Last chance for PGA Tour exemption

November, 9, 2010

All sports have a direct relationship with numbers. Their presence in and around the games we love is the support system that describe what we see on the field, court or course. And all sports have their most significant numbers: For example, in baseball: 56, 756, and 3,000 come to mind.

Trivia question

Troy Matteson enters the last event of the year in 125th place on the money list. Who finished 125th in 2009? (Answer below.)

Golf's most prestigious number is undoubtedly 18 -- the number of majors Jack Nicklaus won. But year after year, a more important number impacts many, many more players on the PGA Tour. That number is 125.

The top 125 players on the 2010 PGA Tour money list will receive exempt status on the circuit next year. With this weekend's field missing some elite names, the most compelling storylines to keep an eye on this weekend all feature players scratching and clawing for their PGA Tour futures.

Several tour veterans are around the magic number entering the week. Incidentally, the man on the number is Troy Matteson, who's win last fall at the Open assured him of exempt status next year. Let's break down who has the most on the line this weekend in Florida:

122. Robert Garrigus
2010 money: $737,275
Career PGA Tour wins: 0

Garrigus was a hole away from his first career PGA Tour victory earlier this year in Tennessee before it all went awry. His playoff-forcing triple-bogey opened the door for now-world No. 1 Lee Westwood to get his first PGA Tour win in 12 years. The heart-wrenching finish also makes him tough not to root for this week: Garrigus should get a tour card for 2011 with a made cut this weekend. After finishing in the top-25 eight times in 2009, he did so just twice this year, at the aforementioned St. Jude and in Reno.

123. Woody Austin
2010 money: $727,352
Career PGA Tour wins: 3

It's now been over three full years since Aquaman's last win on tour. Since a 2007 season that saw him win the St. Jude, finish second at the PGA Championship and make the Presidents Cup team, Austin has just 12 top-10's -- and only three this year. But not all is dim for Austin: After missing three straight cuts, he's made his past three. Only one of his past 12 rounds has been worse than par, and he's made the cut in three straight starts in this event.

124. Michael Allen
2010 money: $726,631
Career PGA Tour wins: 0

Allen has played 16 times on the PGA Tour and 14 on the Champions Tour this year. If you combine his winnings on both tours, he's made nearly $2 million this year -- but, alas, to keep a card on the younger circuit, he likely will need to at least make the cut this weekend. Allen's ascent on the PGA money list is heavily attributed to his second-place finish at the Viking Classic at the beginning of October. He also finished second at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship last weekend, meaning his game is in great shape heading into a tournament he needs to play well in.

126. Briny Baird
2010 money: $710,337
Career PGA Tour wins: 0

Baird's name occasionally has been thrown into the mix with the best players without a tour win. Twice in his career he's made more than $2 million in a season, and four times he's passed the $1 million mark. But with just one top-10 finish in 2010 (and that was in February in the alternate-field Mayakoba), Baird will need to perform well if he wants to remain exempt next year. Baird has made just four of seven cuts since the beginning of August.

Trivia answer

Question: Troy Matteson enters the last event of the year in 125th place on the money list. Who finished 125th in 2009?

Answer: Jimmy Walker. Walker's best finish this year was a tie for third at the Valero Texas Open in May.

127. Aron Price
2010 money: $704,102
Career PGA Tour wins: 0

The Nationwide Tour graduate has made 12 of 21 cuts in his second full season on the PGA Tour, but it might not be enough to get him a spot in 2011. After picking up his third top-10 finish of the year at the McGladrey, he finished T-63 at the Open and missed the cut in Nevada. Price needs at least a made cut and some help to secure a spot in the top 125.

Tiger Woods won't be able to win a PGA Tour event in 2010, but this weekend, he will have the chance to defend his title at the JBWere Masters in Australia. The event in Melbourne is a part of the PGA Tour of Australasia, which features events primarily in Australia and New Zealand.

Woods has enjoyed enormous success in smaller worldwide events like this one over the course of his career. Since 2000, Woods has started in 18 official events held outside the United States that were neither majors nor World Golf Championships events. Tiger has won nine of them and finished outside of the top 10 just once.

Woods will be a polarizing figure for the remainder of his career. This being said, it's impossible to overstate the financial impact he's had on the PGA Tour. The last year that Woods did not win a single event on the PGA Tour was back in 1995, before he turned professional. That year, the total purses on tour were just under $63 million dollars. In 2010, that number is more than quadrupled. In '95, Greg Norman led the tour in earnings with $1.65 million. This year, even in a season of great parity, leading money winner Matt Kuchar made nearly $5 million.

Those numbers are meant solely as a snapshot, and Woods is not to be entirely credited with the expanded success of the tour. It does, however, provide some context to the impact he's had.



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