by Jeff Skinner
With the leaves falling in the Northeast and snow already on the ground in the Midwest it is easy to think that the golf season is over for some. However, for many professional golfers this is the most important part of the season. There are only three tournaments remaining on The PGA Tour for players to earn their way into the top 125 on the money list. The top 125 earn full playing privileges for 2010 and essentially can make their own schedule for next season and breathe easy for another year.
The advantage of being in the top 125 is incredibly significant. Case in point is last week’s winner, Martin Laird. Laird finished at 125th on the 2008 PGA Tour Money List with slightly over $850,000. He was able to play in all the regular season tour events he wished and he needed to at the start. He opened the season by missing the cut in eight of his first nine tournaments earning $11,679 from January to the middle of April. He started to find his game in May and finished well towards season’s end, culminating in his win at The Timberlake. If he had not earned his card, he would have not been able to play in anywhere near the 23 events he played in so far this year. The top 125 means the difference between knowing you have a job to go to and the insecurity of being “semi-employed.”
There are many players flirting with the magic spot of 125. Chris Stroud is the ‘bubble boy’ who sits at 125th this week. Former Ryder Cupper, Chris Riley is at #130. Surprisingly, Stuart Appleby is at #132 and far removed from 2006 when he last won (twice) and earned $3.4 million. Former world number one, David Duval is currently 121st on the list and hoping to stay there. Duval has been relying on sponsor’s exemptions to earn enough to get his card back. Even with the tour’s marquee players at home, the Frys.com Open and the rest of the Fall Series offers plenty of excitement and emotion.
The boys on The Nationwide Tour play their final and biggest event of the season when they tee it up at The Nationwide Tour Championship. This is one exciting and nerve wracking weekend for these guys. The top 25 money leaders get their PGA Tour Card and a ticket to the big show. The Nationwide Tour does it right this weekend and it will hand out “Tour Cards” to the top 25 in a ceremony immediately after the end of the tournament.
What makes this so exciting is that all 60 players in the field, even #60 Darron Stiles, can make it into the top 25. Check out all the scenarios. There are many familiar names trying to make it to the “Big Tour” this week: Bob May, Skip Kendall, Estaban Toledo, Bubba Dickerson and a 44 year old former PGA Tour player, Fran Quinn. Quinn, who was on the PGA Tour in 1992, has been playing in the minor leagues for more years than he would like to remember. He has been as dedicated to this game as any professional has ever been. He is at #20 on the money list and has a good chance to earn his card with a good finish. I can’t think of a more emotional way to end the tournament and the season, with those top 25 holding their Tour Cards. There will be plenty of cheers and tears on Sunday night.