The Nationwide Tour plays its Tour Championship this week in Prattville, Ala. Sunday at tournaments end, there will be so many things decided:
Top 20 on money list graduate to the PGA Tour;
Top 35 advance into the final stage of Q-School;
Top 55 (the Tour Championship field) fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour in 2005;
Top 70 advance directly into second stage of Q-School.
Since only 55 men make the field, Nos. 56-70 go into that last qualification. And the top 100 on the final Nationwide list retain conditional Nationwide Tour membership for next season. Those outside the top 100 must return to the first stage of the qualifying tournament.
Jimmy Walker enters this final week in first place on the money-winning ladder with $367,283, with D.A. Points trailing by only $30,000 dollars. But the places that are most important are those around the 20th position, where PGA Tour cards for next season are in the offing.
Those in positions Nos. 16 though 20th are most vulnerable ' Darren Stiles, Michael Long, Gavin Coles, Nick Watney and David McKenzie. All need a good week to preserve their standing.
On the other hand, everyone in the field theoretically stands a chance of finishing inside the coveted number of 20 with the $112,500 winners check.
The Golf Channel will broadcast all four days from the Nationwide Tour Championship, including the card ceremony at the conclusion of the event.
A promotion to the PGA Tour means playing for more than $270 million in prize money, compared to the $15 million that the Nationwide Tour plays for. The difference in the reward of 20th - or 21st - in money is enormous.
'It's a little nerve-racking,' said Brett Wetterich, who goes into the tournament in the No. 23 spot on the money rankings. Every shot counts now. All the money counts.'
Wetterich appreciates what making the PGA Tour means. He made it through Q-School to earn his PGA card for the 2000 season, but injured his wrist after nine events. He required surgery and missed 18 months of golf. After recovering, he failed to keep his card playing on a major medical extension in 2002, bumping him back to the Nationwide Tour.
'Getting a tour card, that's on everybody's mind,' said Bubba Watson. 'That's why we're out here, to move up. It's fun and it's nerve-racking at the same time.'