What Have The Five Been Up To?
December 02, 2018
By Brendan Stasiewich, Mackenzie Tour
- December 02, 2018
- The Five have exemptions into the Final Stage of Web.com Tour Qualifying. (Claus Andersen/Mackenzie Tour)
What a year 2018 was on the Mackenzie Tour.
Using a number of scoring records as proof, namely, Corey Pereira’s record tying mark of 258 at the ATB Financial Classic, Zach Wright’s 36-hole 19-under start at the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open and four events boasting 6-under par cuts, it’s safe to say there was a lot of talent at the top of the Order of Merit.
One of the perks for those who played their way into The Five is an exemption into next week’s Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament. Though players in positions 2 through 5 have status on the Web.com Tour (and will likely play at least a couple events in 2019), they have the opportunity to improve their access with a top-40 performance from December 6-9 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Arizona.
While 136 players, including nine of the top-10 from the Mackenzie Tour’s 2018 Order of Merit, are sweating it out in the desert, Player of the Year Tyler McCumber is able to kick his feet up due to the full Web.com Tour status he garnered due to his record-breaking summer in Canada.
In true McCumber fashion, he’s elected to do the opposite, instead setting his feet down in three different countries before picking up where he left off on his PGA TOUR journey in the new year.
“I love to travel, learn new languages and about different cultures. I have a little experience in most of Europe, so I decided to go to Iceland, Switzerland and Italy,” said McCumber. “Canada was a close second (choice),” he jokingly added.
This is nothing new for 2018’s three-time winner, his unconventional method of leaving his clubs in the closet for months at a time has worked wonders in the past (read about some of his surfing escapades here).
George Cunningham, Wright, Pereira and Michael Gellerman don’t have the same luxury of a stress-free early December, but, like McCumber, they all have unique methods to be competition ready when their name is called on December 6.
Out of The Five, nobody has remained as competitive as Cunningham.
The second ranked player on 2018’s Order of Merit after winning the GolfBC Championship and posting three other top-five finishes, says he barely took more than a day off between the Mackenzie Tour’s season-ending Freedom 55 Financial Championship and the Shriners Hospital for Children Open’s Monday qualifier on October 29.
Cunningham made five birdies in a row to finish his round that Monday to gain entry into his second career PGA TOUR event. He went on to tie for 36th, adding that result to his resume to go along with his tie for 29th at the RBC Canadian Open earlier this year.
“The ball-striking was unbelievable; it was the best week I’ve probably ever had,” said the Tucson, Arizona., native, who finished the week in second place in both Greens in Regulation and Driving Accuracy. “I felt I hit it really well during the RBC (Canadian Open) and a few events in Canada, but nothing compared to that.”
Cunningham closed with a final-round 66, his best PGA TOUR performance, and he says the finish would have been even higher had his wedge game been working a little better.
Following the event Cunningham made his way to Japan, where he posted rounds of 71-69-69-67 at the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour, good enough for a tie for 13th.
“Japan was one the most interesting countries I’ve ever been to. I loved every minute of it,” said Cunningham of his trip. “There’s such a level of respect towards other people that I’ve never seen anywhere else, and the cleanliness was uncanny.”
Now back in Arizona, Cunningham has played one of the two courses at Whirlwind Golf Club three times, and expects to play the other sometime before his family makes the hour-and-a-half trek down the Interstate-10 in their RV.
Yes, that’s right, their RV. For more on that, check out Cunningham’s guest appearance on the Golf’s Next Wave podcast.
Meanwhile, Wright, the No. 3-ranked Order of Merit player largely due to his record-setting six-consecutive top-10 finishes to start the season, has taken a more relaxed approach in his preparation.
Other than playing in two mini-tour events nearby, Wright has spent his time practicing in Arizona. He says his game hasn’t wavered from where it was this summer in Canada.
“I’ve been practicing and hanging out in Arizona. My place is about 35 minutes away from Whirlwind Golf Club,” says Wright, the only player in The Five who’ll get to look forward to home-cooking between rounds. “I’ve been more-so relaxing. I’m playing well, it’s still good.”
Wright played eight Web.com Tour events in 2017 after graduating from Louisiana State University. He moved to the Mackenzie Tour in 2018.
“I’m in a completely different place now, so I might go into it with a little bit less stress than everyone else because of that,” says Wright. “It would be nice to get the guaranteed (Web.com Tour) starts and know I’ll be playing the whole year.”
Pereira, who finished fourth on the Order of Merit after picking up a win at the ATB Financial Classic and a runner-up finish at the Mackenzie Investments Open, says he doesn’t want to attempt to “fix what isn’t broken” heading into Final Stage.
“I’m just trying to learn my swing more and focus on little things like how to attack certain pins,” says the Mission, Viejo, California, native. “I’m working more on strategy and the mental game than the swing. We work only about 20 percent on the swing.”
Pereira decided to take a few weeks off from the game, traveling to Seattle to visit his girlfriend before teeing it up at the Nevada Open.
“I don’t think you need to start practicing two months before you need to play well,” says Pereira. “It’s nice in the offseason to work on some long-term things. You want to get better status from Q-School and have a full year on Web, so you have to be ready for that.”
Pereira visited Whirlwind in blistery conditions in mid-November, relaying that he thinks scores at the tournament will be low if the wind is a non-factor.
“I grew up on sloped and really fast greens, and this will be longer with more mid or short irons,” says the 23-year-old. “The course has flatter greens for the most part, so it could be a birdie-fest. I don’t anticipate the greens to have too much pace.”
Gellerman heads into the Chandler event following a successful fifth-place Order of Merit finish, placing second twice in the final six events of the year.
The University of Oklahoma grad’s game-plan is set in Arizona, where he’s electing to spend his months off practicing and making a few tweaks he says he’s making progress on.
“I’m getting there on December 3. I’ll probably spend three full days doing some practice, maybe nine holes on the third and practice on the fourth and then maybe another nine holes on the fifth,” says Gellerman of his three-day plan. Gellerman, who played 21 Web.com Tour events in 2017, added “then after that I guess I’ll just go give it a rip.”
All four players will be eyeing a top-40 finish that would give them a minimum of eight guaranteed starts, while a top-10 finish would assure them 12 events on the 2019 Web.com Tour schedule. The medalist will be fully exempt through the Regular Season.