The McGladrey Classic offers the PGA TOUR one of its most scenic settings, as well as a challenging course. Lest you get caught up in the natural beauty on display in this enclave at St. Simons island, though, consider what's at stake in the $4 million event.
Here's a look at some of the extra motivation players will have this week at Sea Island.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: A little more than a month ago, the focus was on the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. Well, there may not be a $10 million bonus to chase right now, but the drama during the Fall Series is just as compelling.
That's because every dollar counts as players make their final pushes to finish in the all-exempt top 125 on the money list. A spot in the top 125 means full membership on TOUR for the 2012 season -- as well as the chance to plan a schedule, rather than writing for sponsor's exemptions or waiting anxioously as an alternate to see if enough players drop out for your number to be called.
Matt Jones is the bubble boy at No. 125 and currently owns a lead of $7,770 over Steve Flesch, the four-time PGA TOUR champ. (Who says this game is easy?) This week's winner gets $720,000 -- but even the smaller shares of that $4 million purse could go a long way for players outside of the magic number.
With just two weeks remaining to secure a TOUR card for 2012, the McGladrey Classic field boasts 21 of the 25 players who currently rank between Nos. 126-150 on the money list. Two of those are major champions -- Angel Cabrera and Louis Oosthuizen -- who still have time remaining on their five-year exemptions but are searching for momentum for next season.
Others, though, like Paul Casey, who contended last week at the Frys.com Open until closing with a 71, are faced with losing their fully exempt status. Casey, whose two-year exemption for winning the 2009 Shell Houston Open is about to run out, currently ranks No. 127 on the money list.
MASTERS INVITATIONS ON LINE: Players who win one of the four Fall Series events get a spot in the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
They won't, however, automatically earn an invite to the Masters -- unless they made the field for last month's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola or finish in the top 30 on the final PGA TOUR money list. That's the situation Sunday's playoff winner, Bryce Molder, finds himself in after his breakthrough victory lifted him to 45th on the money list.
Ditto for Chris Kirk, a Sea Island resident who won the Viking Classic earlier this year. Since that tournament was played opposite the British Open, though, and didn't offer a full allocation of FedExCup points, Kirk won't be getting a Masters invite as things stand now. So the former Georgia standout, who enters the McGladrey Classic ranked 44th on the money list, needs a big week to climb into the top 30.
And there are others with Augusta National on their minds. Spencer Levin trails Kevin Na, who ranks 30th on the money list right now, by $56,604 and three spots while Tommy Gainey, who is 35th, falls $162,724 short. Both would like nothing better than to earn enough money this week to make their Masters debuts next April.
TOP 'O THE MORNING TO YOU: Err, make that the money list.
Webb Simpson, who finished second in the FedExCup after winning two of his final five tournaments, made the short journey from Charlotte, N.C., to Sea Island, Ga., with the Arnold Palmer Award on his mind.
That trophy goes to the man who leads the final money list and Simpson -- after a career-year -- only trails No. 1 Luke Donald by $68,971. He's the only man in the field at the McGladrey Classic who could overtake the Englishman, who is bidding to win the money list on both sides of the Atlantic.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to play, but Luke played well all year, and since I started making a run for the money title, it became pretty important to me to win," Simpson said. "You know, it's similar to TOUR Championship; it's hard not to focus on it. But we're just trying to go out and play as well as we can, and if we win the golf tournament, it makes it all the better."
Donald currently leads the European Tour's Race to Dubai by a more comfortable 1.3 million Euros. No one has ever won the PGA TOUR and European Tour money lists in the same year.
Matt Kuchar, who won last year's Arnold Palmer Award, ranks No. 6 on the money list and is also taking advantage of a rare home game at the McGladrey Classic. But he couldn't overtake either Donald or Simpson -- even with a victory.
NON-MEMBERS SEEKING CARDS: Bud Cauley and Adam Hadwin are not yet members of the PGA TOUR. But they could make enough money this week to secure their cards for the 2012 season.
Cauley, who turned professional in June after his junior season at the University of Alabama, finished third last week at the Frys.com Open to take home $340,000 and earn an exemption into The McGladrey Classic.
Cauley has now made $671,150 -- which gives him Special Temporary Member status on the PGA TOUR. In order to avoid a trip to the PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament, Cauley needs to equal or surpass the earnings of No. 125 on the final 2011 PGA TOUR official money list, currently held by Jones ($602,392). His current earnings would place him No. 114.
Hadwin, a Canadian, has a similar quest. He has earned $432,752 in just four events, with top-10 performances at the RBC Canadian Open (T4) and the Frys.com Open (T7). His top-10 last week at the Frys.com Open earned the 23-year-old an exemption into The McGladrey Classic.
To become a Special Temporary Member for the remainder of 2011, Hadwin will need to earn an additional $130,977 to match last year's final No. 150 (Michael Letzig -- $563,729). If he earns special temporary membership, Hadwin will be exempt into the finals of the PGA TOUR Qualifying School if his non-member earnings at the end of the season fall between Nos. 126 and 150 on the final PGA TOUR money list.
If he finishes No. 125 or higher, he would be exempt for 2012 in the top 125 non-member category. If he does not become a Special Temporary Member and finishes between Nos. 126-150, he would be placed in the Nos. 151-200 category on the Nationwide Tour for next year and would not have status on the PGA TOUR in 2012 unless he qualifies through q-school.