ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – John Daly has a chance to be fully exempt and set his own schedule next year for the first time since 2006.
Just not on the PGA Tour.
After consecutive rounds of 63-86 in Las Vegas contributed to a last-place finish, Daly missed the cut in the Frys.com Open and the McGladrey Classic, losing a great chance at finishing in the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list. He did not ask for an exemption into final official event at Disney for a couple of reasons – he has never played particularly well there, and he still has a chance to qualify for the European Tour finale in Dubai.
Daly is No. 88 on the European Tour money list, courtesy of a fourth-place finish in Qatar, along with his tie for 11th in the Sicilian Open and tie for 18th in PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. He is about $226,336 short of the cutoff to qualify for the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, which makes this next month important.
He is playing in Shanghai this week at the BMW Masters, which has a $7 million purse and no cut. Then, he plans to play in Singapore and Hong Kong to try to crack the top 60 and get to Dubai, which would be his 13th event in Europe. The top 118 on the money list get a card. Daly has been playing out of a lower status as a past major champion.
''If I get a card, I can pick and play everything over there,'' Daly said. ''China has no cut, and if I can play halfway decent, I should lock it up. That was my whole goal, to get a European Tour card. I have no goals here because I don't get in anything. Everyone turned me down on the West Coast.''
Daly has not had a PGA Tour card since 2006, and he has relied on sponsor exemptions, though that well is running dry. He has not been to Q-School since 1990, the year before he won the PGA Championship, the year after Rory McIlroy was born.
This is the last year of Q-School for a PGA Tour card. Starting next year, the 75 players who finish out of the top 125 will compete with the top 75 players from the Web.com Tour in a four-tournament series in which 25 cards will be available for the top players on that special money list (the top 25 from the Web.com Tour will be assured PGA Tour cards going into the series).
Asked if he would play in that series, Daly took a drag on a cigarette and said, ''If I was exempt to play, hell yeah.''
''I don't want to say 'Yes' because it depends on if I'm real close in Europe to the Race to Dubai. That's big money, too,'' he said. ''But if you play in this, four tournaments, and you miss three cuts and win the last one, you're in. So you get four chances to get a card. I think it's a great idea. And they're all $1 million purses, right? I'd have to give that a shot.''
SIGH OF RELIEF: David Mathis has been through this drill before, going into the Fall Series with hopes of finishing in the top 125 to keep his Tour card. The stakes were even higher this year, because 2013 will be a short season. The top 125 will be determined by FedEx Cup points, not the money list, so the regular season will end in August and there will be no Fall Series.
Mathis started the Fall Series at No. 125. He tied for 10th in the McGladrey Classic, where he holed out with an 8-iron for eagle on the 11th hole and closed with a 67. That moved him to No. 116, and with one tournament remaining, he is assured of keeping his card.
''It's a good feeling,'' Mathis said. ''It's not like 125 is really good status, and 126 to 150 is pretty good. Now it's like 125 is awesome, and 126 to 150 is terrible. That's kind of how the players view it. You can't pick and choose where you're going to play. It's a short season. I'm really thankful. I played well in the fall and kept getting better.''
Playing from 126 to 150 on the money list have conditional status, and they typically could count on playing 15 events or more. But that includes the Fall Series, after the Tour Championship. And next year, the tournaments in the fall will be the start of the 2013-14 season.
Another perk for Mathis? Getting a $4,500 refund that he sent in with his application for Q-School.
''Full refund,'' he said. ''They won't even charge you administrative fees.''
FINAL TEST: The Web.com Tour season ends this week outside Dallas with the Tour Championship, which features the top 60 players on the money list. The top 25 on the money list after this week earn PGA Tour cards, and with a $1 million purse, even a runner-up finish should be enough to get into the top 25.
Two players who have clinched Tour cards, Luke Guthrie and Ben Kohles, were still in college this summer. Of the top 25 going into the Tour Championship, nine of them did not have full status starting the season.
Among those who have a chance to get a Tour card for the first time is Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, who is at No. 53. With lower purses on the Web.com Tour, the bubble is smaller than usual. Camilo Benedetti is holding down the 25th spot by $287 over Doug LaBelle II.
Worth noting is Peter Tomasulo, who won earlier this year on the Web.com Tour and is No. 49 on the money list.
It might have helped had he played last week at the TPC Sawgrass, except that he couldn't. Tomasulo is playing on a major medical extension this year. Under tour policy, players cannot compete on the Web.com Tour if they are eligible for a PGA Tour event. So because Sea Island had a relatively weak field – Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson and Rickie Fowler were among those who had other obligations this year – Tomasulo narrowly got into the McGladrey Classic.
He was playing well, five shots out of the lead going into the last day and closed with a 72 to tie for 43rd. He made $12,827, which contributed nothing toward his Web.com Tour status. It was only the fourth PGA Tour event Tomasulo played this year.
DIVOTS: Davis Love III will have a busy offseason. Along with playing in the Shark Shootout, he will join Nick Watney and Jason Day as the PGA Tour team on Nov. 13 for the Three-Tour Challenge at Rio Secco in Las Vegas. ... Because of the short season in 2013, PGA Tour members only to have play in 12 tournaments to keep their voting privileges. They still must play at least 15 times to keep their membership. ... HSBC has renewed its title sponsors with the LPGA for three more years, meaning the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore will be played through 2015. ... Ernie Els is the only player among the top 50 in the world who has played at least 60 times over the last two years.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Ten players on the PGA Tour have earned at least $2 million this year without winning a tournament.
FINAL WORD: ''I asked Annika a few things before I became No. 1. She told me that world No. 1 is the loneliest place on the earth.'' – Yani Tseng.