This Week its Shoot Par - Say So Long


What a difference a week makes on the Tour. Last week at Seaside, California's Bayonet Course only three men broke par for the week. This week in the land of the sun we might not have three players over par when it's all said and done. Welcome one and all to the Gila River Golf Classic at Wild Horse Pass Resort where low numbers will come in bunches each and every day. If shooting even par is the goal, a player might as well book the flight or gas-up the car for Friday night right now.
The Devil's Claw Course at the Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Arizona makes its money off resort guests during the year. But this week, the best this tour has to offer will try to make as much cash as they can on a course that really doesn't have much defense against the field.
Ben Crane won here last year in a four-hole playoff against Jason Caron and Bo Van Pelt where 23-under was the magic number. Point being - you'd better be ready to see a lot of birdies!
Everyone who is someone on the Tour money list is here this week being that there are only 2 weeks left before the Tour Championship. And if birdies are the recipe for success take a look at those ranking high in one of two key statistics.
First is 'birdies per round' which means Jason Caron, Aaron Baddeley, Mark Hensby, Patrick Moore, Todd Fischer, Charles Warren and Chris Couch would deserve a look-see.
Second is 'driving distance' which means Victor Schwamkrug, Stiles Mitchell, Jason Gore, Todd Barranger, Tommy Biershenk and Tom Carter might need some attention.
This course measures 6,994 at a par of 71. But it hardly plays that long and par is really about 68. So anybody who shoots par for two days might as well not show up. They won't make the cut.
With just two events left before that Tour Championship the 'bubble' is taking on some added importance outside of the always talked about Top 15. Sure, Top 15 earns you a PGA Tour card next year, but Top 30 is pretty big as well. It assures a player full-exempt status out here next year while also allowing a player to bypass the first and second stages of the PGA Tour's Qualifying Tournament. Top 55 gets you to the Tour Championship and also earns a player full-exempt status on the Tour for 2003. Top 70 allows a player to bypass stage one of the Qualifying Tournament and also provides for conditional status on this tour next year.
All that being said, guys like Omar Uresti (18), Jason Caron (19), Emlyn Aubrey (32), Dave Stockton, Jr. (42) and Tjaart van der Walt (58) have a lot to play for this week.
Pressure is what you put on yourself according to the players. But the bubble numbers tell a big story this week, which can't make handling it any easier. Time to focus on good golf and a good number of birdies as well!