Emotions run high as some lose TOUR cards, others keep season alive
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Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Georgia – Harry Higgs called it a “come to Jesus” moment. Others on Sea Island’s practice range might have seen it as a one-way shouting match.
Higgs was searching for something. Something that could provide the necessary lifeline for his season. Emotions bubble up when finality lingers. And Higgs had hit a boil.
“I just had to kind of yell, slightly, yell at both my coach and my caddie… basically that I need more help. I need more. Help me do this. Help me do this,” said Higgs, who entered the week ranked 145th in the FedExCup Fall standings.
Gone are the days of the laid-back vibes at The RSM Classic. Now it’s the season finale, where the slimmest of margins decide players’ fate for the following season. Higgs had spent 11 months worrying about his position. Now, he had just one event left to change his fortune.
The consequences of every shot loom large for players in his situation, who are closer to the top 150 bubble than the top 125. The difference between finishing No. 125 and No. 126 is significant, but relative. No. 125 earns full status for 2024, but the No. 126 finisher will likely still make at least a dozen PGA TOUR starts as a conditional member. The same can be said for No. 150, who earns conditional status.
The finishers between No. 151-200, on the other hand? No status. They may never play in a PGA TOUR event again. Heck, they are not even guaranteed more than a few starts on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“It’s a big deal,” Higgs said.
The top 125 bubble gets the headlines, but the top 150 bubble can end careers.
Hence the tension, the yelling and last-minute pleading from Higgs.
He has kept himself alive through two rounds at Sea Island Golf Club. Higgs fired at every flag coming down the stretch and birdied two of his last three holes to finish on the cutline of 4 under.
Harry Higgs drains 11-footer for birdie at The RSM Classic
“Birdie ‘em all, that’s all I was thinking,” he said.
He has dropped one spot in the projected standings to No. 146. But he’s alive. For now, that’s all that matters.
Others aren’t so fortunate. Doc Redman entered the week at No. 154. He shot 69-72 to miss the cut by three strokes. He will lose his TOUR card, which he’s had since 2019 – as will Richy Werenski, Kevin Roy, Martin Trainer, Dylan Frittelli and dozens of others.
Werenski, Trainer and Frittelli at least have some past champion’s status to fall back on but they’ll need to play PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry to earn their card back. And there are only five TOUR cards on offer at next month’s event at TPC Sawgrass. Some will even need to return to Q-School’s second stage, playing well enough there just to make it to the finals.
“Sometimes it doesn't go your way,” Redman said. “Sometimes just need to work on things and I think that's OK. It's OK to admit that and it's tough not to play as well you want or finish, but it's an OK reality.”
Matthias Schwab, Austin Cook and Paul Haley II are currently projected to hold three of the final four spots in the top 150, but all missed the cut this week and will need to await their fate. Haley II, 35, was visibly dejected after his 1-over round of 71. This was his first year on TOUR since 2013. And it might be his last. He knew what was next: a long weekend of watching the leaderboard and projections, unable to control the outcome.
Higgs is trying his hardest not to think about a reality in which he joins his co-workers at Q-School. He’s still looking upward at the possibility of playing his way into the top 125 with a high finish this week. He needs a solo third finish to do so. He’s currently tied for 61st. There’s no use in harping on the negative. It’s much too scary of a proposition to invest his time.
“I don't want to think about it anymore,” Higgs said. “I would love to just be in 100th right now and not have to worry about it, but I'm not, I put myself in this position, so I try to get myself out of it.”