Echoes of the Mind

So the Tour rolls in to San Martin, CA, just south of San Jose, for this week’s Open at the CordeValle Golf Club. It’s a par 71, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., design that can be stretched to 7,368 yards, the only defense against today’s Tour players. Only a very small percentage of amateur players could even play a course that long, let alone score on it. 

But the golf course is going to get a little help this week: it’s the third of the five Fall Series tournaments, the home stretch for those living on the edge of saving their Tour cards. These players must finish 125 or higher on the money list in order to keep their Tour cards and unlimited playing privileges. 

“Third of five. But I still have this third one to play, so really, I still have 60% of the way to go. Yeah, but that’s just a statistical game to make me feel better. It’s still just three tournaments to go. But if I don’t get it done this week, then there are only two left. But that’s still 40%. But that’s just the same game. I have to get it done this week because if I don’t, then I’m in the position of having to worry about next week and then I’ll only have one to go. Oh, Jeez.” 

Now in your mind, this isn’t all so laid out in such clean, linear detail. It’s a jumble of bite-sized impressions—what’s this course like?, what’s next week’s like?, I’m hitting it pretty good but it’s just a little off, what time is my flight?, who’s here this week?, where am I staying next week?, I like the range here—compressed into a neat, little knot of…worry. No, concern. No, reality check. “Gotta keep checking, seeing where I am,” the ego says. 

And every time the reality of their situation flashes through their mind, some element is snatched out of the compressed file as a proxy for the whole thing. It jolts you. 

But they can’t afford to pay attention to these echoes of the mind. These are the things that take you away from what you need to paying attention to: target, ball, club, body. And the players know that. But try not to think of pink elephants. 

The only remedy is to become so engaged with the moment that all the rest melts away. You and your caddie; someone to talk to, someone to think with. Just the two of you, in a time tube that leads from the parking lot in the morning to the end of practice on the range at night. Hitting shots, watching, fully engaged and all emanating from your spiritual essence. With nothing at risk in the moment, it’s easier for the ego to take a break. 

And then the day is over, the body spent, shoulders relaxed, cruising in the courtesy car back to the hotel…and a shower…and dinner…Sports Center…and sleep. 

Here is this week’s bracket around the 125th place: 

120      Michael Allen            $716,031

125      Aron Price                  $693,502

130      Joe Ogilvie                 $631,128

Michael Allen doesn’t have a lot to worry about. He turned fifty last year and launched a very successful Champions Tour career in May, winning the Senior PGA Championship right out of the gate and $1.345 million ever since. So even though he’s still played 14 PGA Tour events this year, he’s missed 7 of 14 cuts and made over half of his money in just one tournament, The Viking Classic, two weeks ago. He’s probably looking forward to the comfort of the Champions Tour; three-day tournaments with no cut, but, bless his heart, he’s in the field this week still trying keep his status. 

Aron Price, our man on the bubble, is an Aussie who’s been on the Tour for two years. He played his way on to the Tour by finishing in the Top 25 (18th) money leaders on the Nationwide Tour in 2008. He played in 27 events (a lot) but only managed to finish 144th on the money list and had to go back to Q-School. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful, withdrawing after the fifth round. But his 144th status on the money list still got him into a limited number of tournaments (19). He’s young, he played great on the very competitive Nationwide Tour and is oh, so close this year on the Tour. He’s entered this week and sooner or later, he’ll be fine. 

Joe Ogilvie is the financial wizard of the PGA Tour players, graduating from Duke in 1996 with a degree in Economics. When other players have questions about investing, Joe is the guy whose brain they pick. He lost his card last year and had to play his way back on through Q-School. So presumably, even though nobody wants to go backwards, he knows that most players worst fear is not so bad. Besides, as long as he stays in the Top 150, he’ll still have some status next year. Like Aron Price this year, he just won’t be able to pick and choose his own schedule.

At the other end of the field, “old soul” Rickie Fowler probably attracts the most attention because of his great performance at the Ryder Cup. All the talk is that he’s due for his first win, a far cry from what’s going on at the back of the field. 

But that’s the way of the world. You are where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing. 

Until it changes and then that’s where you’re supposed to be.

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