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Every shot matters on the PGA Tour

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Every shot matters.

Over the course of a season, PGA Tour players will remind us that they need to just go out and “play one shot at a time,” and afterward might lament that they “left a few out there,” and that throughout the day there were a couple of “loose shots” or “lapses in concentration” and, well, if a few more putts had fallen, “it could have been a really low round.”

Normally, that’s just players-speak during a 72-hole tournament, a convenient and clichéd response when a voice recorder is stuffed in their face.

Not this week.

Entering the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Classic, the final stop on the PGA Tour schedule, only $7,318 separates Nos. 123-127 on the money list. Yes, just $7,318 – the difference between grinding and pure glee, between the Web.com and PGA Tours, between Q-School and courtesy cars. That blade-of-Bermuda grass thin.

Maybe every shot really does matter.

So, with a tip of the cap to Golf Channel’s research department, here are the bubble boys who wish they really could have those one or two shots back – the guys who actually did leave a few out there:

No. 124 Rod Pampling ($620,893 in 25 starts): Remember the Farmers Insurance Open? Quick summary: Kyle Stanley collapses, Brandt Snedeker steals the title. Well, in the second round at Torrey Pines, Pampling missed a par putt from just outside 4 feet. He eventually shot 75 that day.

It seemed innocuous at the time, of course, but had he made that putt, had he shot 74, he would have earned $201,000 instead of $162,000 (T-8) that week. It was the 43-year-old’s first and only top 10 of the season, and just his third in the past three years.

Why is that a big deal? Because that extra $39,000 he could have earned in San Diego would have provided him more of a cushion over No. 125 entering this week’s season finale – from just less than $1,000 to more than $40,000. This time of year, that slight bump makes a huge difference.

No. 125 Billy Mayfair ($619,961 in 27 starts): The 46-year-old’s best tournament of the year was the RBC Heritage, where he shot 67-69 on the weekend to finish T-4. His next-best finish in 2012 was a T-12 in the Mayakoba Classic, an event played opposite the WGC-Cadillac Championship, so the $250,000 paycheck went a long way.

But on the final day at Hilton Head, Kevin Stadler made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that dropped Mayfair into a share of fourth place. Had Mayfair finished alone in fourth, he would have earned $22,800 more and would sit in 123th place on the money list entering the Disney event. Thanks a lot, Stads.

No. 127 Gary Christian ($616,457 in 27 events): His first year on Tour could eventually be marred by two miscues about a month apart.

First, let’s go to the 15th hole at TPC River Highlands, host of the Travelers Championship. In the third round, Christian rinsed his tee shot on the short par 4 en route to a double bogey. (The other three rounds, he made two birdies and a par on that hole.) Had Christian not found the water with that tee shot – had the 41-year-old just made par! – he would have finished 11th, not 18th, and earned $51,600 more that week.

Next, at the RBC Canadian Open, he missed a 4-foot par putt on the par-3 eighth hole in the third round. It was his only bogey over the final 36 holes, during which he shot 65-66 and finished T-10. Had he made par, he would have finished T-7, earned an extra $37,050, and the Englishman would have been inside the top 125 bubble entering this week’s season finale. Poor bloke.

No. 128 Alexandre Rocha ($605,117 in 20 events): His best chance to win this season came at the Reno-Tahoe Open, which uses the Modified Stableford scoring system. Worth points or strokes, it mattered little – in the third round, Rocha missed a 3-foot par putt on the 17th hole to lose a point. Alas, one point, in fact, would become the eventual margin of victory, with J.J. Henry hoisting the trophy.

So instead of beginning his 2013 season in the winners-only event in Kapalua, Rocha is scrapping for his Tour card at Disney, where dreams either really do come true … or they’re mercilessly crushed in front of thousands of fans.

No. 129 Bill Lunde ($593,598 in 24 events): Tour players rarely miss from inside 3 feet. Yet Lunde missed a shorty during the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open, costing him $59,333 in potential prize money (or the difference between T-8 and his eventual T-13). The rub: Had he converted that tiddler, Lunde would have been No. 123 on the money list entering this week. That $1million Kodak Challenge bonus can’t last forever, you know.

No. 130 D.J. Trahan ($587,407 in 26 events): Phoenix Open, final day, opening hole. Trahan, a two-time Tour winner, missed a par putt from 4 feet, 6 inches. Had that putt fallen, had he made par instead of dropping a shot, he would have finished 13 under for the week, good for a two-way tie for third, good for an extra $61,000 in prize money. Which means that he would have been 123rd on the money list entering this week. Which means that he wouldn’t have been in imminent danger of losing his Tour card.