Grand finale: More than money on the line at Disney

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Jonas Blixt ranks 35th on the money list and could earn a spot in the 2013 Masters by moving into the top 30.
November 07, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Gary Christian puts it, this is it.

The Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic is the final event of the PGA TOUR season and therein a last opportunity for a number of issues still in doubt to be decided. Most notable among them is the final top 125 on the money list.

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For players who finish inside that magic number here at Disney -- and there are a number of them vying for those coveted spots -- it means full playing privileges for next season. For those who don't, it will mean, in essence, fewer opportunities next year because the Fall Series is being folded into the FedExCup portion of the 2013-14 season.

"If you finish 126th and you don't get a card from q-school, you're basically 50 people behind the guy who is 125th on the money list (next season)," said Jeff Maggert, who is 122nd on the money list entering this week. "You won't get many starts until two, three months into the season, and with a short season you're going to be behind."

Which means there will be added pressure on those flirting with the bubble in the season-ending event here at Disney, where visitors are greeted by a sign that reads: Where Dreams Come True. This week, it is where some could end, or at the very least be altered.

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"You can make it a matter of life and death." Christian, who is 127th on the money list, said. "And if it all goes wrong, it's probably going to affect you more than if you don't treat it as a matter of life and death."

To that point, the 41-year-old rookie is trying to treat it just the opposite. Having grinded out a dozen hardscrabble years split between mini tours and the Web.com Tour, Christian has the benefit of seasoned perspective. The same can't be said for everyone, though.

Charlie Beljan, for example, was in contention entering the weekend at The Greenbrier Classic. He finished in a tie for third. It was a career-best finish for the rookie, but a win would have secured his card for two years. Instead, he enters this week 139th on the money list.

Likewise, Roland Thatcher, who blew a four-shot lead here in the final round two years ago, had a close call earlier this season in Hartford. He shared the lead going into Sunday only to shoot 70 to tie for fourth. He's 159th on the money list. Had he won the Travelers Championship, this week would be a moot point.

Bobby Gates is in a similarly precarious position at 140th on the money list. Last year, he bogeyed the ninth (his final hole) in the final round here and ended up finishing 126th on the money list as a result.

There are a few notable players looking up, too -- Billy Mayfair and Camilo Villegas among them.

Mayfair comes in right on the bubble at No. 125. A year ago, he was on the other side but finished sixth here to easily secure a card..

Four years ago, Villegas won twice. He added another victory in 2010 but hasn't won since. The Colombian has never finished worse than 77th on the money list. This year, he's 150th.

Likewise, Robert Karlsson, who moved to the U.S. specifically to concentrate on the PGA TOUR, doesn't have a top 10 this year and consequently is 161st on the money list. Right behind him is one of just five players to shoot 59 in TOUR event, Stuart Appleby. But he hasn't had a top 10 since last season.

On a more uplifting note, is the battle for Rookie of the Year.

Jonas Blixt, who won the Frys.com Open last month, has a chance to make a push this week, too. He also has a chance to earn a spot in next year's Masters if he can climb into the top 30 on the money list (he's currently 35th), and players who move inside the top 70 also gain entry into all the invitationals next year.

"This is a fun week," Blixt said. "A lot of fans like to watch the majors but this is a really cool week to watch. There's a lot of stress on a lot of people."

Some more than others.

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