The Fall Series – Keeping Your Card

Now that the playoffs are over and the Tour Championship and FedExCup have been decided—Bill Haas won both—we turn to the guys who weren’t fortunate enough to be operating in the ether of the playoffs, the guys further down the money list.

The Fall Series begins today in Las Vegas with the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at the TPC Summerlin. It is the first of four tournaments to close out the season to decide who gets to keep his card and who has to go to Q-School. All of these are smaller-purse tournaments between $4 and $5 million when most of the bigger tournaments are $6 million and above.

This creates a dilemma for guys who haven’t had a good year and are at risk of losing their cards. Not only do they have to make up big chunks of money to be safe, they have to do it in a pool with smaller chunks. Plus, the field size is only 132 instead of the more normal 144 or 156, due to decreasing daylight this time of year and the need to get the entire field finished each night.

The guy on the 125 bubble to keep his card is David Mathis. To give you an idea of where he stands, he’s made $563,752. He’s been off and on the Tour since he earned his card in 2009 going back to the Nationwide Tour in 2010. Learning the ropes, he’s made 13 of 21 cuts, had 1 top 10 and 5 top 25s. So he’s getting there.

Here’s a bracket to give you some perspective:

115 – Tiger Woods – $629,863

125 – David Mathis – $563,752

135 – Cameron Beckman – $446,593

Aside from the fact that Tiger Woods is well inside the 125 spot, he has no risk of losing his card. If you have at least 20 PGA Tour victories, you are exempt for life. Davis Love III finally got over the hump back in 2008 at Disney. Tiger has 71. He’ll be playing in next week’s tournament (see below) trying to sharpen himself up for the President’s Cup.

It’s hard to believe that Cameron Beckman is down at 135. He’s a feast or famine kind of player who missed 11 of 22 cuts this year and had to withdraw from a 12th. But he won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Cancun in 2010 which makes him exempt through 2012. But he has to be a little concerned that he came into the year with ligament damage in his right hand, missed 7 cuts in a row in the middle of the season, and then had to withdraw from the Reno-Tahoe Open with a bad back. He’s entered this week.

And here are the remaining three tournaments in the Fall Series over four back-to-back weeks:

Frys.com Open – Corde Valle Golf Club, San Martin, California

The McGladrey Classic – Seaside Course, Sea Island, Georgia

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic (aka Disney) – Magnolia Golf Club and Palm Golf Club, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Once you have a game that is capable of getting you to the level of the PGA Tour, the rest of it is all about knowing that you belong. It’s about knowing that you’re as good or better than the next guy and that it’s just a matter of all the pieces falling together at just the right time. You can go from nobody to Tour winner in a heartbeat, as Keegan Bradley proved this year with his wins at the Byron Nelson and the PGA Championship.

But while you’re waiting for that to happen, you have to have patience. You have to continue to nurture your curiosity so that your mind is open to learning. You cannot dwell in the negative or the life-is-hard conversation. It sucks the life out of you and those guys are gone early. After a great career, that’s what’s happening to John Daly now; he’s slowly dissolving in his own self-pity.

For a look at a guy who’s going about his apprenticeship in the right way, you need look no further than William McGirt. You may recall that he was the bubble boy going into the playoffs and managed to get through the Barclays but the string ran out in Boston at the Deutsche Bank.

Melanie Houser, writing at PGATour.com, gives us a glimpse into the world of McGirt in, “Rookie McGirt brings new confidence to Fall Series.” It’s a nice piece.

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