It’s Not So Lonely At The Top

The second round of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals Open is in the books and the TPC Summerlin has taken quite a beating. And the Vegas odds makers say it’s even money they’re going to keep doing it.

The three guys at the top of the leaderboard, Kevin Na, Jhonattan Vegas and Charlie Wi, are at 12-under par. Think about it. On this par 71 golf course, that’s the equivalent of shooting back-to-back 65s…and three guys did that. Not just one, three.

But beyond that, there are 36 guys within 5 shots of the lead. 36. That, in and of itself, is a measure of the depth of the talent on the PGA Tour. Granted, 5 shots was sort of an arbitrary number, but there were 27 within 4 shots.

The reason I said 5-under was kind of arbitrary is because if the three guys at the top are averaging 6-under, then the leaders are well within striking distance by a whole bunch of guys. But beyond that, 15 guys shot 65 or better the first day with Jhonattan Vegas and William McGirt both shooting 63s. And 10 guys did it Friday with Hunter Haas shooting a 61 and Kevin Na a 63.

So this is an amazingly dense cluster of some of the best golf talent in the world. And the consequence of that is that you really have to be well-practiced at staying in the moment because while you are attempting just paying attention to your target and your shot, you know that this big, indefatigable freight train is boring down on you. “All” you need to do is keep making birdies because you know that they will.

And from here, the finish line is still a long ways away. You can’t even think about that either. You have a whole lot of exhausting work to do Saturday, you have to hold it together and try to go much lower again. And then with a little rest, you have to do it all over again on Sunday. Only this time the finish line is looming.

Okay, okay. I can keep it together pretty well and I can easily shoot under par—not sure how much under, but under. And say I get myself within striking distance coming down the home stretch. Unless I’m the guy who shoots 61 on Sunday, because the top of the board is so packed with very close, very good talent, there’s bound to be a playoff.

Playoffs are great for one guy, the winner. The other guy or guys will have worked just as hard and played just as heroically until the bottom fell out. You get so close, your whole body is tingling in anticipation and then your body just gets drained. It’s all part of the process of becoming a Tour pro, failing your way to success.

At the other end of the field, the guys who missed the cut, there are some guys who are in real trouble even with three tournaments to go. Of the guys who missed the cut, 34 of them were already outside of being in the top 125 to keep their cards. So not only are they still outside the number, they spent all that money to show up and play in the tournament (flights, hotels, meals, caddies, etc.) and now they’re going home empty handed.

Most will move right on to the next tournament, because it’s just over in San Martin, California, but some may go home for a couple of days to be with family and save money. When you’re at the bottom of the barrel, you think about saving money.

But you also think about getting a fresh start next week, about the luxury of quality practice time you’ll get with other Tour players and, of course, the possibility that this just might be the week.

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