There are 43 players in the Wyndham Championship field trying to earn enough FedExCup points to jump into the top 125 of the standings.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Golf can be a frustrating game, a point illustrated perfectly by one of Bud Cauley’s playing partners in Wednesday’s Wyndham Championship pro-am. Cauley's partner putted from just short of Sedgefield Country Club’s 10th green, then watched his ball seemingly stop before rolling back toward him, past his feet and farther down the fairway.
Cauley can attest to the game’s difficulties. He joined an exclusive club in 2011 by earning his PGA TOUR card without attending q-school. He finished 35th in last year’s FedExCup, nearly qualifying for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in his first full season. The 23-year-old is fighting for his card this week, though.
Cauley ranks 130th in the FedExCup, 18 points behind No. 125 Steven Bowditch; the top 125 at week’s end not only qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs but are fully exempt for the 2013-14 season. If Cauley doesn’t crack the top 125 this week, he’ll have to attend the Web.com Tour Finals to regain his full playing privileges.
“I’ve pretty much played terrible,” said Cauley, who turned pro in 2011 after three All-American seasons at Alabama.
It’s not just the TOUR’s younger set who are concerned with keeping their cards. Stuart Appleby, a nine-time TOUR winner, is No. 123 in the FedExCup standings and not otherwise exempt for the following season. Trevor Immelman, whose five-year exemption for winning the Masters expires at season’s end, is 148th in the FedExCup.
PGA TOUR rookie Scott Langley ranks 121st in the FedExCup, 25 points ahead of Bowditch; Langley called Wyndham week “exciting” because of its finality. This is the first year that the Wyndham is a player’s last opportunity to keep his playing privileges for the following season.
“At the end of the week you’re going to know if you’re going to The Barclays or making other plans,” Langley said. “I think there’s a little bit more pressure, but so much is out of my control. I just need to trust that whatever is going to happen is going to happen and it will be good for me.”
Langley, who began the season with a third-place finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii, had missed eight of 10 cuts before the John Deere Classic, but has made his past four cuts. He started to play better when he committed to stay more “medium temperature” on the golf course, instead of allowing his emotions to fluctuate.
“I’ll hopefully be (playing professional golf) for 30 years, and so I need to be more easy on myself,” Langley said. He’s made four consecutive cuts, and a “solid” week at Sedgefield Country Club should ensure he qualifies for his first FedExCup Playoffs.
Cauley would love to repeat his third-place finish from last year’s Wyndham. It was one of six top-10 finishes in 2012. He’s made the cut in less than half his starts this season (10 of 23) and finished in the top 25 just three times. A T14 at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial is his best finish of the year.
“I haven’t driven it well,” Cauley said. “Last year, when I played well, I drove it well. This year the driver has really let me down and put me in some tough spots where it’s hard to make birdies.”
He ranks 149th in total driving, 134th in greens in regulation and 176th in strokes gained-putting. Contrast that to 2011, where Cauley needed just seven TOUR starts to earn his card after top-5 finishes at the Viking Classic and Frys.com Open. He joined a select list of players who earned their PGA TOUR card straight from college without having to go to q-school: Gary Hallberg, Scott Verplank, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore.
Cauley’s father, Bill, reminded his son to ignore what’s on the line this week, as difficult as it may be.
“I need to play well, but thinking about (keeping my card) is not going to help me play well,” Cauley said. “Sure this year has been a little bit of a struggle but I’ve played plenty of good golf and there’s no reason I can’t do it this week.”