidays more festive, but there are 33 different categories for access to Tour events, which makes the top 125 more of a guideline.

This isn’t exactly dogma busting, but considering the amount of top-125 PSAs we’ll hear this week, it’s worth pointing out that trying to finish inside the top 150 in earnings is much more pressure packed than the benchmark 125. Similarly, making it out of the second stage of Q-School, not the final frame, is also a much more harrowing experience.

“I seem pretty stressed out about the 125, don’t I?” said Steve Flesch, who is    130th in earnings.

It’s not that Flesch is indifferent to the realities of job security, it’s just the veteran understands the convoluted system that governs access to Tour events.

Consider Johnson Wagner, who double-bogeyed the 16th hole on Sunday at Disney last year to drop to 126th in earnings, played 24 events in 2011; while Will MacKenzie, who finished 152nd on last year’s money list, managed just 14 starts.

Players finishing between Nos. 126-150 can expect anywhere from 15 to 18 starts, not a windfall but to pinch a line from the cult classic “Dumb and Dumber,” “So you’re saying there’s a chance.”

In 2007 Steve Lowery suffered through the worst year of his career and finished 148th in earnings. The next spring he outdueled Vijay Singh in a playoff at Pebble Beach for his third Tour title.

“Both situations are high-pressure (No. 126 and 151),” Kevin Streelman said. “But 126 will get in 16 events. (No.) 151 gets in zero. You can make great things happen with 16 events.”

James Driscoll (pictured) is the “bubble” poster child this year at 125th in earnings, but his position last year was much more precarious (154th) entering the finale. Even after missing the Disney cut by one stroke he rebounded to earn his card at Q-School and played 24 events this season.

But that happy ending was contingent on Driscoll playing his way through the second stage of Q-School, a potential pink slip for the modern professional.

“The 151 spot is brutal because you go from something to nothing,” said Flesch, pointing out the automatic exemption to final stage that players receive if they finish inside the top 150. “Second stage is so tough. I got through second stage one time in seven tries.”

If Tour card minutia seems mind numbing it is because it is, and this goes far beyond the relative simplicity of finishing 126th vs. 151st.

In five starts this year Adam Hadwin has won $440,000, enough to rank him 145th in earnings. Exempt to final stage, right? Wrong. Hadwin began the year without any Tour status and needed to match what No. 150 made last year to become a temporary member. In 2010 that magic number was $563,000, compared to $401,000 this year, which means Hadwin is headed for second stage.

Confused? Most Tour players are, which is why the reaction on Wednesday as players readied for the cash dash was so subdued.

“Q-School isn’t that bad,” said Robert Garrigus, who began the week last year at Disney 122nd in earnings and won. “Everybody makes it out to be the worst thing in the world. I’ve been through 10 of them. I just figured it was an eight-day vacation wherever the hell it was.”

Which would make Disney a four-day vacation, as if it could be anything else, at least for those lucky few with options beyond the top 125. For the likes of Driscoll it’s the difference between playing for a really good job and a not-so-bad gig in 2012. But for those drifting around the 150-bubble, now that’s pressure not even Mickey would smile about.


Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."