But enough of those numbers. As it is each year, and each week on this tour, the numbers that really matter relate to money. Any player who tells you hes not playing for the money on this tour might need to rethink things just a bit. Sure, the experience is more than money can buy for players seeking to reach the ultimate level. But ultimately, its the money that determines their fate as players.
Top 15 is the battlecry each year, and each week, because those finishing the years 30 events in the top 15 on the money list earn PGA Tour cards for the following year. But, when it gets right down to it, perhaps the money numbers go beyond that. The top 55 earn spots into the Buy.Com Tours season-ending Tour Championship, and certainly as important, they earn exempt status on the Buy.Com Tour the following year and also a straight pass to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournaments Final Stage, meaning no worries about 1st and 2nd Stage qualifying tension headaches.
All that said, lets talk about a few of those players off to a great start in this dash for cash that is the Buy.Com Tour. 13 of the current top 15 on the money list are in the field this week at the Richmond Open.
1. Deane Pappas ($161,600) ' 3rd on Tour in Scoring Average, 2nd on Tour in putting average. Winner of Buy.Com events in 2000 and 2001. The South African has played the PGA Tour before (1999) and you can bet experience will pay off in the long run for him.
2. Jonathan Byrd ($128,700) ' As a rookie, 1st on Tour in all-around ranking, driving distance, total driving and sand save percentage. The 23-year-old Clemson Tiger started the year as a Monday qualifier and has since won a tournament and more importantly the respect of every player on this tour. Appears to be a cant-miss prospect.
3. Tim Petrovic ($116,728) ' Tops on Tour in scoring average (69.59). He started the year without fully-exempt status and has made the most of it with two runner-up finishes this year. Played the Buy.Com Tour in 1993 and 1999. The soon-to-be 35-year-old has risen up through the ranks, having played on the Golden Bear Tour and paid his dues as a cook and pizza delivery boy at Pizza Hut. Like a fine crust, his hopes of graduation are rising!
4. Paul Claxton ($113,661) ' Known as the Georgia Gentleman on tour, hes finally getting a mean-streak in him on the course. A winner this year already in Louisiana and he came from 4 strokes back on Sunday to do it. Hes played the PGA Tour as well, and is trying to find a consistency that will help him at the next level.
5. Chris Couch ($112,273) ' A super-long hitter and winner this year in the first event on the schedule at Gainesville,FL. Hes played a full year on the PGA Tour, and like so many before him, found out his game needs some work. 11th on Tour in the all-around ranking and 8th in birdie average, those are numbers he can be proud of . Now he needs to keep it up.
6. Brenden Pappas ($98,158) ' Yes, the brother of the man who sits at No. 1 on the money list. In fact, there are three Pappas brothers with plenty of game. What makes Brendens year so special is that hes a rookie. He has a 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finish this year. A South African Tour veteran, he was the Teardrop Tours Order of Merit winner in 2000. Very talented, and the family competition will help as the year progresses.
9. Chad Campbell ($88,097) ' Another of the cant-miss kids if you believe what you hear walking up and down the practice tee on this tour. His resume speaks for itself. While he only played eight Buy.Com Tour events prior to 2001, he dominated on the Hooters Tour winning eight of the first 16 tournaments on the 2000 schedule! Enough said. 7th in scoring average, 1st in greens in regulation. Look out PGA Tour.
10. Brett Quigley ($84,976) ' If this guy doesnt provide the answer to just how talent-filled the Buy.Com Tour is, then find me someone who does! Always known as Mr. Bubble on the PGA Tour, hes never been able to stick around the big tour full-time. So earlier this year, he won the Arkansas Classic on the Buy.Com Tour and then the next week when his number came up at the PGA Tours Greater Greensboro Chrylser Classic came up, he took off and finished 2nd. So now whats he to do? Almost enough to lock up a PGA Tour card with his earnings there and guaranteed a spot on this tour next year because of his win at Arkansas. Not a bad problem to have.
12. Ryuji Imada ($65,587) ' Also qualifies as the real deal. His name comes up often among players looking for a great swing and a gift for dealing with the hype. Won on Buy.Com Tour as rookie in 2000. Has narrowly missed his PGA Tour card at Q-School the last two years. His time will come soon enough. 4th on Tour in putting average, 2nd in eagles (holes per), 8th in all-around ranking. Look for a follow-up win this year , or maybe more!
With those names as a backdrop, pay attention to the Buy.Com Tour. It has been said that it just might qualify as the 2nd best Tour in the world. I dont know if its reached the level of the European Tour for star power just yet, but for depth of field and promising prospects, it very well could be the No.2.
And one final thing: if a player happens to say in an interview this week or next that hes not thinking about the money and just letting things take care of themselves, dont be so quick to believe the cash conversation didnt happen over dinner with other players the night before!