To hear them tell it, PGA Tour players regard the fact that they get to play at the highest level of the game on the best tour in the world as a great privilege.
They have wanted it since they were small boys, most of them. They played all day long until it was too dark to see the breaks on the greens. And then they got up and did it again the next day. They found ways to begin to play competitively, whether it was traditional school teams or, if they had the means, their parents got them involved in junior tournaments locally, across the country, even across the globe.
With that predicate laid down, if they were any good, the college recruiters would soon come calling with stories about their facilities, their schedule, their history and the names of players who ended up on the PGA Tour. And, oh yeah, the quality education.
Many get all the way through and earn their degrees, some like Tiger or more recently, Patrick Cantlay out of UCLA, cannot resist the siren song of realizing their every dream. Some take longer than others to be successful at the professional level; you don’t have a coach arranging everything for you. Travel is a simple thing once you know how to do it, but it’s an acquired skill.
So they finally arrive and get used to the courtesy cars, the child care, the unending food, the free laundry service…but most of all, belonging.
And then somewhere in there — it could be at the end of their first year or after a twenty-year career — the sharpness goes away, the game slowly erodes and it becomes a big deal just to make the cut. The sense of gratitude can slowly turn to desperation to keep everything you’ve ever worked for in your life.
That may be a little bit too dire a picture now, with the conditional cards granted down to the 150th spot on the Money List, certain career or past champion statuses available as a last chance. Which really isn’t so much of a last chance now that the Web.com Tour has become such a vibrant farm system. But you still have to swallow your pride, give up the big tour perks and go remind yourself how to play again, how to win again.
And now, with the arrival of the McGladrey Classic on the Seaside Course in Sea Island, Georgia, there are only two weeks left to save all this: this tournament and Disney next week. And you have to do fairly well to move up much because of the relatively smaller purses these late-season tournaments offer.
Billy Mayfair is the Bubble Boy on the 125th spot. This after he had to go back to Q-School at the end of 2010 to earn his card back. He did it emphatically, finishing 1st. Two years later with two tournaments to go, he’s sitting at $612,361 in prize money.
For perspective, the 120th spot has a $52,427 cushion over Mayfair and he has a $40,486 cushion over the 130th player on the Money List. And last year in the tournament, a T20 was worth $43,333. And Mayfair won’t be sitting idly by; he’s a moving target.
But it’s not a tournament featuring just guys in trouble. It also has stars like Davis Love III and Zach Johnson for whom this is a home game; they live there. Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk made the drive up from Ponte Vedra Beach. And hot shot Jonas Blixt is back to see if he can win back-to-back tournaments.
So it will be quite interesting to watch, not just for the drama and the stellar play, but for the beauty of the setting too. The course is a redesign by Tom Fazio back in 1998 and it’s 7005 yards playing to a par 70.
Plus, one of the best things about the PGA Tour is that the players are all so good, you never know who’ll end up on top of the leaderboard at the end of the first day. Whoever it is will have risen above all of this, focused on his targets…and just played golf.