Notebook: Hicks hoping for special birthday gift Sunday

October 26, 2012
Bill Nichols, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

MCKINNEY, Texas -- Tour Championship leader Justin Hicks is hoping for a special celebration when he turns 38.


His birthday is Sunday.

"We're already thinking we're going to have a PGA TOUR party as part of my birthday gift but certainly we could make it even better,'' Hicks said after shooting 2-under 69 for a two-stroke lead.

At No. 11 in earnings, Hicks is assured of being in the top 25 on the final money list. Those players will earn PGA TOUR cards. No. 1 gets the perk of fully exempt status, which means being able to make his own schedule, and a spot in THE PLAYERS Championship.

"There's a lot of kids out here,'' he said, smiling. "I'm trying not to think too much about being 12 years from the Champions Tour.''

Hicks said Friday's 30 mph wind with even stronger gusts was one of the strongest he has played in.

"We've probably seen maybe windier days but you could probably count them on one hand, and that's going back a number of years,'' he said.

So what other recent events rival this wind?

"Midland, oddly enough, in Texas,'' he said. "And last year at the Byron Nelson it was howling too.''

PERSERVERANCE: Shawn Stefani of Baytown, Texas has paid his dues toiling on the mini tours the previous few years. But he kept working on his game, believing it would eventually pay off.

Regardless of where he finishes this week, Stefani has had a breakthrough season. He won twice and posted two other top-10s to enter this week No. 5 in earnings. He is assured of being one of the 25 who earn PGA TOUR cards on Sunday.

Stefani made his move over the final nine events. He had just one top-10 before winning the Midwest Classic Presented by Cadillac. He then tied for 22nd at the Mylan Classic and tied for seventh at the Albertsons Boise Open Presented by Kraft before his victory at the Miccosukee Championship two weeks ago.

"It's everything I've worked my whole life for,'' Stefani said. "You don't ever want to quit. It takes perseverance. That makes this year even more rewarding.''

Watch the PGA TOUR card ceremony live on Sunday on PGATOUR.COM. Details are here.

FRIGID TEMPS: With temperatures in the low 50s, the ball loses some distance. Adam Hadwin said his caddie is keeping two balls in his pocket to keep them warm.

Brad Fritsch got a rude indication of a shorter trajectory on No. 2.

"I hit it exactly how I wanted to but it landed down in the chipping area and I didn't hit a bad shot,'' said Fritsch, who shot 71 to enter the weekend tied for second. "That was an indication that the ball wasn't going that far.''

GREENS KEY: Scott Gutschewski recently moved back to Omaha, N.E., after living in Prosper, Texas for six years. TPC Craig Ranch was where he practiced and played, so he knows all the nuances of the layout.

"I know some places where you want to miss,'' he said, referring to avoiding trouble. "But probably more than anything it's knowing the greens. There isn't a putt out there that I haven't hit.''

Gutschewski shot 70 on Friday, entering the weekend tied for 24th at 1-under 141.