Fall Series Gets Serious

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For Ryan Palmer, it is a small world, after all. And its a wonderful life. Yes, right now its Walt Disney and Frank Capra all rolled into one.
 
Its a small world because the 32-year-old Texan, who arrived at the Ginn sur Mer Classic No. 143 on the PGA Tour money list, birdied the 72nd hole to win $828,000 and the golf tournament. It was Palmers first victory since the 2004 PGA Tour event at Disney World, which will host this weeks season-ending Childrens Miracle Network Classic outside Orlando.
 
Its a wonderful life now for Palmer because, by virtue of his win, he is exempt on the Tour through 2010. It had been a struggle for him since his 2004 triumph and his exempt status during 2008 was tenuous (144th on the 2007 money list).
 
Unbelievable, Palmer said after gutting a 10-footer on the last hole to win. What a feeling. What a day. What a week. What a way to cap off a rough year and a half.
 
That year and a half included surgery for his wife, Jennifer, who is now healthy again. And the windy, rainy final day included a penalty shot assessed on the 10th hole when his ball moved on the green after he had grounded his putter behind it. Palmer followed that with a tee shot that found a water hazard on 11 that led to a double bogey.
 
But he perservered. So did Vaughn Taylor, one of five players who finished one back of Palmer at 6 under. Taylor, a former Ryder Cupper, arrived this week needing to break through to the top 125 to guarantee his playing status for 2009. He moved all the way up to No. 100 and is safe for another year.
 
Then there is the story of Jeff Overton. Nine days before the start of the Ginn sur Mer Overton underwent an emergency appendectomy in Arizona. He arrived in Florida at No. 126 on the money list, aware that his doctors werent thrilled with his decision to play through the pain.
 
Overton made the cut (ouch, that phrase) and wound up tied for 18th. That moved him up one spot to No. 125 on the money. So there will be one more week of torture for the new official bubble boy.
 
Its getting about five percent better each day, Overton said when I talked to him the day before the Ginn sur Mer began. Its pretty much a pain threshold thing.
 
Palmers breakthrough marked the second consecutive week that a player had made the big jump from outside the top 125 into the Tours victory safety net.
 
Two weeks ago it was Cameron Beckman vaulting all the way from No. 175 into a two-year exemption after capturing the Frys.com Open in Arizona. When I saw Beckman last Wednesday he shook my hand even before I had a chance to congratulate him.
 
I had first met him in 1997 while doing a story on the Nike Tour which has evolved into the Nationwide Tour. Beckman has toiled in relative obscurity since then. And he admitted last week that he still had a few cobwebs in his head from a celebration that lasted several days after his playoff victory over Kevin Sutherland at Grayhawk Golf Club.
 
So now there is one tournament left on the Fall Series; one more week of grinding for players like Overton and veteran Brian Gay.
 
Gay tied for seventh at Ginn sur Mer and moved up three spots to No. 30 on the money list. He needs to retain or improve that ranking at Disney to qualify for his first Masters.
 
Gay has a dreamy putting stroke and cant wait to get on the putting surfaces at Augusta National. His Orlando area home is less than six miles, as the crow flies, from Disney property. And when the wind is right you can open a window and hear the whistle from the Disney choo-choo.
 
It is, after all, a small world.
 
Gay and Overton and the rest of the Tours traveling show are going to Disney. But for many of them, visions of a wonderful life are still at least one week away.
 
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