After his round Sunday in the Frys.com Open, newly-minted pro, Bud Cauley was asked about the difference between his three amateur years at the University of Alabama and being able to play in the eight events he received sponsor’s exemptions into this year:
Yeah. You know, it’s still just golf. I said out there, you know, I think a little bit difference from college to here is just the value of a shot and making up shots, and making bogeys is a lot more costly out here obviously than it is there.
But when you get out there, it’s still just between your ears and still golf. You know, it’s really nothing too different, if you don’t make it different.
Fortunately, after today’s third place finish at the CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, California, that attitude has earned him a total so far this year of $670,000, enough to place him 114th on the money list. With the additional exemption he earned today for a top 10 finish, a good week at this week’s McGladrey Classic at Sea Island, Georgia, will be enough to keep him inside the 125th place on the money list and lock up his Tour card for next year without having to go to Q-School, a very rare feat.
A couple of things about his concise little quote.
First of all, this idea about the value of a shot in professional golf. He’s talking strictly dollars and cents value. In college, most of the players aren’t quite polished enough to move on to the professional ranks. That’s why some spend years playing in obscure mini-tours, eventually the Nationwide Tour by going to Q-School and not getting a top 25 and ultimately to the PGA Tour by getting in the Top 25 Nationwide money leaders at the end of the year or going back to Q-School and finally succeeding there.
But on the PGA Tour, the players are all so uniformly good that if you make the cut, you are not only one of the best players in the world, you are also one of the hottest, best players in the world. Trouble is, everybody else who’s made the cut is too.
So once the tournament comes down to those final two rounds, you have the best of the best vying for shares of the pot of gold. So if you slip up, the “Thundering Herd” will plunder your loot.
Right after Cauley came off the course, he said essentially the same thing he said in the media room about the value of a shot, but he also added a sentence in there about the need to play strategically because of that. You had to gain enough experience to know when it made sense to go for a shot and when it was more prudent to play a safer shot. Make a poor choice and your fortunes could come cascading down.
Secondly, this idea of, “…it’s still just between your ears and still golf. You know, it’s really nothing too different, if you don’t make it different.”
“If you don’t make it different.” Where do these kids get all of this wisdom from? This idea that the world is really a reflection of your own thoughts about it is a very evolved and sophisticated idea. There aren’t too many young men his age who appreciate the fine distinction there. Most think the Q-School is hard, playing on the PGA Tour is hard, keeping your card is hard and competing week-to-week on the Tour is hard. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is “hard,” and Bud Cauley understands that.
He should be just fine out there because he understands that the PGA Tour’s challenges are what you make of them. And if you are able to deal with the perceived magnitude of the milieu, deal with what’s in front of you on a shot-by-shot basis, there’s little that you’re ill-equipped to handle.
As to shot values, there was no bigger shot value Sunday than Bryce Molder’s six-foot putt to win the six-hole playoff. Once he got into the playoff, he was going to earn either the first place prize of $900,000 or the second place haul of $540,000. He made the putt, of course, so at the margin, it was worth, $360,000.
As to Briny Baird, the playoff loser now having gone 348 tournaments without a victory, he had a victory of a different sort:
For me that’s a big deal. There’s a hurdle that I overcame today that I’m not scared to talk about it.
If I knew [how to win], you know, I would have — I probably would have won. You know, because you keep doing [what I did today, having a chance to win], that’s knocking on the door. A lot of other times, you know, you finish second, you finish third, you finish fourth, you’re not really knocking on the door. You’re just shooting a good Sunday round when you were in 25th place. This was good.
Mastery is a long march to wisdom and Briny Baird stepped over another hurdle in his way. When you’re slogging along wondering if you are really capable of winning, there can be some dark nights. Winning can almost seem a different reality. He now knows that he is capable of winning and it is just a matter of time.
But don’t feel too bad for his solitary, extended journey. He’s earned $12.5 million for his efforts so far.