After letting the dust settle from the medical miracle that was Charlie Beljan’s victory at the Children’s Miracle Classic, it’s time to look down the money list, past the top 125. Who were the biggest surprises not to finish inside No. 125?
There are some real shockers this time around. While a handful, like Angel Cabrera and Stewart Cink, are still living on their major championship exemptions, others are very good players who seem to be struggling, are making a swing change or perhaps are still recovering from injuries. You never really know with golfers unless they fess up and tell you. But no one likes to telegraph a weakness, so determining the reason for their slides is anyone’s guess.
Karlsson is a one-time Order of Merit winner back in 2008, beating out Padraig Harrington for that honor. A year later, he suffered from vision problems which may continue to cause him issues in the future. Apparently, they are stress-related problems that are also seen in pilots and doctors. However, with treatment, it has mostly resolved, and so it is a surprise that Karlsson has not come back strong in the US in 2012. He’s now No. 99 in the World Golf Ranking.
Kim was the darling of the 2008 Ryder Cup at Vahalla and made the Presidents Cup team in 2009. He won two tournaments in 2008 and one in 2009. Then he had a thumb injury which put his career in limbo. Kim remains one of golf’s unsolved mysteries. Since the injury, Kim has not come back to his prior form. Great talent still unrealized.
Villegas was a college star who struggled to get on the PGA Tour. Once there, he became known for his Spiderman style of reading putts, for his physique, for a magazine cover or two and eventually as a winner of quality PGA Tour events, including the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship in 2008. He was on the Presidents Cup team in 2009. However, after winning The Honda Classic in 2010, Villegas has dropped into near obscurity, finishing at No. 148 on the money list. He says that he has just been having fun.
For more than a decade, Stuart Appleby was a stalwart at the Tour Championship. Somehow, he slipped two seasons out of the last three, and for the second time, he has found himself on the wrong side of No. 125. Appleby also turned 40 years old this year. So the question becomes is playing 20-plus years of golf just catching up to him? Or is it perhaps the push from the likes of Rory McIlroy and the others in that age group who are shoving him down the money list.
Lee, who won the U.S. Amateur at a younger age than Tiger Woods, was expected to do great things. When he won the 2009 Johnny Walker Cup, a European Tour event, it seemed that he was destined for stardom. However, trying to get to the PGA Tour turned out to be harder than anticipated. Lee won on the Web.com Tour in 2011 and played on the PGA Tour this year, but he didn't play well enough to stay afloat for 2013. Perhaps the transition to the toughest tour on the planet just requires another season for this youngster who received a Player of the Year award from the R&A in 2009. As Snoopy once said, there’s no bigger burden than great expectations.
In addition to the top five, there are a number of major champions who are either coasting or struggling. Sometimes, climbing a mountain brings a new challenge which could be called the "Now What?" syndrome—as in, "I won a major, now what? Where do I go from here?" For some, it’s always up higher, and for some, it’s always down. Some cannot take the celebrity status. You do not know until it happens.
Our former major champs under the No. 125 mark include Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y.E. Yang.
Yang is probably enough of a celebrity after beating Tiger Woods in his prime that he never has to buy another dinner or drink in his life, at least not in Korea. However, his exemption for the PGA Tour runs out at next year’s PGA Championship.
Lucas Glover discovered that he was not ready for the spotlight and grew a beard, the better to hide with. Can he come back before his exemption runs out? We don’t know.
Retief Goosen still shows signs of brilliance from time to time and won the Transitions in 2009 and the Africa Open that same season. However, his exemption as U.S. Open champ for the second time has expired.
Stewart Cink’s British Open exemption is a lifetime one for that event, but for the rest of the world tours, it’s done in 2014.
Cabrera still has time because of his major championships and does not have to worry about top-125 status for 2013.
Next season, the shortest one on the PGA Tour in some time, will end in October. And that means there are even fewer opportunities for these and other players to retain their PGA Tour cards for 2014.