One-Time Exemption Brings Mayfair Back To the Fold


Billy Mayfair had 15 consecutive years of job security, so it was quite a jolt when he finished last season out of the top 125 on the money list and faced the prospect of going back to Q-school.
Even more discouraging was the way he was playing.
I got away from my golf swing, I lost some confidence and I lost confidence in the putter, Mayfair said Tuesday. I was missing putts inside 10 feet for par, and that starts working on you after a while.
At age 38, he had to use his one-time exemption for top 50 in career money to keep his status. He was determined to change his fortunes, and even Mayfair is surprised by his progress. His runner-up finish at the Colonial was his fourth top 10 of the year and moved him up to No. 17 on the money list.
I knew I could do it, said Mayfair, a former U.S. Amateur champion whose five victories include the Tour Championship. My first goal was to get my status back, to stay in the top 125. Im not going to lie; its pretty much a surprise to be as high up as I am.
As much fun as Im having this year, I was not having that much fun last year.
The turning point came after he missed the cut in Milwaukee. Both his wife and his good friend, Phil Mickelson, suggested he seek out swing coach Rick Smith.
Along with changing his grip, Smith suggested a move to the belly putter. Mayfair resisted until he shot 81 in the third round at Greensboro. Leaving the tournament, he saw a man selling clubs from a barrel and picked out a belly putter for $15. The next week, he consulted Vijay Singh and had a model made for him.
Suddenly, everything started to fall into place.
Mayfair played only once from the end of 2004 to the start of 2005, tying for 11th in a PGA Tour-sponsored event in Korea. Then he geared up for what might have been his last shot on tour.
I knew if I didnt play well, I was going to have to go back to Tour school, he said. Obviously, some bad thoughts come into your mind. But one of the things I wanted to do was try to get some confidence back. I didnt want to slide into the year. I went to Hawaii ready to go.
He didnt miss a cut on the West Coast, and the momentum kept building through a 10th-place finish at Quail Hollow that locked up his card, and his runner-up finish at the Colonial that has him thinking about the Tour Championship.
If he makes it to East Lake, Mayfair would be the first player since John Huston in 1998 to use a one-time exemption from career money and finish about the top 30 on the money list.
Colin Montgomerie is No. 53 in the world and needs a strong finish in Europe to avoid having to qualify for the U.S. Open. The top 50 in the world ranking after this week are exempt to Pinehurst No. 2.
On the PGA Tour, it might not be that dramatic.
Jonathan Kaye is No. 51, but he did not enter the St. Jude Classic. Neither did Joe Ogilvie at No. 55, because he is moving into a new house in Austin, Texas. Tim Herron (No. 49) could drop out of the top 50, but Lumpy already is eligible because he was among the top 15 at the U.S. Open last year.
Conspicuously missing from Memphis is Charles Howell III, who is No. 46 in the world and not yet exempt for the U.S. Open. One can only suspect that not playing this week will help him secure his place among the top 50.
When he reached 100 straight cuts on his way to breaking Byron Nelsons record, Tiger Woods said it was impossible to compare the two eras. The difference often cited is that Woods played in 31 tournaments that had no cut, such as the Tour Championship and World Golf Championships.
Take those away and his consecutive cut streak would have ended at 111 -- not 142 -- which seemingly would leave him two short of Nelsons mark of 113 in a row.
Nelson, however, also played tournaments that didnt have a cut.
During his streak from 1941 to the start of 1949, he played in at least 10 tournaments that had no cut. The PGA Championship was match play during those years, paying $85 for those losing in the first round. And the Masters didnt institute a 36-hole cut until 1957, long after Nelson retired.
Nelson also played the Miami Fourball four times during the streak, teaming with Harold McSpaden in match play. He also teamed with McSpaden in the Minneapolis Fourball and Inverness Fourball, although it was not clear whether either of those had cuts (in Nelsons era, making the cut meant getting a paycheck).
Eliminate those five PGAs and five Masters, and Nelsons cut streak would have been 103.
U.S. Amateur champion Ryan Moore has decided to keep his spot in the U.S. Open instead of turning pro and going through sectional qualifying.
Moores future was slightly muddled when he tied for 13th at the Masters, which made him exempt from local qualifying. He signed up for sectional qualifying when he submitted his U.S. Open entry form, and USGA officials gave him a Monday deadline for making up his mind.
If he had failed to make it through sectionals, Moore could not have reclaimed his spot at Pinehurst as the U.S. Amateur champion.
His dad said that Ryan thought about it and, given his schedule is so intense with the NCAAs, he felt he didnt want to take that chance, said Betsy Swain, the USGAs director of championship administration.
The FBR Open contributed a record $5.81 million to Arizona charities, second in giving among PGA Tour events behind the Byron Nelson Championship. ... Going into the year, Chad Campbell has never missed the cut in Texas. He proceeded to miss the cut at the Houston Open and the Colonial, and made the cut on the number at the Byron Nelson Championship. ... Retief Goosen is leading the European tour money list despite playing only one tournament outside the United States. He earned the bulk of his money with a tie for third at the Masters and third place at the Match Play Championship.
Bob Tway was the only player to shoot in the 60s all four rounds at the Byron Nelson Championship and the Colonial. He tied for third at the Nelson and tied for 21st at the Colonial.
I felt like the guy who was pitching a no-hitter. Nobody wanted to talk to me.'Kenny Perry, who won the Colonial by seven shots and nearly broke his 72-hole scoring record.
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