Insider: Time is now for strong runs as FedExCup Playoffs near

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July 03, 2013

By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

It’s that time of year. Time to watch the leaderboards.

Not just the leaderboards at The Greenbrier Classic; it’s time to study the FedExCup standings.

It may seem like summer has just begun, but the day of reckoning is quickly approaching on the PGA TOUR. After The Greenbrier Classic, there are a half dozen weeks before the FedExCup Playoffs begin.

That means six potential tournaments to enter before the FedExCup Playoffs or you will be trying to requalify for the 2014 PGA TOUR.

As players survey their situation, it’s easy to rationalize their positions.

The West Coast swing can lend itself to a slow start, knocking the rust off your game from a winter layoff. Florida is always dicey with weather and Bermuda rough. A player can catch some unfortunate tee times with the bad end of the draw in windy springtime tournaments and there are those limited-field events that some players did not qualify for in April and May.

It’s easy to understand how a player got himself into this predicament, ranking outside the top 125 in FedExCup standings and jeopardizing his status for 2014.

While it’s easy for a player to rationalize his situation, the reasoning doesn’t matter. The PGA TOUR is the largest meritocracy in the world. You are rewarded by how you play. Don’t like your standing? Then play better golf.

It’s that simple.

For some, a season that started with such promise at the Sony Open has now become a grind.

I picked Luke List for Rookie of the Year. He stands 165th in the FedExCup standings.

Casey Wittenberg led the Web.com Tour money list in 2012.  He sits 151st in the FedExCup standings.

How can two such talented players be in danger of losing their PGA TOUR status?

List is third on TOUR in driving distance but 161st in strokes gained-putting. Wittenberg is 52nd in strokes gained-putting but 151st in driving distance.

Every week is an opportunity. The Greenbrier Classic has a history of producing first-time winners. List or Wittenberg are so talented, they might win this week or the next. Or, they could struggle in the next half dozen tournaments and begin the requalifying process.

There are dozens of players who will be grinding and studying standings these next six weeks.

A half dozen chances to determine your professional future.

Observations

Family time: The Greenbrier Classic took a page from the RBC Heritage and turned this week into a family event for players. You see lots of kids and wives around the grounds. The Greenbrier is very family friendly with plenty of activities following dad’s round of golf. That’s one reason why there is such a quality field. If mom likes the hotel and the kids like the activities, dad is going to enter.

Conditions: This is not close to the same course Stuart Appleby torched for a 59 in 2010.  The Old White TPC has undergone several changes, including tree replacement last fall. The course lost 27 trees during high winds just prior to last year’s tournament and some had to be replaced, including an oak by the 18th tee. Instead of just replacing the tree, tournament officials took the opportunity to build a new tee at the par 3, which will make the hole play 13 yards longer at 175.

Amateur: Forget about Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. One of the larger galleries will be following Pat Carter this week. Who’s he? Carter is an insurance salesman, an amateur from Huntington, W.Va., who received an exemption into the tournament by virtue of winning the West Virginia State Amateur a whopping 13 times. That’s only two wins behind the legendary Bill Campbell. The 45-year-old Carter might be at a disadvantage distance-wise but makes up for his drives with spectacular chipping and putting. Family and friends will crowd the gallery ropes with support.

Winner, winner: The trick to picking a tournament winner is catching a player at his peak. I guessed correctly with Justin Rose at the U.S. Open, but misfired on both John Rollins and Jason Day the last two weeks. Graham DeLaet has posted back-to-back top-10 finishes. Is he at the top of his game or just past the crest? I’m guessing he still has fire in the belly, plus this course has a history of spitting out first-time winners like Scott Stallings and Ted Potter Jr. Graham DeLaet is your champion this week.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.  For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.

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