The $180,000 Lightning Bolt

“Is Tiger playing?” 

How often do we hear that question when trying to decide whether to watch a PGA Tour event or not. If he’s not playing, it seems that, save for a few notables, the players morph into this amorphous blur of really good golfers playing really good golf on really good golf courses. Nothing exceptional. 

So if we have nothing else to do, we watch. Except for the die-hard golf fans like me, it’s not “appointment TV.” 

It’s even worse for the Nationwide Tour, the developmental tour for the PGA Tour. They have largely unknown players shooting ridiculously low scores on courses nobody’s heard of. 

But there is one ongoing reason to follow the Nationwide Tour. At the end of the year, the top 25 players on the money list win PGA Tour cards. As a measure of that accomplishment, that’s the same number of cards that the Tour issues at the PGA Tour Q-School (technically the top 25 and ties to eliminate unfair playoffs after the sixth round, e.g., a player with a very early tee time shoots a very low number and then gets stiff waiting hours for the playoff). 

And there’s always the “instant success” hook with the Nationwide Tour: any player who wins three tournaments during the year gets an automatic, “battlefield promotion” to the PGA Tour. There are currently four players with two wins. But save for the money those wins earned them to move them up the money list, the wins are moot now. The Nationwide Tour’s Tour Championship is underway. 

The Tour Championship is limited to the top 60 players on the money list. First place is $180,000, a $180,000 lightning bolt: every player in the field has won enough money this year so that a win this week vaults them into the top 25 and they win a Tour card. And so does anybody who finishes second. 

But beyond that: 

–        Any player inside 54th on the money list and finishes third is in

–        Any player inside 43nd who finishes fourth

–        Any player inside 38th who finishes fifth

–        Any player inside 37th who finishes sixth

–        Any player inside 36th who finishes tenth or better 

You get the picture. Anybody as far back as 35th on the money list can have a good tournament and change his life.  This is because the relatively smaller purses have the players clumped together on the money list. Throw them into a big purse tournament and you get leaderboard fireworks. All they have to do is make it to Sunday evening. 

And so from a mastery point of view, as we’ve been discussing, that means being able to focus on the only four things that matter: target, ball, club, body. On each shot, include your fear and then let it go. When your mind drifts ahead to the “thrill of victory” or “the agony of defeat,” include it and then let it go. When your mind drifts ahead to how thrilled your family will be, include it and then let it go. When your mind drifts back to the bad shots you had in the practice round, include them and then let them go. The only thing that matters is what’s occurring in the present, not the past or the future. And the only four things that matter in the present are: target, ball, club, body. 

Guys who have played tournament golf at the Nationwide level and managed to get into the Tour Championship are all very practiced at staying in the present, at letting things go. And it takes practice, otherwise anyone capable of shooting low scores could be a Tour player. I found that out the hard way back in my Monday qualifying days. The difference between the good players and the elite players is lots of practice at staying in the present. Lots of practice. 

And because of that, any one of them could have a $180,000 lightning bolt strike this weekend. 

How can you not watch?

Need an added incentive? Peter Tomasulo is playing with a broken foot, hobbling along between shots on a cane, trying to protect his 18th place on the money list.

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