Let the Sweating er The Tampa Bay Classic Begin


Man, is it hot here in Palm Harbor, Fla.! Temperatures hit the mid-90s on Wednesday for the pro-am with humidity higher than the frustration level over this state's election ballot system. Fact is, many players were talking about just how hot it was and just how difficult it was to be at the Copperhead Course at the Westin Innisbrook Resort.
Fitting, though, that players would find it steamy this week in particular. This is week 41 of 49 on the PGA Tour calendar and its just about time to start leaving players alone. Yep, this is money list time...and not the time to be throwing around commentary about the subject on the range with struggling players within earshot.
The problem is, you don't always know who to avoid and who to approach. Heck, I chatted up Gene Sauers on the putting green on Wednesday and even he was in no mood to 'coast' the rest of the way. He's 77th on the money list and sporting a new two-year exemption because of his recent win in Vancouver. But he was quick to point out that he's pressing on for even higher plateaus.
And Sauers is right. He's talking about things like top-70 on the money list which earns a player a spot in next year's invitation-only events like Bay Hill, Colonial or the Memorial Tournament. There's also top 40 which sends a player to Augusta for next year's Masters, and of course the top 30 is a ticket to the Tour Championship.
As Olin Browne said, 'That's the way the PGA Tour is structured. There's always something to play for which keeps guys focused on playing.'
Another player who's currently outside the top 125 made a comment over dinner about the importance of money position for endorsement contracts. 'There's plenty of incentive,' he said.
And so, events like the Tampa Bay Classic Presented by Buick take on added importance in this week where the 'bigger names' are overseas competing at the World Golf Championship event in Ireland.
And with this crazy year of first-time winners (like John Rollins, who's now inside the top 25 on the money list), and nearly forgotten winners (like Dan Forsman or Gene Sauers) you never know who just might step up and beat the heat.
For instance, Peter Jacobsen's 48 years old and looking for a last hurrah before the Senior Tour comes calling. Skip Kendall's still looking for win No. 1. At 96th on the money list, John Daly is in search of the top 40 and a trip back to Augusta without worry of the World Ranking points it would otherwise take. And the list of those looking to jump into the coveted top 125 includes Tom Sherrer, Grant Waite, Jay Williamson, Paul Gow, Woody Austin, Steve Pate, Tommy Tolles, Brad Elder and Blaine McCallister.
It's not the most enjoyable part of the year by any means. The pressure's getting thick. The nerves are getting a bit frayed and the money's being counted like at no other time this year.
Believe it or not, it looks like it's going to take somewhere around $500,000 to finish in the top 125. And trust me, you don't have to remind the guys playing here this week. They already know!!