Nationwide Tour Getting Back into a Groove

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The Nationwide Tour finally gets going in earnest as the players reconvene in Virginia Beach, Va., for the sixth playing of the Virginia Beach Open.
 
After starting the year in Panama, the tour then made a swing through Australia and New Zealand before coming back stateside at last month's Chitimacha Louisiana Open. With just four events played during the first four months of the year, the Nationwide Tour will equal that number in the next month alone.
 
The tour will again hold a total of 31 events, and starting this week they'll play straight through to the Nationwide Tour Championship in early October. The tour will roll out three new events in 2005, as well as visit four different countries - the three mentioned above, along with our good friends to the north for the Canadian PGA Championship in mid-July.
 
With 20 PGA Tour exemptions awaiting the top-20 on the Nationwide Tour's end of the year money list, players will be hoping to get off to a strong start as the schedule settles into the United States.
 
They will be hard pressed to match the start of Aussie Steven Bowditch, who captured the Jacob's Creek Open Championship in his homeland of Australia and then followed that with a runner-up finish at the New Zealand PGA Championship.
 
Bowditch currently sits atop the money list and in this short amount of time has almost assured himself a PGA Tour card for next year with his winnings. His $206,000 is close to $7,000 more than what Gavin Coles made last year in the 20th spot on the final money list.
 
Bowditch, however, is not in this week's field, leaving the door open for Vance Veazey who is second on the money list, some $64,000 behind Bowditch.
 
Although very early in the season, a victory here in Virginia by anyone of the first four winners this year would put them precariously close to attaining the PGA Tour's Battlefield Promotion, given out to any players that collect three wins in a single season.
 
A Battlefield Promotion means immediate inclusion onto the PGA Tour for the remainder of the season. Past winners of the award include Tom Carter in 2003, Patrick Moore in 2002, Health Slocum, Chad Campball and Pat Bates all in 2001 and the first winner of the promotion, Chris Smith back in 1997.
 
The event will be played for the sixth straight year at the TPC of Virginia Beach, one of the toughest par-72s the players face each year. At 7,400 plus yards, it was the second longest course on tour in 2004, second only to the Senator Course which was host to the Tour Championship.
 
The purse this year is $450,000 with a first-place check worth $85,500.
 
Next week the tour heads south into the Carolinas for the BMW Charity Pro-Am at the Cliffs.
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - Virginia Beach Open