The PGA Tour has officially arrived at The Last Chance Saloon.
This week’s Children’s Miracle Network Classic, at the Disney Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL, will be the final opportunity for players to earn the most coveted prize in all of golf: a PGA Tour card.
Upon the conclusion of the Children’s Miracle Network Classic, those players who fall within the top-125 on the tour’s money list will retain their cards for the 2010 season.
Those who fall between 125-150 on the money list are eligible to receive an unlimited number of sponsor’s exemptions in 2010 and are also exempt into the final stage of the tour’s qualifying school.
However, finishing between 125-150 on the money list and not advancing through the final stage of Q-School could produce a logistical nightmare, particularly for those players who have become accustomed to creating their own schedules.
Players who hold PGA Tour cards are given the first opportunity to fill fields at each tournament. For that reason, players who finish between 125-150 on the money list are often forced to wait until the last minute to find out whether or not they have been admitted into tournaments.
When picturing players who are out there fighting for their livelihood in golf, you typically envision younger, lesser known guys just trying to keep their head above water, or older guys who are desperately trying to hang on until they turn 50 and become eligible for the Champions Tour.
However, that’s not always the case.
Here are six well-known players who are in danger of losing their PGA Tour cards.
Ricky Barnes is best known for two achievements: defeating Hunter Mahan in the finals of the 2002 US Amateur, and finishing tied for second in this year’s US Open at Bethpage.
It can be difficult to fathom how a player who had a 25-foot putt to force an 18-hole playoff at the US Open just four months ago is now in danger of losing his tour card for the 2010 season.
But Barnes’ performance at the US Open was his only top-10 finish this year.
Between mid-July and Mid-October, Barnes missed six consecutive cuts.
His best finish outside of the US Open came three weeks ago at the Frys.com Open where he tied for 39th.
The $559,830 Barnes earned at Bethpage is the only reason why he’s currently 121st on the money list.
Outlook: Very Good
Unless Barnes misses the cut and several players outside of the top-125 play extremely well this week at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic, he should keep his tour card for at least one more year.
Rich Beem is probably best known for his goofy little dance on the 18th green at Hazeltine National Golf Club back in 2002.
However, what some tend to forget is that Beem’s little dance was sparked by winning the 2002 PGA Championship over a surging Tiger Woods.
Beem’s 2002 PGA Championship victory carried with it a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, which ended after the 2007 season.
Last year, Beem finished 140th on the money list, which gave him conditional status for the 2009 season.
The 2002 PGA Champion is currently ranked 124th on the money list and is one solid week away from regaining his tour card for the 2010 season.
A decent week at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic should secure a 2010 tour card for Beem. Even if Beem does finish outside of the top-125 this year, he still has an ace in the hole—he’s a likable character that will have no problem securing a large number of sponsors' exemptions during the 2010 season if he were not to make it through the final stage of Q-School.
David Duval (Bubble Boy)
Ah, David Duval...this generation’s tragic hero.
David Duval represents every PGA Tour player’s worst fear. He is what keeps both successful and struggling tour professionals awake at night.
Ten years ago, Duval was the No. 1 player in the world. Between 1997 and 2001, he won 13 events; the last of which came at the 2001 British Open.
His 59 in the final round of the 1999 Bob Hope Classic, which was exactly what he needed to edge out Steve Pate by a stroke, is considered by many to be one of the greatest rounds ever played in tournament golf.
But in a matter of months, between late 2002 and 2003, Duval simply lost his golf game, and he has been trying to regain it ever since.
For four days in June, we were given a small glimpse of exactly what David Duval is still capable of when he tied for second at the US Open.
Many thought that this performance could provide the fuel that would reignite Duval’s fire.
But it was not to be.
Following his second-place finish at Bethpage, Duval managed to make the cut in just one out of his next seven events.
Like Rickey Barnes, he finds himself within the top-125 based almost solely on his performance at the US Open.
Outlook: On the Fence
Ranked 125th on the tour’s money list, Duval is sitting on top of the proverbial fence and he could fall either way. He could play well and land on a 2010 PGA Tour card or he could miss the cut and be forced to take a trip back to Q-School or rely on sponsors exemptions next year.
Even more so than Rich Beem, Duval will have little trouble securing a large number of sponsor’s exemptions. Duval has garnered a cult following of fans who desperately seek a feel-good comeback story.
Duval could have easily retired, sat on his millions of dollars and spent the rest of his days relaxing with his family and enjoying his second love—snowboarding. But whether he ever wins another PGA Tour event or not, there is and always will be something admirable about a man who simply refuses to give up on his dreams.
Last season, Stuart Appleby earned $2.48 million and finished 23rd on the tour’s money list.
Appleby is an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour and has been a member of four Presidents Cup teams.
But in a prototypical case of just how quickly things can take a turn for the worse on the PGA Tour, Appleby is now in danger of losing his tour card for the 2010 season.
2009 will be the first time in more than a decade that Appleby has failed to earn more than $1 million in a single season.
Outlook: It’s Over.
Appleby has already packed it in for the 2009 PGA Tour season, despite being 134th on the money list. Appleby will attend the JBWere Australian Masters this week where he is hosting a free golf clinic for children, which Tiger Woods is scheduled to speak at.
Appleby will either attend the final stage of Q-School in December or rely on sponsors exemptions next year.
Although it’s somewhat hard to believe, Chris DiMarco’s ranking of 136th on the 2009 PGA Tour money list is actually an improvement upon his 2008 season where he finished 146th.
DiMarco has three PGA Tour wins and has been a member of two Ryder Cup teams and two Presidents Cup teams.
At the 2005 Masters, a miraculous chip-in by Tiger Woods on the par three 16th hole of the final round was all that came between DiMarco and a green jacket.
Tiger Woods’ chip-in on the 16th (better known now as the “In your life have you seen anything like that” chip-in) is considered to be one of the greatest shots in Masters’ history and catapulted Woods to an eventual victory over DiMarco in a sudden death playoff.
In 2006, DiMarco again finished second only to Woods in a major championship. This time it was at the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
DiMarco’s recent collapse has not been any where near as extreme as what David Duval has been and is still going through. However, DiMarco is treading furiously just to keep his head above water.
Unless DiMarco finishes inside of the top-five this week at Disney, he will be attending Q-School in December or will be relying on sponsors' exemptions for the second consecutive season in 2010.
Tiger Woods won the 2008 US Open—while playing on a broken leg no less—but you’d never know it based on the amount of attention Rocco Mediate received in the days, weeks, and month followings their epic dual at Torrey Pines.
The guy that Johnny Miller referred to as “Tiger Woods’ pool boy” became America’s lovable loser.
Rocco appeared on the Tonight Show , the Letterman Show, was asked to participate in the 2008 Skins Game, and renowned sports writer John Feinstein even wrote a book about him.
However, the position Rocco now finds himself in is a painful reminder that despite capturing the hearts and minds of a nation, he was not the one walking out of Torrey Pines with the US Open Trophy last year.
Rocco is currently 141st on the tour’s money list and will need to finish no worse than third this week to retain his PGA Tour card for the 2010 season.
Although Rocco is unlikely to keep his PGA Tour card for the 2010 season, he should have no trouble whatsoever securing sponsors' exemptions if he were not to make it through Q-School.
As a result of his performance at last year’s US Open, Rocco has became one of the most lovable and recognizable players on tour, which makes him a sponsor’s dream.
On Another Note
Rickie Fowler and Jamie Lovemark are not in danger of losing their PGA Tour cards because neither player ever had one to begin with. However, they are both attempting to do something that only four players have accomplished in the past 20 years.
Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore are the only players in the past two decades who have turned pro and immediately earned enough money to avoid a trip to Q-School.
Fowler will probably need to earn $70,000 or more to automatically secure a spot on the PGA Tour for the 2010 season. A Top-10 finish this week should be all Fowler needs.
Lovemark will likely need to finish no worse than third this week to avoid a trip to Q-School.
Both players earning their 2010 PGA Tour cards this week may sound like a stretch...until you realize that Fowler and Lovemark tied for second just three weeks ago at the Frys.com Open.