PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Needing a big week to secure his PGA Tour card, Derek Fathauer produced in a place where he feels quite comfortable.
Fathauer won the Web.com Tour Championship last year, but this time around he began the week at No. 33 on the Web.com Tour Finals money list, with only the top 25 players earning promotions to the PGA Tour. The 29-year-old played his way inside the bubble through three rounds, then clinched his card with a round that started with a front-nine 29 that included six birdies.
“I just wanted to kind of play somewhat conservative and give myself as many birdie putts as I could,” said Fathauer, who moved up to No. 15 on the final money list after a closing 66. “That’s what I did on the front nine, and I kind of got off a little bit on the back. But I did exactly what I set out to do on the front, and it’s kind of nice when it goes your way.”
In addition to his success on Dye’s Valley Course last year, Fathauer also finished T-17 at this year’s Players Championship on the Stadium Course – one of just three top-25 finishes the Florida native logged this season.
“I’d much rather come here than go to one of the other three playoff events, for sure,” he said. “Just because of my comfort level, in Jacksonville and at this golf course. I think it helped a lot.”
Fathauer was one of five players who earned cards this week after starting the season’s final event outside the top 25. The others to make late moves were Thomas Aiken, Tyrone van Aswegen, Robert Garrigus and Rob Oppenheim.
Van Aswegen began the week at No. 44 in earnings, but he moved all the way up to 17th after a T-5 finish that included four straight rounds in the 60s.
“Happiness, relief. I mean, I’m just stoked right now,” van Aswegen said. “My caddie settled me down coming down the stretch. That team effort, everyone’s involved. I know lots of people are watching and I’m just so happy right now.”
While five players jumped inside the bubble, five players also moved outside the number. That list of near-misses included Eric Axley, who earned the 25th and final card at this event a year ago.
But Axley missed the cut this week, and he ended up in 26th place – $101 behind Oppenheim. Justin Hicks, Ryan Spears, Steve Allan and Jhonattan Vegas also fell outside the number after missing the 36-hole cut.