Backs Against The Wall

I’ve written about the power of intention before, but then it was just about making putts and hitting shots.

Well, there are bunch of guys who’ve come out of nowhere after the first round at the McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, Georgia, who are trying to go beyond just sinking putts and making shots. They’re trying to save their jobs. After their abysmal years, there can be no other reason for so many of them to be clustered at the top of the leaderboard.

It was that kind of possibility I was pointing towards in yesterday’s post when I talked about some guys being so far down the money list, they’d need to have two good tournaments to save their jobs, this one and next week at Disney.

First of all, kudos to Webb Simpson, No. 2 on the money list and T1 at the end of the first round. If he wins the tournament, he would move to No. 1 and lock it up for the year. At $5,768,243, he’s a mere $69,000 behind Luke Donald who’s not playing this week.

Simpson is tied with Zack Miller, the “little kid from San Rafael, California,” whom I wrote about in “So Many Stories.” He also shot a 7-under 63 with not a bogey on the card. And interesting enough, he credits his renaissance to some of the same ideas that Yani Tseng talks about. He was talking about missing his last seven cuts in a row. This is important:

…it’s been a challenge for me just to stay happy and keep going. I think I just came into this week — I’ve been sort of learning how to be happy regardless of what the golf scores are, you know, which is try and having more fun at the events, going out to dinner with some of the players as opposed to early in the year I was doing stuff by myself. Just trying to have more fun because if my fun was just based on my golf score, it’s a pretty rough existence.

If he wins, he would move to 80 on the money list, which is sort of moot since he would win a two-year exemption with the victory anyway. “Money list? I don’t need no stinking money list!”

The three guys who are T3, Scott McCarron, Billy Horschel and Martin Piller, are all in dire need of help. If any of them finished 3rd, the only one who would keep his card would be Horschel. He would move from 139 to inside the magic 125 number to 116. Veteran Scott McCarron has only made 9 of 20 cuts and made a paltry $311,000 which has left him at 163 on the money list. A 3rd would move him up to 140. He would obviously need another good week at Disney, but getting inside 150 would at least give him conditional status.

I met Martin Piller at the LPGA’s Founders Cup tournament while I was following his wife, Gerina. I spent the day talking philosophy with him and later interviewed Gerina for “This Is Mastery.” And then I followed her again the next day because she was playing with Stacy Lewis whom I hadn’t seen play. In any event, I’ve been watching the two of them ever since; they’ve been my secret dark horse on each week’s leaderboard and finally, here Martin is. And he needs it. Coming out of the Nationwide Top 25, he wasn’t high enough on the status list to get into a lot of tournaments. In fact, he was only able to get into 19 before this week, and without being able to get into any sort of rhythm, he missed 14 of those cuts and fell to 202 on the money list. His 6-under today included 2 bogeys, so there was never any doubt that he could play. If he can stay T3 that would get him to 159 and he’d need another good week at Disney. Better late than never, but he’s looking good in the early going.

Of the six guys I highlighted yesterday, Richard S. Johnson did the best. He’s T6 after a 65 and he would move up to 173.

Tom Gillis shot 4-over 74 to finish T121 and fell to 103. Still very safe, but you don’t want to be going backwards this time of year. I first became aware of him in Phoenix this year after his killer interview I excerpted in “Hopes and Dreams.” I truly hope he does well because he looked the death of his career right in the eye a couple of years back.

Tommy Gainey is a feast or famine sort of player and after shooting 1-over and getting T92, he doesn’t move from his 35 perch (because he would miss the cut and the guys behind him can’t make up the $110,000 spread; a jetlagged Rickie Fowler shot 3-over).

Alex Prugh shot 6-over was T129 and 174 and will likely miss the cut; Chris Riley, 2-under, T42 and 152; and Michael Letzig, 3-under, T26 and 199.

Notwithstanding the glory we see each week on the Tour, for many it is not an easy life, particularly when everybody you ever knew in your life told you what a great player you are. It takes a while for most players to rationalize those two disparate facts: how could you be that good and playing that bad?

It is the cunning seduction of the game and it kept me going for nine years. As good as these guys are, they will finally find their way.

But many times along the way they will find their backs against the wall. Since you learn so much in that situation and its consequences, it’s not all bad. You wouldn’t wish for it, but looking back, you would soon realize its benefits.

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