Mills Makes Steady Progress

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Sitting 123rd on the money list as he was last week, its unlikely that Jon Mills name will be whispered into Tiger Woods ear as the new Canadian superstar on the PGA TOUR when the latter returns from his recent knee surgery.
 
Outside the glare reserved for the games top players, Mills does have a few positives to contemplate, one being that he might avoid that nasty little competition at the end of the year called qualifying school.
 
Im happy, said Mills, 30, who appeared to be getting into contention with an outstanding 68 on Friday at the Byron Nelson Championship only to tumble down the leaderboard with a 77 on Saturday before finishing up with a 72 yesterday.
 
I feel like I got off to a decent start, but at the same time, I got myself into some positions where I could have had some better finishes. Im building from those events I played well at and using that confidence and hopefully, Ill get in the position again and will be able to finish it up better.
 
The recent Puerto Rico Open is a perfect example. In the Puerto Rico event, I was playing well and made a double on 17 and had a short par five (on the 18th hole) and failed to birdie that, he explained.
 
Mills could obsess on the negative, or draw whatever lesson he can from the experience and focus on the fact that he tied for 13th in Puerto Rico, the best finish in his short career on the PGA TOUR.
 
That lofty finish earned him a cool $70,000 and he followed that up with a tie for 20th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans to earn another $74,813.33. His $207,388 as of last week is over three times what he earned his first time on tour in 2006 and its only May ' well, almost May.
 
Late spring presents new challenges for Mills, who has missed five cuts in 12 starts so far this year. While there are encouraging signs, he isnt a priority for getting into tournaments as the season heats up, so Mills will be on the sidelines some weeks.
 
Lack of action on the PGA TOUR could mean backing up on the money list, something he would rather avoid with the possibility of Q-School always in the back of the mind. On some off-weeks, Mills will play the Nationwide Tour, where he finished fourth on the 2007 money list to regain his PGA TOUR card.
 
Earlier this season, Mills expressed interest in playing the new Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic June 26-29 near Collingwood, but he now figures he may have a good chance of getting into the PGA TOURs Buick Open to be played at the same time in Michigan.
 
If Mills is to get into the Buick Open, it would work nicely in his quest to get into the British Open, which holds North American qualifying in Michigan right afterwards.
He is also scheduled to take part in U.S. Open qualifying after making it through to Oakmont last year, where he missed the cut in an event highlight by inflated scores. Still, he calls the 07 U.S. Open a building block in his career and more majors are on his mind.
 
At the start of the year, my goal was to play at least two of them, said Mills, adding that he has come to know Torrey Pines, the site of this years U.S. Open, through his participation at the Buick Invitational.
 
I played two years ago. I played this year, so I know the golf course, he said. I played it as a junior. I guess of all the PGA golf courses, apart from the Canadian Open, I think Im more experience on that golf course than any. Its not much experience, but its more experience than most of the other golf courses.
 
Its actually comical listening to Mills discuss the future as he seeks the dates of tournaments from wife Megan, apparently the schedule-keeper. I just show up and play, he said.
 
Thats a good thing because Mills doesnt want to get too far ahead of himself. While qualifying for a major or two and showing well would go a long way in his quest to stay on tour, its a long way to the end of the season and there are many obstacles along the way.
 
Unless he goes on a tear, playing in the Fall Series, once called the Quest for the Card, is a sure thing, but thats something Mills doesnt mind after playing into November on the Nationwide Tour.
 
To prepare for that stretch run, he is working regularly on his fitness with Craig Davies of Chiro Training International. Davies is on the road frequently with Mills, who admits he needs motivation in that department, but he says he is already seeing results from Davies program.
 
His results on tour are starting to pay dividends too, but just like the beginning of a fitness program, the ultimate reward of keeping his card takes time.
 
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Toronto Sun Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.