Formally, it’s now known as the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, but the players all know it as Disney.
But beyond that, they mostly know it as the last chance to save their Tour cards for the coming year.
Oh, there are some poachers from the upper echelons of the Tour — Davis Love III comes to mind — who see an opportunity for a family vacation and a chance for a victory in weaker field. But for the most part the drama is with those players 120th and lower on the Money List.
The magic number to be completely exempt for next year is 125. You can still earn a conditional card if you finish from 126 through 150, but that puts you at the bottom of the food chain and you can only expect to get into 12 to 15 events a year when everyone else is playing 20 to 30. Getting into so many fewer tournaments puts even more pressure on you to earn your card for the following year.
Some of the players who end up in the 126 to 150 category will additionally chose to attend Q-School to try to finish in the Top 25 there and earn a totally exempt card. And why not? As Tour players, they are exempt straight into the Q-School finals, leaping over the 1st and 2nd stages. At Disney they have four rounds to lock up a 125 slot, at Q-School six rounds to finish Top 25. But in both instances, “You gotta play good.”
Regrettably, this is the last year that this annual drama will play itself out. After this year, Q-School will only earn you a spot on the Web.com Tour from whence all future PGA Tour cards will emanate in a season-ending, three tournament series.
So in so many different ways, This Is It!
And just in the nick of time, Brian Wacker, writing at PGATour.com, has put together the definitive list of the players on the bubble and what their stories or chances are, “Bubble breakdown: Sizing up the top 125 contenders.” If you’re an aficionado of the Q-School drama, it makes for fascinating reading. There are some big names there, but some even bigger ones lower than the 150.
For example, Billy Mayfair finds himself right on the 125 spot, but he was 127 last year and had a great tournament to save his card. Trevor Immelman is 126 and out of the money, but he’s not worried; he still has one more year left on his five-year exemption for winning the 2008 Masters. He’s in the field anyway.
The Magnolia Course is the host course, but they will also be playing on the Palm Course to get the 128 players around. With sunset at 5:35, even with the extra course, the first tee time is 6:45, just two minutes after sunrise. So they’ll be warming up under the lights and some will be getting up as early as 4:00 in preparation. That should lead to some shallow breathing first thing in the morning.
And you thought life on the PGA Tour was glamorous.