Stories Galore in Final Chapter


There were more compelling story lines at the PGA Tours season-ending event than there were buses at Disney World, the theme park that hosted the Childrens Miracle Network Classic.
To wit, there was:
  • Davis Love III looking for his 20th Tour win and, perhaps a Comeback Player of the Year award, which could propel him to a berth on captain Fred Couples 2009 Presidents Cup team.
  • Jeff Overton, who underwent an emergency appendectomy late last month, trying to protect his No. 125 spot on the money list and secure his playing privileges for 2009.
  • Erik Compton, who underwent his second heart transplant ' just last May ' making the cut and trying to move up the leaderboard Sunday in the Land of the Mouse as he prepares for the grueling pressure cooker of Q-Schools second stage this week in nearby Brooksville, Fla.
  • Big Break alum Tommy Two Gloves Gainey, No. 228 on the money list, charging up that same leaderboard Sunday hunting an upset victory that would make him exempt on Tour through 2010 and an instant media darling.
    Just to name a few.
    And, actually, the one that caught my attention was Scott Verplank. Putting like the player that built a 4-1-0 record in Ryder Cup play, the 44-year-old Verplank cruised to a three-shot lead after 36 holes on the strength of a pair of opening 64s.
    A lot of people thought Verplank should have been one of U.S. captain Paul Azingers four discretionary picks for the team that would go on to thrash the Euros at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky earlier this year. But when I caught up to Verplank at Disney, he was having none of it.
    I would have liked to have been on that team, he said. And if I had putted better this year, I would have been on that team. No excuses.
    Interestingly, Verplank said his improved putting at Disney was a direct result of work he has been doing with one of his best friends, Bob Tway. Tway, who once won a PGA Championship, is leading the PGA Tour in putts per greens in regulation this year at the advanced age of 49. Verplank entered the week ranked an uncharacteristically low 72nd in the same category.
    Hes very analytical, Verplank said of Tway. And hes going to kick a lot of Champions Tour tail when he gets out there next year.
    Verplank burst onto golfs big stage way back in 1985 when he won the Western Open as an amateur at the difficult Butler National near Chicago. Verplank was the hot kid at the time. His future appeared limitless. But injuries and the burden of being a diabetic slowed his progress.
    Sunday at Disney Verplank began the day tied for the lead with Steve Marino, who cant help but remind you of a young Mark Calcavecchia, and found himself in the last grouping of the day with Marino and Love. He dropped three shots off the lead because he made the turn in a bloated 2-over 38. Birdies on 10 and 11 only matched the scores posted on those holes by both Marino and Love.
    The 2009 version of Scott Verplank is a little flintier than the confident kid who wowed everybody at the Western 23 years ago. But you will rarely hear him complain about all the physical setbacks he has had to fight through. And when his putter is right, he is positively fearless.
    Verplank birdied 12 and 13 to pull within two shots of Loves lead. But thats when DL III turned on the after-burners, finishing at 25 under after a second consecutive 64. He is now exempt for life on the PGA Tour because of his 20 wins.
    Gaineys matching final-round 64 shot him all the way up to sole second-place money and left him No. 148 in final money. That gets him conditional status on the Tour next year and entry into approximately 20 events.
    Overtons Sunday 69 produced a tie for 21st and moved him all the way up to No. 118 on the money list. Erik Comptons final round 72 earned a tie for 60th. He said he will seek an equipment guy to bend his irons more upright and lighten the weight in his driver before the 72 holes of second stage Q-School that begin Wednesday.
    Verplank and Marino tied for third, Marino bogeying two of his last six and Verplank bogeying No. 17 after missing a 5-footer on 14 that would have been his fifth straight birdie. The Fall Series is over now. Scott Verplank, and a lot of others will take time off.
    Verplank wound up a comfortable No. 77 on the money list. And the opinion here is he hasnt finished kicking some regular Tour tail.
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