KORN FERRY TOUR FINALS
Demanding test during a stressful week
This week's Web.com Tour Championship is the last chance to earn PGA TOUR cards
September 30, 2015
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- Travis Bertoni missed a 4-foot putt on the final hole last season -- and missed his PGA TOUR card by a shot. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A 4-footer kept Travis Bertoni from earning his PGA TOUR card at last year’s Web.com Tour Championship.
Last year on Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass, Bertoni steadily worked his way into contention throughout the weekend, ultimately moving into the top 10 on the leaderboard as the final round neared its end.
Bertoni arrived at the final hole of last year’s final round needing a birdie to make enough money to earn his TOUR card. He stuffed a short iron inside 5 feet, but the putt lipped out.
The California native returns for this week’s Web.com Tour Championship at the Valley Course, and although the nines are reversed, Bertoni finds himself in a similar situation. He’s playing well, but he finds himself outside the top 25 on the Finals money list (No. 39), likely needing a top-10 finish or better to break inside the top 25 – and earn his TOUR card for the first time.
Travis Bertoni makes par on No. 18 in the 2014 Web.com Tour Championship
Bertoni is not trying to think too much into it, though.
“Everybody knows it’s the Tour Championship and it’s the biggest week of the year, because anything can happen,” Bertoni said.
“The more you think about it, the more you think, ‘Oh my God, it’s the Tour Championship,’ all you’re going to do is get in your own way. At least, for me personally.”
Bertoni and the majority of the field are striving to break inside the top 25 on the Finals money list – or maintain position on the list – in order to earn the right to play on TOUR next season.
The Tour Championship marks the fourth and final Finals event, as players have been tested on a variety of demanding courses throughout the month of September.
This week is no exception. The Valley Course traditionally plays as one of the toughest on Tour, although heavy rains of late have produced soft conditions that are likely to remain intact throughout the week.
Either way, players will be required to maintain control of their ball. For Hao Tong Li, the key will be staying in command off the tee.
The 20-year-old China native has made the cut in two of three Finals events, but has struggled on the weekends, finishing no better than T61. Li enters the Tour Championship at T74 on the Finals money list, knowing he might need to finish inside the top five to break his way inside the top 25 on the Finals money list.It’s going to be interesting to see how some of the guys handle themselves, especially the guys on the bubble.
Give Li, last year’s PGA TOUR China Order of Merit winner, some credit. He isn’t shying away from the challenge.
“This week can change my life, I think,” Li said on the practice green earlier this week. “This week is very important, so I need to play well.
“There are so many good players, and my game didn’t fare well the past few weeks, so I just need to play well here. … I put a lot of pressure on myself in the first Finals event, and after three weeks it’s getting better. Less pressure now, so hopefully I can get my PGA TOUR card … Go low!”
Another player perhaps primed to make a late move inside the top 25 is Australia’s Oliver Goss, currently No. 40 on the Finals money list. Goss pointed out on Tuesday afternoon that he played the first 20 events of this season without making consecutive cuts – but he has made four cuts in a row entering this week.
The Web.com Tour rookie has plenty of experience in big moments – Goss finished runner-up at the 2013 U.S. Amateur, and made the cut in the 2014 Masters.
He’ll look to draw on those moments this week at TPC Sawgrass – particularly if he can play his way into contention down the stretch.
“I have a lot of good memories from playing the Masters, and I frequently look back on some of the good shots I hit there and how I was feeling at the time, and try to apply that into my round,” Goss said.
“This isn’t a seven-million-dollar PGA TOUR event, but it means even more than a regular PGA TOUR event for some guys, so there’s going to be a lot of pressure on the line. It’s going to be interesting to see how some of the guys handle themselves, especially the guys on the bubble.”
Even if Goss falls short of his TOUR card this week, his future is bright. But he’s certainly looking forward to the opportunity presented at the Valley Course.
Like the majority of the players in the field – Bertoni and Li included -- Goss is not shying away from the magnitude of the week.
“It’s different for everybody, but for me it’s fairly important,” Goss said. “I need a good week. I think I’m going to need about a top-10 to get my TOUR card or sneak in there, but I’m just going to try to win, and that will take care of itself.
“I kind of like the pressure. I think I dig deep and hit some good shots down the stretch. I actually kind of thrive on (the pressure), so I’m looking forward to it.”
Bertoni struggled with short putts at last week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, but he made a four-and-a-half footer to make the cut on the number – en route to a strong weekend and T23 finish. Every dollar counts in the Finals, and Bertoni’s earnings last week in Columbus could go a long way in his efforts to move inside the top 25.
And if he finds himself on the verge of a TOUR card come Sunday afternoon, he’ll be ready.
“If I play great, that’s great,” Bertoni said. “I’m just going to try and do the best I can. Just approach it like any other week, and hopefully it’s a good week.”
Easier said than done, of course.