By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Earlier this year, William McGirt snuck into the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup when Justin Leonard missed a 13-foot par putt on the final hole of the Wyndham Championship. Now the putter is in McGirt’s hands in the final stage of q-school.
So far, so good. McGirt is 8 under and well inside the top 25 on the leaderboard through the first three rounds of the six-day tournament. Not that McGirt, in his third straight trip to the final stage of q-school, is all that interested.
“All I want to know is how many shots out of the lead am I because I’m trying to win this darn thing,” McGirt said after shooting a 2-under 70 on Friday. “I don’t want to finish 25th.”
It’s interesting logic from McGirt, and also different than most because all that matters in terms of getting a PGA TOUR card for next season is finishing in the top 25. McGirt’s thinking, however, is that if he’s trying to win and doesn’t then he has a lot better chance of being in the top 25.
After what McGirt’s been through, however, it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from. Three straight years in the second stage of q-school he had a putt on the last hole to reach the final stage. Three straight times he missed it with his ball twice lipping out and another time burning the edge. Last year, he successfully navigated the final stage and tied for second. The year before, he didn’t, tying for 90th.
It’s moments like these why McGirt’s wife, Sarah, stayed home.
“The thing out here is [bleep] happens,” said McGirt, who added that one trip to q-school at Bear Lakes in 2009 was enough for his wife. “You think you know someone really well, but out here you see a different side of people. Sometimes you have to get it out of your system. I’ve slammed my share of clubs. You can’t let it build up inside of you. You have to let it out sometime.”
Translation: Q-school is “the longest six days of your life,” McGirt said.
And even though he has partial status after finishing 141st on the money list, that’s not enough for McGirt.
“Everybody know what’s on the line here,” said McGirt, who has bounced around mini tours and the Nationwide Tour in recent years. “l’m fortunate that I have some starts next year, but they’re probably not going to be the ones I want to play.
“I want to get my job back full time. I feel the second time around is going to be a whole lot better.”
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As the morning wave finishes on a windy Thursday, there is big group at the top of the leaderboard that includes the No. 1 player in the world.
Luke Donald, who is bidding to wrest the PGA TOUR money title from Webb Simpson, is among six players shooting 66. Simpson, who played with Donald, is two strokes back in the spirited competition.
“I know for most of the round I played a pretty solid round of golf today,” Donald, who trials by $363,029. “Couple loose shots at the ed. Wasn’t that easy out there. I think the wind was strong enough to make it a little bit tricky with club selection.
“Six birdies, no bogeys is always a good round.”
The last time the money title changed hands in the final week of the season was in 1996 when Tom Lehman overtook Phil Mickelson at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Two of the other leaders have their 2012 PGA TOUR cards at stake. James Driscoll came into the week ranked No. 125 on the money list while Nathan Green is No. 175.
Two of other three players tied at 6 under picked up their first TOUR wins this year – Scott Stallings and Gary Woodland – while Arjun Atwal broke through in Greensboro last season.
ORLANDO -- The pressure William McGirt feel this week is like the bottom of the seventh in Game 7 of the World Series. Well, maybe the bottom of the eighth.
"At least I have the finals of q-school," he said.
"Let's embrace it and see what we can do with it," said McGirt, who enters the Fall Series finale at Disney ranked 138th on the money list.
The rookie from North Carolinian has done the math. McGirt thinks he needs to finish solo sixth or seventh to climb into the all-exempt top 125 on the money list.
If he doesn't, though, McGirt would likely get between 12-15 starts next season playing out of the 126-150 eligibility category. And as he mentioned, he'll be exempt into the finals of q-school where he can also improve his spot in the pecking order.
Besides, McGirt has felt the pressure before. He entered the Wyndham Championship ranked 127th on the money list and played his way into the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup -- where he lasted until the Duetsche Bank Championship.
"All year, it seemed like I put myself behind the eight-ball on Thursday and had to play well on Friday," McGirt said. "Even the cuts I've missed, I missed a bunk of cuts by a shot, but I've given myself a chance.
"Greensboro, I didn't play all that well but I played well enough. My back was firmly up against the wall at Barclays. Only had one way to go and that was up. Fortunately for me I played well.
"It's not a new position for me so I just kind of embrace it and try to make the best of it."
McGirt says he'll have to take more chances this week on the Palm and Magnolia courses. He'll be aggressive on the par 5s and hope his putter cooperates.
"Who knows?" McGirt said. "It's Disney. ... (We'll) see if we can't make more magic happen."
Jhonattan Vegas shoots an 8-under 63 to tie William McGirt for the overnight lead.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- Just like he's done the past two weeks, William McGirt enters this week's tournament fighting for his Playoffs life. But he's also fighting another battle -- to keep his PGA TOUR card for next year.
It's a battle that may also require him to play a full schedule in the Fall Series.
According to PGA TOUR officials here, McGirt is the only player in the 99-man field in the Deutsche Bank Championship who is on the outside of the current top 125 on the money list and does not yet have fully exempt status for 2012.
McGirt ranks 96th in FedExCup points but 141st on the money list. Unless he climbs into the top 125 by the end of the season, he will not have fully exempt status after the fall.
"I'm probably going to have to make another $300,000, $400,000 to keep my card," McGirt said Wednesday. "But the good news is, a good week this week and we keep moving on."
McGirt is approximately $160,000 behind current No. 125 David Mathis. The top 125 on the money list at the end of the year earn their cards for 2012.
Mathis, however, did not make the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. McGirt did, using a clutch performance to claim the last spot after the Wyndham Championship. He then advanced to the Deutsche Bank with a tie for 24th last week at The Barclays, his best result in his last 20 starts on TOUR.
In terms of the money list, McGirt was 158th after Wyndham but moved up to 141st after The Barclays. So while others in his same situation must wait until the Fall Series to start earning money again, McGirt has an unique opportunity to make up significant ground now, thanks to the chase for the FedExCup.
"But I'm not looking at is as I have to get it done right now," McGirt said. "I've got four fall finish events. There's plenty of opportunities left to lock up my card.
"And I think if you start putting pressure on yourself to get it done this week, that I have to make this much money, I think you're only setting yourself up for failure.
"If you're going out there trying to win golf tournaments, things will take care of themselves if you play well."
McGirt, who earned status this year thanks to his tie for second at last year's q-school (and may have to try q-school again if he doesn’t climb inside the top 125), is enjoying the ride right now. His performance the last couple of weeks have made him sort of a Cinderella story, the longshot who keeps playing well enough to stay alive.
"Obviously I want to play well," McGirt said. "I want to stay out here, but I've tried to make it fun, enjoy what we're doing, find things to do on the road, stuff that we would never do without being in this situation, being on TOUR and being in these tournaments. My wife and I have had a blast.
"We started the year and said, whether or not I keep my card, we're going to have fun, but I'm going to give it everything that I have. If I keep my card, great; if I don't, I'll walk away at the end of this year knowing that I gave it everything that I have and that I thoroughly enjoyed this year."
|1||Dustin Johnson||19||Picked a great time to get his first win since last year's Playoffs|
|2||Matt Kuchar||12||Another strong Barclays makes Kuchar a FedExCup threat again|
|3||Nick Watney||1||Didn't hurt himself with a Sunday 64 and a T10 finish.|
|4||Webb Simpson||3||Carried momentum from Wyndham win to T10 at Plainfield|
|5||Luke Donald||4||Started slowly but good weekend moved him ahead of Stricker|