Most surprising player outside top 125?

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The 2012 PGA Tour season has concluded and not everyone is happy to see it end. With the top 125 players on the money list earning Tour cards for next year, many outside that number are faced with Q-School or burning lifetime exemptions for status next year. Some still have their cards for 2013, but it doesn't make this season any less disappointing. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with the most surprising players to finish outside the top 125.

By RYAN LAVNER

Gary Woodland isn’t headed to Q-School finals next month for finishing 134th on the money list. His underachieving 2012 season was still plenty surprising, however.

It was natural to expect big things from the powerful Woodland, who earned a two-year exemption by virtue of his victory at the 2011 Transitions Championship. He possessed awesome power, he made birdies by the dozen, and he was the modern golfer who also looked like he was built to play fullback.

But after a breakout 2011, Woodland endured a turbulent off-season during which he dumped his agent, Blake Smith, who just so happened to be his swing coach Randy Smith’s son, so he lost him, too.

Woodland began working with Butch Harmon – necessitating a complete overhaul, because the 28-year-old wanted to be able to move the ball both ways – but their progress was derailed by a left-wrist injury that lingered for most of the year.

Give the guy a full season, a year with no health concerns, and it would surprise little if he is back inside the top 20 on the money list by next November.


By JASON SOBEL

Call me predictable, but I’m always somewhat surprised when something happens that has never happened before. Especially when 'before' amounts to 16 years.

That’s how long Jerry Kelly has finished inside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list – and really, he’s never been close to missing. He started the streak by comfortably placing 59th in his rookie season of 1996, then followed at 103rd in ’97. Since then? The native of Wisconsin hasn’t been below 87th, easily cruising his way to further status every season.

Until now.

Kelly concluded his 2012 campaign with just one top-10 in 26 starts – and the one happened to come at the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, where he was T-9. While those stats left him in 126th place, just $1,709 from the magic number, he was far from unhappy.

That’s because the result netted him enough cash to remain in the top 25 on the all-time money list, which comes with a one-time get-out-of-jail-free card, meaning Kelly will once again have full status on the PGA Tour in 2013.

Consider it a surprise if he finishes outside the top 125 once again next year.


By REX HOGGARD

Of the litany of players who found themselves on the wrong side of the season-ending money crunch Chez Reavie was the biggest surprise to be headed to the final stage of Q-School later this month.

OK, Reavie has finished inside the top 125 just twice in his career and he’s four years removed from his last PGA Tour victory. But 2012 was supposed to be different. This was Reavie’s best opportunity to avoid mediocrity.

As a result of a spirited playoff run in 2011 Reavie advanced to the Tour Championship for the first time last season, elevating his status and opening doors across the schedule.

Thanks to his finish in the top 30 in FedEx Cup points in ’11 Reavie qualified to play in the Masters and the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and he played almost all of the year’s invitationals (Arnold Palmer Invitational, RBC Heritage, Crowne Plaza Invitational and AT&T National).

All told Reavie played 26 of the Tour’s best events this season and failed to post a single top-10 finish, missed almost as many cuts (11) as he made (15) and finished the season 135th on the money list.

More often than not, success on the Tour is all about opportunity and in 2012 Reavie had plenty of that, which is why he’s the biggest surprise in the Q-School field.


By RANDALL MELL

Camilo Villegas is the biggest surprise here.

That’s because while Villegas never had the picture-perfect swing, he seemed to radiate with something more important as a rising young star. He practically glowed with confidence and determination. That’s what gave him his edge.

With a pair of large FedEx Cup titles in ’08, Villegas finished seventh on the PGA Tour money list. With his third title coming in ’10, he finished 16th on the money list. This was a player who looked like he was ascending, and yet with a fall to 77th in money last year and 144th this year, he is in rapid descent. It’s puzzling in that there have been no real injuries taking him off course. He actually finished fourth in greens in regulation this year, a drastic improvement from 163rd last year. He’s 60th in total driving this year, up from 129th last year. His putting remains problematic. He ranked 164th in strokes gained putting this year.

At 31, Villegas has been humbled by the game, but he knows he can turn his fortunes around with a good run. In the end, the struggles may make him a stronger player. Look at what Steve Stricker did after a couple of slumps. Villegas needs his edge back. He needs his confidence back.