Locals hoping Dye's Valley experience gives them edge at Tour finale

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Len Mattiace enters this week at No. 96 on the money list.
September 25, 2013
By Michael Curet, PGATOUR.COM

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Whether their 2014 PGA TOUR card is secure or not, for a number of the local players who have walked their share of miles on Dye's Valley, there's no place like home.

Len Mattiace, Steve Wheatcroft, Tim Wilkinson, Bud Cauley, Aaron Price, Russell Knox, Nick Flanagan, and Jeff Klauk -- all residents in the greater Jacksonville area -- will sleep in their own bed this week with dreams of 2013-2014 PGA TOUR fortunes dancing in their heads.

Mattiace, the veteran of the group who turns 46 on Oct. 15, likely needs a top five finish this week to sew up his first full-time return to the PGA TOUR since 2005. The two-time PGA TOUR winner and former Masters runner-up, enters the Finals at No. 96, but feels good about his chances with the late resurgence of his game.

"I felt like my game came around and my confidence started getting high at Omaha where I finished seventh," said Mattiace. "I like the way I'm swinging, but regardless of this week, I am in a great state of mind. Over the next couple of months, I know it's going to be good."

Mattiace who spent more time on the road this year than in the past decade says the course is exactly the way he wants it. "I love it. It's great to play at home and it's a very supportive atmosphere. The course is usually what I see -- playing a little softer with all the rain."

Tim Wilkinson, meanwhile, is already locked in for the 2014 PGA TOUR.

"You always want to improve your position and get into some of the events at the start of the season," said Wilkinson. "I do know I need about 20 tickets this week with requests from friends, family and even neighbors."

Bud Cauley would like to think he can watch a little more of his alma mater's football games this fall, but the Alabama Crimson Tide will have to wait. At No. 18 on the Finals standings this week, the Jacksonville Beach resident has not yet secured his 2014 PGA TOUR card and he has a little work to do yet.

"I feel fairly secure, but I need to try to get as high as I can," said Cauley. "It's nice that I get to play a course that I play quite often." After he checks off the order of business this week, his first football date this fall is in Tuscaloosa: Tennessee vs. Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Russell Knox, who has have lived in the area for over 10 years and enters the week ranked No. 57 in the Finals, finds himself pulling for all the local guys.

"Everyone is rooting for everyone else, but we all have to take care of our own business," said Knox. "I hope we all make it through. That would make it fun for next year, but we'll still have fun in the other opportunities down the road."

Australian Aron Price, who resides in Jacksonville Beach and needs to be inside the top 10 this week to earn his card, has been taking his pen and pad each time he plays Dye's Valley. "I take good notes each time I play it, so hopefully that helps," said Price. "It's very fair. If you play well, you should be rewarded. If you don't, you'll be punished."

Nick Flanagan, also a Jacksonville Beach resident needs a huge move from No. 112, but has his mom and dad visiting from Australia as part of his gallery this week. "It doesn't feel like a normal tournament week," Flanagan. "I feel good."

Wheatcroft (No. 37) and Klauk (No. 71) are on the outside looking in. The son of former TPC Sawgrass Superintendent Fred Klauk would like nothing more than to punch his ticket back to the PGA TOUR on his home course.