Everyone wants the year only Tiger Woods seems to be able to put together. And the great thing about the PGA Tour is that every card-carrying member has the same opportunity that Tiger has. In fact, some would argue that with Woods playing a significantly fewer number of events than others, the true 'iron men' have the chance to dwarf Woods' money total at year's end.
Of course, they have to play like Tiger to do it. And that's not easy to do. Still I always find it funny that some players find a way to see the deck stacked against them instead of looking at just how high the deck is stacked with opportunity.
Earn your way to the PGA Tour and you can set yourself up for life with a couple of good weeks. Heck, the way the Tour is right now with purses approaching unheard-of millions, you might lose your card but still find a way into a bigger house with a new boat to boot.
And so, as the New Year dawns with the first full-field event of the year taking place this week in Honolulu (the Sony Open), you can once again root for the likes of Sergio Garcia, David Toms or Davis Love III. All of them are scheduled to compete and try to chase down Woods atop the money list while holding off the surging superstar Charles Howell, who figures to make a bigger impact in 2002.
But also think about what it might be like to be Australian John Senden or Australian Buy.Com grad Rod Pampling. They've come to the United States in search of the world's best competition and now have a chance to reach next year's Mercedes Championships just like Tiger can do by winning a tournament.
So who might be a player to watch if you like rooting for the new breed? How about starting with 27-year-old Chad Campbell. All he's done since turning pro is win at every level. He made more than $800,000 in a few years on the Hooters Tour, and then jumped ahead to the Buy.Com Tour to win three times in his rookie season. Now he's at golf's grandest stage and you can expect the consistent success to continue. A win wouldn't be a shock.
Everybody knows about Matt Kuchar, the humble man with the megawatt smile and the solid game. He earned his way with sponsor invites and has the game to capitalize on the moment. But keep an eye on a pair of Q-School grads from Northwestern University. Englishman Luke Donald is more well known than his former All-America teammate, Jess Daley. But both could have big weeks with the big boys. They each had rounds of 65 at the Q-School finals, and neither man shot higher than 71 that week. While Donald won the NCAA individual title as a Wildcat, Daley was an All-America in only his senior season. But Daley is a big, powerful swinger with a good sense of the game and a lot of maturity.
All 15 of the Buy.Com Tour's graduates are set to play in the Sony. Aside from Campbell, watch out for young gun Jonathan Byrd. The Clemson University grad won early on the Buy.Com Tour in 2001 and heads to the next level with a huge work ethic. I've always liked Virginian John Rollins. He's been to the Tour before and fared fairly well. This is his second crack at it. He's coming off a very successful season on the Buy.Com Tour, and will stare down almost anybody. He's not afraid to win.
Thirty of the 36 who earned cards at Q-School are set to play the Sony. That number will grow as alternates get the call. But Boo Weekley is inand you'd be wise to take note. If nothing else, the laid back self-proclaimed Pensacola, Fla., 'good ol' boy' is entertaining. Playing in rain pants because of a skin condition and sneakers because golf shoes hurt his feet, the 28-year-old is more mild-mannered than Clark Kent and more well-mannered than Forrest Gump. Listen to him and you'll know why people have taken notice and want the best for him.
Remember that everybody has a chance to win a tournament, make the big money and hit the celebrity jackpot. It's not just about getting the card to play on tour - it's what you do with it once you get there.
Just imagine - the Mercedes Championships in January of 2003 WITHOUT Tiger Woods. It could happen. Because on the PGA Tour, it doesn't matter if you've come from Q-School or high school, the opportunity is the same and that carrot that's dangling in front of the pros is bigger than ever.