Nationwide Tour Year in Review

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Nationwide TourPHILADELPHIA -- Last year the Nationwide Tour made sporadic national headlines following Jason Gore's run at the U.S. Open, his 59 in the Cox Classic and his battlefield promotion to the PGA TOUR. This year might be remembered for its parity, with no player having more than two wins and with only $60,000 separating the No. 1 and No. 5 player on the money list.
 
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ken Duke gets the nod, but not just for winning the money title. He gets the nod because of the way he won the money title.
 
Duke claimed his only victory of the season at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in April, then posted just one more top-5 finish over the next three months.
 
But he chased down Johnson Wagner and eventually surpassed him for the money lead with a string of four top-5s in 50 days. The last was a runner-up finish at the PalmettoPride Classic, where he lost a Monday playoff to Michael Sim.
 
In the end, Duke also looked good as a top-10 player in nine Nationwide Tour statistical categories. He tied for the lead in top-10 finishes (9) and ranked third in scoring average.
 
Parity paints a muddled picture, and Duke just barely stood out.
 
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR
The Nationwide Tour Championship had all the necessary ingredients for a great tournament, including relevance, a good field and a dramatic finish. The season's swan song did not disappoint.
 
Craig Kanada began the final round six shots off the lead, and stepping onto the 17th tee he still trailed by two. Moments later, it looked even more desperate after Kanada knocked his approach into a bunker and then blasted his third into the rough.
 
But his next swing would set in motion an almost unbelievable chain of events.
 
Kanada holed a delicate chip to save par. Then, at the 18th, his approach landed short of the green, but it didn't matter -- Kanada pitched in for a birdie to finish off a round of 6-under 66.
 
Playing two groups behind, Matt Kuchar bogeyed the 17th and parred the 18th to hand Kanada his second title of the season.
 
SHOT OF THE YEAR
Kanada claimed his second win in 2006 without removing his putter on the 71st and 72nd hole at the Tour Championship. The victory moved Kanada from 32nd to 11th on the money list and secured him a spot on the PGA TOUR next season.
 
'[After 16] I decided not to use the putter anymore,' Kanada joked after the tournament. 'Those were two phenomenal chips and they gave me a memory that will last a lifetime.'
 
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
A 2005 graduate of Pepperdine University, Michael Putnam didn't wait long to make his presence known as a top rookie. At the Rheem Classic in May, a month before his 23rd birthday, Putnam fired a final-round 67 to force a playoff with Darron Stiles.
 
Putnam didn't win the tournament -- Stiles parred the first extra hole to take it -- but his 67 was the third-best score on Sunday and it signaled the arrival of a serious challenger.
 
It was also the first of five top-10 finishes for the youngster, who ended 17th on the money list to punch his ticket to the PGA TOUR -- where he placed fourth at last year's Buick Championship.
 
GOOD YEAR
Johnson Wagner - He didn't win the money title this season, he didn't collect the most top-5s or top-10s, and you probably don't know his name. But Wagner did finish second on the money list behind Duke and was one of five players who collected two wins. He was consistently good from start to finish.
 
Kevin Stadler - A golfing nomad this year, Stadler played events on the Nationwide Tour, the PGA TOUR and the European Tour. The son of a better-known father, Stadler held his own with two wins and three top-5 finishes while making the cut in 10 of his 15 Nationwide Tour starts.
 
Tripp Isenhour, Brandt Snedeker - Like Wagner, Kanada and Stadler, these guys both collected two wins this season. Isenhour was fifth on the money list, Snedeker was ninth, and they combined for eight top 10s.
 
BAD YEAR
Ben Bates - A two-time Nationwide Tour winner, Bates had the worst year among full-time players. He made only five cuts in 23 starts -- missing 12 of the last 13 -- and didn't finish higher than 30th in any event. He ended 183rd on the money list with just $10,335 in earnings.
 
  • 2006 Nationwide Tour Money List