With Roland Thatcher holding a commanding five-shot lead late in the third round, there’s obviously a good chance he’ll go on to get his first career win and secure a PGA TOUR card for the next two seasons. What else will he get for winning? Here’s a look:
-- An invitation to the season-opening, limited field Hyundai Tournament of Champions (which is the start of the FedExCup points race).
-- Eligibility for the FedExCup events, including invitationals such as Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Verizon Heritage, THE PLAYERS Championship and AT&T National.
-- Potential to finish in the top 30 on the money list, which would earn a spot in the following years Masters and U.S. Open (Note: The World Golf Championships-CA Championship and British Open now invite the field for THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola rather than the top 30 on the money list).
-- Opportunity to accrue valuable Official World Golf Ranking points that could help gain entry into the exclusive World Golf Championships events (The Accenture Match Play Championship invites the top 64 available players in the Official World Golf Ranking two weeks prior; the CA Championship invites the top 50 and the Bridgestone Invitational invites winners of tournaments with an Official World Golf Ranking strength of field rating of 115 points or higher).
-- Coveted spots in the TOURs invitational events like Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard (top 70 on the money list), The Memorial Tournament (top 75) and The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial (top 80). (Bay Hill, Heritage, Colonial, PLAYERS, Memorial also invite the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.)
-- Head start on qualifying for the PGA Championship (money list from PGA to PGA) and 2011 Presidents Cup.
It’s looking right now like Roland Thatcher will have a very good chance at being “Cinderella",” as he called it earlier this week. At 179th on the money list at the start of the week, Thatcher needed at least a solo second to secure his PGA TOUR card for 2011. Through nine holes today, Thatcher is 2 under on the round and now five shots clear of his closest competitors, Charles Warren and Brett Wetterich.
Warren, by the way, could be writing his own fairy tale of sorts this week. He only got into the field after Jonathan Byrd withdrew. At 157th on the money list coming into Disney, Warren is now projected to move up to 146th. That would at least give him conditional status on TOUR next year. Obviously if he wins, he’ll be exempt for two years.
One other note on Warren. He’s ninth on TOUR in driving distance and eighth in greens in regulation. So what’s the problem? He’s 157th in putting average. -- Brian Wacker
All that stands between Roland Thatcher and a PGA TOUR card for next season are two more rounds like he had the last two days at Disney. Thatcher owns a four-shot lead heading to the weekend after a season-best 63 Friday on the Magnolia Course.
Thatcher came into the event needing a solo second or better to get inside the top 125 on the money list. Obviously, a win would secure his spot on TOUR for the next two years, among other things.
“I’m going to try to get away from the golf course and don’t even worry about it,” Thatcher said. “It’s still two rounds of golf.
“I’ve been fortunate that when I’ve had good weeks in the past, I’ve continued to play well during the week. That should give me a lot of confidence heading into the weekend.”
The other big story is the Kodak Challenge. After Rickie Fowler birdied the par-4 17th hole Friday, there’s now a three-way tie atop the leaderboard in that season-long competition with Troy Merritt and Aaron Baddeley sharing the top spot.
If Merritt can birdie No. 17 sometime in the next two rounds, he’ll likely win (barring an eagle from Fowler or Baddeley). If not, there will be a playoff Sunday after the tournament.
On a side note, there’s been a change to Saturday’s schedule with players now going off in threesomes off both sets of tees. Tee times will be between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. ET.
For a guy whose name sounds like royalty, Roland Thatcher IV doesn’t have a lot of pretentions.
Take this exchange, for example.
Question: It just doesn't seem right that a guy with two Roman numerals at the end of his name should be worried about the money mist. Shouldn't you be running a family business?
Answer: No. We come from a long line of auto workers and Navy families. My father was a retired airline pilot. I might have an in as a baggage handler at Southwest if I had to. But no, the name as pretentious as it is, my wife and I decided to stop that right there. We didn't pass that one on to my son.
As hilarious as the question and answer were, Thatcher does indeed have a future to worry about. Ranked 179th on the money list, he needs at least a solo second to secure his card for next season.
In the lead at 16 under and halfway through the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Classic, Thatcher is in position to do just that. Though this wasn’t something the 33-year-old expected, not with just one top-10 this year.
“I shot 65 yesterday and really didn't make a whole lot of putts. I hit it very close to the hole a lot during that round,” Thatcher said. “Today, I just really made a lot more putts than is usual for me. I didn't hit it inside of five feet all day. I actually made a good number of 15 to 20‑footers, and that's how you turn a ball‑striking round of 67 into 63. If I can do that two more days, it's going to be a really special week.”
Indeed it will. Thatcher is currently fourth in the field in putting and needed just 24 putts on Friday in what was his lowest score of year. Playing with Chris Stroud, who shot 62-70 the first two rounds, also helped.
“We got a fair chance to be paired again tomorrow, and we couldn't ask for anything better because for whatever reason, this week it seems that we're playing well off each other,” Thatcher said. “I don't know what our best ball would have been yesterday, somewhere in the 50s, and I imagine it probably would have been somewhere in the 50s again today. But when you see guys going out and playing well and making putts, it gives you a little bit better feeling that you can do the same.”
Pun intended, a win here by Thatcher would be Cinderella-type stuff -- and he’s just fine with that.
“When I've had good weeks, I've managed to keep them going,” Thatcher said. “That should give me a lot of confidence heading into the weekend.” -- Brian Wacker
The story of the morning wave and very likely the day was the display that Roland Thatcher put on at the Magnolia Course, shooting a 63 that has him atop the leaderboard at 16 under and four shots clear of his closest competitor.
Thatcher has just one top-10 this season and needs to finish in at least second place by himself to get inside the top 125 on the money list (he’s currently 179th with just one-top 10 this year). Friday, he hit 15 of 18 greens and took just 24 putts on his way to nine birdies and no bogeys.
”Pun intended, I wouldn't mind being referred to as Cinderella for the week,” said Thatcher, who admitted that he was okay with going to the second stage of q-school next week. Obviously his goals have now changed.
“After these first two rounds that I'd like to skip second stage finals if I can,” Thatcher said. “I'm hoping to have a nice long off season and start the year early next year.”
STROUD’S STRONG FINISH: Thatcher’s playing partner the first two rounds was Chris Stroud, who began the day with the lead after an opening-round 62. Friday, he didn’t come close to matching that with a 70, but three straight birdies to close out his round left him within reach of Thatcher.
“Any time you finish birdie, birdie, birdie on this golf course, the Magnolia, you're really happy,” said Stroud, who seven birdies -- and four bogeys -- despite hitting just eight fairways. “I’m just trying to get the ball on the green because I'm putting so well, and I just hung in there, got myself on the fairway the last three holes and got it on the green and made three great putts.”
PETROVIC’S ACE: At just 6 under through two rounds, Tim Petrovic isn’t exactly in contention, but he did have the shot of the day so far with a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th on the Palm Course.
Petrovic said he’s made 12 aces but thought this was his first on the PGA TOUR. “And it's been 10 years,” he added. “I think my last one was in 2000.
Actually, it wasn’t his first ace on TOUR. That came in 2004 at the HP Byron Nelson Championship in 2004.
“But I’m not complaining because I've had three double eagles out here,” Petrovic added. “I think I'm the only guy out here with three double eagles.” -- Brian Wacker
The best rounds recorded (so far) here in the second round? The 65 that Roland Thatcher and Chris Stroud each shot. That’s a nine and eight-shot swing, respectively, for two guys who absolutely needed it – Thatcher is 177th on the money list, while Stroud is right one the bubble at 125th.
Thatcher didn’t have a bogey, while Stroud had just one on Friday and both had just 24 putts.
This is the second time that Stroud has gone low of late. Three starts ago, at the Greenbrier Classic, he closed with a 65 to finish in a tie for ninth, which was also his best result of the season. Thatcher, on the other hand, has struggled enormously the last few months with eight missed cuts in his last nine starts.