Money Matters - But Not to All

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Does the name Brian Bateman mean anything to you? Probably not. You may have heard of him ' 33-year-old journeyman pro; Q-school regular; won a Nationwide Tour event back in 98.
 
Odds are, though, that even if you have heard the name, you wouldnt recognize him if he was sitting right in front of you ' which would have been the case had you been in the media center Tuesday at the Funai Classic at Walt Disney World.
 
Brian Bateman
Brian Bateman is 125th on the PGA TOUR money list by $648.
Brian Bateman. Media center. The two dont seem to go hand-in-hand, especially not prior to tournament play. Kind of like John Daly and practice.
 
The press center, leading up to an event, is usually reserved for notable players, local favorites and news makers ' basically, anybody whom a group of reporters would be willing interview.
 
So why would anyone want to Q&A Bateman, let alone more than one person? Well, it could do with the fact that hes currently in the 125th position on the PGA TOUR money list.
 
There are only two full-field events left on the 06 TOUR schedule, this weeks stop outside the Magic Kingdom and next weeks Chrysler Championship outside of Tampa.
 
And until Tiger Woods, who decided it wasnt worth his time to drive the 10 minutes from his home in Isleworth to Disney, returns to try and extend his winning streak at the TOUR Championship, money is not only the bottom line, but the only story line.
 
Money, they say, isn't everything. It is, however, about all there is to talk about right now in men's golf.
 
Tiger is taking off four weeks. Phil Mickelson is taking off four months. And there are no tournaments ' or even personalities ' compelling enough to grab ones viewing attention. Not when college football is in mid-season, the NFL is full of steam, and the World Series is near.
 
Golf, at best, has once again been relegated to a tertiary sport.
 
But thats the way it goes this time of year. And thats something that Tim Finchem and company are hoping to change in 2007. With the introduction of the FedEx Cup, the TOUR Championship will conclude Sept. 16, at the infancy of the football season and well before the start of the baseball playoffs.
 
Theres one caveat: the golf season isnt over after the TOUR Championship. There are still seven tournaments to be played as part of a Fall Series. Seven tournaments that most likely wont feature Tiger or Phil. Seven tournaments that will fight it out with football and baseball for the publics enthrallment. Seven tournaments that will miserably lose that fight.
 
Seven tournaments where money and the securing of playing privileges will be the only points of interest.
 
Sound like a familiar scenario?
 
This time of year is for the die-hard fan, the person who simply loves watching the game. Its for the golf addict, the person who actually watches a Golf Channel infomercial ' someone who could probably use an intervention (but, God love you; you help keep me employed).
 
For those of you who are actually interested, there are several money lines worth keeping an eye on over the next few weeks. The top 20 in earnings at seasons end qualify for next years Open Championship. The top 30 get into the U.S. Open. The top 40 make the Masters Tournament field.
 
The top 30 by the end of next weeks Chrysler Championship qualify for the TOUR Championship. The top 125 earn full exempt playing status on TOUR next season. And, perhaps the most important ' and most overlooked ' of them all is that those who finish between 126 and 150 retain partial playing status in 2007.
 
Finishing inside the top 150 is crucial. Last year, Briny Baird was 126th in earnings, about $2,500 shy of Nick Price for the 125th spot. But because he was inside the top 150, he retained partial status and has been able to play in 24 tournaments this year (hes not playing this week because he has already wrapped up his card for next season).
 
Meanwhile, Tom Gillis was 156th on last years money list, and because he lost his status hes been playing full time on the Nationwide Tour this year (hes currently 108th on their money list).
 
You want to be in the top 150, so at least you still have status and you still have the ability to get in tournaments, Bateman said in his press conference. But I want to make sure I keep my card.
 
Bateman is in the field this week trying to do just that, trying to add to his tenuous $648 lead over John Cook, who had to beg tournament officials for a spot in this weeks field. Cook is playing this year on his Past Champion status and is trying to finish inside the top 125 for the first time in four years.
 
Apparently, however, not everyone shares in the veterans urgency.
 
This time of year may be all about money, but, in this time of excess, when 88 players have already pocketed over $1 million in a single year, sometimes not even money can make people care ' even when theyre the beneficiaries.
 
Ernie Els and Tim Clark, Nos. 29 and 30 on the money list, are not in attendance trying to secure their spots in the TOUR Championship field. And Steve Stricker and Tim Herron, Nos. 32 and 33, are likewise MIA.
 
(Stricker has said that he is shutting it down for the season, forgoing any chance at qualifying for East Lake in order to spend some well-deserved time with his family.)
 
Others notably absent this week are Daly and David Duval. Duvals five-year exemption from winning the 2001 Open Championship runs out at the end of this year. Dalys two-year exemption from winning the 2004 Buick Invitational also expires.
 
Both men are currently outside the top 170 in earnings. And both are anywhere but Lake Buena Vista.
 
Duval, who won at Disney in 1997, can rely on a one-time exemption for being inside the top 25 on the TOURs career money list (he can use a one-time exemption for being inside the top 50 on that list next year, if needed).
 
Similarly, Bob Tway and Price, who are also outside the top 170 on the money list (but both in this week's field), can use top 50 exemptions next year, if necessary.
 
Daly doesnt have that option, as he is 76th in career earnings. Of course, Daly can always rely on his Past Champion status and his public appeal (he can receive seven sponsor's exemptions next year) to get into events. It's likely that is what he will have to do, since he hasn't played since withdrawing from last week's Las Vegas event due to a broken finger.
 
John Daly. Las Vegas. A broken appendage. Now there's an intriguing storyline ' even more so if it involves money.
 
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