The PGA Tour did a very nice thing for the Nationwide Tour in heading off to exotic Kuala Lumpur so that the Nationwide could have us all to itself.
And this will be worth watching. The top 60 players have joined together for the Nationwide Tour Championship at the Daniel Island Club in Charleston, South Carolina, to decide who gets to play on the PGA Tour next year. They’ll be “wrasslin’” around for four rounds and the top 25 guys get a pass to the Big Show. So if you’re one of those people who likes to look through windows into the future, there’ll be a big chunk of the future resolved this weekend.
They’re playing the Ralston Creek Course, a par 72 that stretches to 7,446 yards. It was designed by the controversial “U.S. Open course doctor,” Rees Jones, he who adds stern length to outdated courses in order to better defend par, but he designed this one from scratch in 2006. Golfweek and Golf Digest named it among the nation’s top new private courses. So you’ll also get to see a great example of a classic, South Carolina Lowcountry course.
When I was Monday qualifying, the first thing I’d look for on the scorecard of a strange course was the par 5s. This one has two beefy ones at 618 and 583 yards. Some of the guys will be able to get home in two on those, but the other two are “gettable,” at 538 and 557 yards. As far as these guys hit it, some will be going into the first one with middle irons while the second one is the 18th hole and will bring a lot of jockeying and drama to the finish.
The thing to like about the Nationwide Tour is that it’s not just composed of a bunch of unknown, fresh-face kids anymore. There are plenty of them, but there are also a number of PGA Tour players involved in reclamation projects of their careers. They’ve lost their cards due to injury, not playing well or having too low a status to get a lot of starts to build a head of steam.
Years ago when I first realized that, I didn’t like it because I thought it was just a bunch of grizzled Tour veterans feasting on low-hanging fruit. But that was before I got a taste of my own humanity by beating my brains out Monday qualifying on the Champions Tour. You come to realize that the glittery names that are well known to the golf community, are very much human too. What would they do with themselves if they didn’t have this recourse?
So the nice thing about this is the open display of their humility. In one of the world’s last meritocracies, if you don’t shoot the scores, you’re gone. Do that often enough and it begins to eat away at your sense of yourself. Do anything but nip that in the bud and pretty soon you lose your sense of yourself. Lose your sense of yourself and you soon lose your career.
The humility comes from accepting what’s become of you, swallowing your pride and, with your head held high, setting about getting it all back together again. And it’s not easy; it can be the equivalent of herding cats because you’re not “just playing” anymore, you’re working on trying to rediscover your swing so that you can just play. And the Nationwide gives you plenty of low-risk starts to work that out. The Nationwide is not about the money, it’s about the scores. You make your money on the big tour. There are a number of guys in this field this weekend who are trying to do that.
So, 2:30 Eastern all four days beginning Thursday. Check it out. It’s a serious tournament featuring guys with high intentions and expectations. And for some, fear that it won’t work out again. Then what?