DAVIDSON, N.C. – Good thing that plane ticket home was so expensive.
Had the flight change to New York been more reasonably priced, Andrew Svoboda simply would have jetted home after missing the Reno-Tahoe Open cut. But not only would the earlier flight set him back some $1,000, he’d have to be at the airport at 5 a.m. and not arrive home until midnight.
There was another option: Fly to Springfield, Mo., and enter the Web.com Tour event.
“It was going to be three times as much to go home versus go play,” Svoboda said. “So I figured, go play.”
The 33-year-old pro wound up winning the Price Cutter Charity Championship. And that, he quickly admitted, “changed everything.”
Before the victory, a trying PGA TOUR rookie season had Svoboda on the verge of missing the Web.com Tour Finals. Instead, he claimed one of the 25 cards handed out at the end of the Web.com Tour's Regular Season. “That was truly amazing,” he said.
It got even better on Sunday as he posed with another trophy – not to mention Miss Chiquita – after outlasting Will MacKenzie in a playoff at the Chiquita Classic.
Talk about bananas.
"(That win) got me into these events so I could win this,” Svoboda said with a hint of disbelief.
Not only does the St. John’s grad have a return engagement on the PGA TOUR, he shares the top spot on the Finals money list with Trevor Immelman, last week’s winner at the Hotel Fitness Championship.
With two events left, it’s too early to foresee whether he’ll claim the extra perks of finishing No.1. But Svoboda can rest in the fact that he’ll begin next season with a high enough priority number to set his own schedule.
“Now we’re in good position,” he said. “We’re going to get into the events [we want] early on.”
Just five weeks earlier, Svoboda was wondering where he’d be playing next season – or whether he was even PGA TOUR material. After missing the cut in his first four starts, he found himself living on the reshuffle bubble.
“There was a bunch of tournaments where we were borderline all the time,” he said. “So we’re flying in there praying that we could get into the event – but we might not. That’s tough when you’ve got to play like that.”
Svoboda’s results seemed to reflect that stress. He didn’t make his first cut until April, when he tied for 47th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He also tied for 57th at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, but those were his only paydays as the calendar stretched into July.
Svoboda was reticent to discuss the frustrations after Sunday’s win, but did acknowledge there were times when he toyed with the idea of taking a break from the game. Certainly he asked himself what he was doing on the PGA TOUR.
“Yeah, that might be true,” he said. “I was struggling this year. It was definitely a tough road.”
Asked what was holding him back, Svoboda said: “Short game. And you’ve got to drive the ball in the fairway on the PGA TOUR. You can’t play from the rough.”
Caddie Scott Fiedler, though, said he could see a glimmer of light even as his boss missed four consecutive cuts in June and early July.
“I would say [when we got to] The Greenbrier, I saw him hitting the ball a lot better,” said Fiedler, in his third stint with Svoboda. “Obviously I didn’t expect him to win twice, but I knew he was going to start playing better.”
Even so, the tally stood at just four cuts in 17 starts when Svoboda had his early exit from Reno. With the PGA Championship to follow – for which Svoboda wasn’t eligible – it was time to get home and regroup.
And that’s where fate intervened.
“I called the airline and [was told] it’s a thousand bucks,” he said.
That’s a significant number when your year has produced just six checks between the two tours, none for more than $16,159. But the Price Cutter offered an opportunity, at far less expense.
“I just bought a ticket to Springfield,” he said.
Two shots off the lead to start the final round, Svoboda blitzed the field with an 8-under 64 that gave him a three-shot triumph.
Though he made the Wyndham Championship in the final stop of the PGA TOUR Season, Svoboda wound up No.202 in the FedExCup race. Had he not gone to Springfield, he would have been two spots short of getting into the Finals.
“It turned out pretty good,” Fiedler said.
Though Svoboda missed the cut at the Finals opener in Fort Wayne, he came on strong after an opening 72 at River Run Country Club. A second-round 65 was the week’s best, and he appeared in control Sunday before grabbing a three-shot advantage.
But MacKenzie’s chip-in eagle at No.18 suddenly cut the gap to one, and Svoboda couldn’t save par after missing the green at the par-3 17th.
“He wasn’t saying much out there,” Fiedler said. “He was just keeping his head down like he usually does and went to work.”
In the playoff, it was MacKenzie who made the mistake. After pulling his drive on the 18th tee, a poor layup left him a tough shot to try and hold the green.
“I knew out of the rough, he was going to have a tough time stopping it,” said Svoboda, who took the safe route and won with a par.
“Just getting here and winning was already a bonus,” Svoboda said. “To win this is icing on the cake.”
Though the icing may taste like bananas, the cake was baked in Springfield.