LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With a name like Roland Churchill Thatcher IV, you'd think the former Auburn University product is some sort of royalty who wouldn't have to worry about such trivial things as a money list.
"No, we come from a long line of auto workers and Navy families," Thatcher joked. "My father was a retired airline pilot. I might have an in as a baggage handler at Southwest if I had to."
Well, Thatcher could be headed for q-school, which is sort of the PGA TOUR's version of baggage handling, if he doesn't win or finish solo second atthis week's Children's Miracle Network Classic. He's 179th on the money list and needs to work his way into the top 125 to keep his card.
Even if he didn't finish in the top 125, though, Thatcher, who has just one top-10 this season, was fine with the reality of a somewhat uncertain future. After all, players who finish between 126th and 150th on the money list still have conditional status on TOUR and most of those players get upwards of 20 starts, or more, in any given year. The only difference is they don't know exactly what tournaments they'll get into.
But when you back up a 65 with a 63, things change.
"Obviously the goal has changed after these first two rounds; I'd like to skip second stage finals if I can," said Thatcher, who has a four-stroke lead with 36 holes to play. "I'm hoping to have a nice long off season and start the year early next year."
Stories like Thatcher's are what the Fall Series, and the season-ending Children's Miracle Network Classic, are all about in a place aptly characterized by Disney's slogan "Where Dreams Come True."
"Pun intended, I wouldn't mind being referred to as Cinderella for the week," Thatcher said. "On the Nationwide Tour in '06 I played pretty poorly all year and was on the bubble going into one of the last two events and finished fourth, which locked up my Nationwide card. So it wasn't quite as dramatic as locking up the PGA TOUR card, but no less important to me at the time.
"Hopefully I'll be able to draw on some of that and just try to go out and play well. If I go out and play solid the next two rounds on a good golf course, I've got a pretty good chance to avoid all that."
Through the first two rounds, Thatcher has done just that. His 63 Friday was his lowest score of the year by two strokes and he's made just one bogey this week, which is what happens when you're third in putting and fifth in greens in regulation and fairways hit on the Palm and Magnolia Courses.
Thatcher is hardly the only player with a lot to play for this weekend.
In the tournament within the tournament, Troy Merritt, Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley are tied for the Kodak Challenge lead after Fowler birdied the par-4 17th Friday. If Merritt can birdie the hole sometime over the next two days, he'll likely win. If not, there very well could be a three-way playoff for the $1 million prize.
As Fowler said earlier this week, "Hey, a million bucks is still a million bucks."
Then there's Robert Garrigus. At 122nd on the money list, Garrigus came to Disney needing a good week. So far, he's having one with rounds of 68 and 65 that have him alone in fourth.
Garrigus wouldn't be in such a precarious position, of course, had he not had a meltdown in Memphis earlier this year. Leading by three with one hole to play, he triple-bogeyed the final hole to fall into a playoff that he ultimately lost. Had he won, his card would have been secure for two more years. Five months later, it's still weighing on Garrigus' mind.
"I'll never get over it," Garrigus said. "You can't get over something like that, but what you can do is you can learn from it. I think about it all the time.
"That's the thing about being a professional golfer, if you let that stuff affect you, you're not going to be a professional golfer for much longer."
Or have a TOUR card.