Insider: Could there be a Schwab shakeup at AT&T?

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Chris Condon/PGA TOUR
Mark McNulty holds the coveted No. 30 spot on the money list with one event to play before the season finale.
October 24, 2012
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

In politics, an October surprise can change the course of elections and history.

On the Champions Tour, an October surprise is what Phil Blackmar pulled off at the AT&T Championship in 2009.

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Blackmar's stunning victory in San Antonio sent him soaring to No. 30 on the money list -- up 27 spots -- and qualified him for the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Blackmar continued to play well at the Charles Schwarb Cup Championship. With three rounds in the 60s, Blackmar finished fifth behind the winner, John Cook. Blackmar tied for the first-round lead at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship and fifth place was worth $141,000. He earned $658,313 for the season, with $490,000 coming in the final month.

Is there another October surprise in the offing this week at the AT&T Championship?

The top 30 on the Champions Tour money list will advance to next week's season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Bernhard Langer leads both the Charles Schwab Cup points list and the money list. The race at the top is intense with eight golfers still in with a chance to win the Charles Schwab Cup.

At the other end of the chase, Larry Mize and Mark McNulty are the bubble boys. Mize has moved to No. 29 during a nice late-season surge.

McNulty is No. 30.

Here's the rub for the pursuers: In the last two years, the top 30 hasn't changed at the AT&T Championship.

The margin between McNulty and Tom Kite, who is 31st, is $32,506. A solo 15th finish in San Antonio is worth $33,300 while last-place money is $758.50 -- a difference of $32,541.50. That's the challenge confronting Kite this week.

But there's more, thanks to the Blackmar scenario. First place at the AT&T Championship is $277,500. That means, with a victory, that anybody within that amount of No. 30 on the money list has an outside chance to play himself into the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. The list is very long. It goes all the way down to David Peoples, who is No. 51 on the money list with $244,479. Between McNulty and Peoples are a group of golfers who have played particularly well late in the campaign so there's potential for something unexpected to happen again.

How's this for an irony? In 2009, Blackmar's big year in San Antonio, Mize and McNulty tied for 10th at the Charles Schwarb Cup Championship at Sonoma Golf Club. Mize finished sixth on the money list that year and McNulty was 12th.

Mize and McNulty are playing good golf at the moment and are in control of their destiny.

Mize has won $117,523 in his last three starts. The run started with a tie for sixth at the Pacific Links Hawaii Championship. He tied 12th at Rock Barn where he opened with rounds of 66-67.

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"I'm very pleased with the way I'm playing," Mize said at Rock Barn. "My instructor, Mark Immelman, and I have been working hard. We've got things figured out a little better. It has been a struggle for me at times this year but he's got me swinging better. I'm controlling the golf ball a lot better. I'm out there hitting a lot of greens.

"I've got a good grasp of what I'm trying to do. There were too many loose shots. We tightened it up. The work that we've done (is paying off) and the putter is starting to work as well, which is always a good thing."

McNulty, runner-up at the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, also had a good three-tournament stretch. He was 15th in Hawaii and tied for 10th at the SAS Championship. A final round 68 at Rock Barn moved him up into a tie for 20th. McNulty's earnings over that stretch: $96,750.

It was on the eve of the SAS Championship, in October, that Captain Nick Price named McNulty an assistant for the International team at next year's President's Cup. McNulty played in the Presidents Cup 1994 and 1996. A native of Zimbabwe, McNulty and Price are lifelong friends.

McNulty has won eight times on the Champions Tour, including the 2007 JELD-WEN Tradition.

"When Nick called me to ask if I would be one of his assistants for The Presidents Cup, it did not take me but a second to accept," McNulty said. "Having played The Presidents Cup twice, I am very excited and will look forward to experiencing those wonderful emotions that come with this great competition. I shall do my best to help Nick and the International Team get their hands back on the Cup again."

Price said selecting McNulty was an easy choice.

"Mark is an incredibly amazing competitor," Price said. "He's one of the smartest guys I ever played against, and he's going to be a huge asset."

.hampions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. He can be reached at [golfstix@aol.com].

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