Updated: October 12, 2011, 8:33 PM ET

PGA Tour money race catching players' interest

Harig By Bob Harig

How much does the PGA Tour money title matter?

In recent years, depending on who was going after it, it seemingly had little effect on those chasing it.

[+] EnlargeWebb Simpson
Allan Henry/US PresswireWebb Simpson trails Luke Donald by less than $70,000 for the PGA Tour money list lead. If he can surpass the Englishman and finish in the top spot, Simpson will also earn a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

Tiger Woods had a chance to win it in 2003 and didn't add events to try to catch Vijay Singh late in the season. Been there, done that. (Woods has won the money title nine times.)

Even last year, when Jim Furyk was the FedEx Cup champion, he didn't go after the money title, which was snatched away by Matt Kuchar, who played a Fall Series event while Furyk did not.

That's no knock on anybody. The PGA Tour itself has done all it can to render the Arnold Palmer Award -- given to the year's money title winner -- virtually meaningless.

It has put all of the attention on the FedEx Cup and a points system that crowns the champion at the Tour Championship. Money means nothing, except for the big bonuses paid to the top finishers.

And then ... money does matter. At least it does during the Fall Series, which is all about money and keeping a tour card and finishing in the top 30 for other perks the following year.

And now it is suddenly about the money title, too. Who would have ever dreamed that?

Webb Simpson has entered this week's McGladrey Classic, and he makes no secret of his desire to win the money title. He trails money leader Luke Donald by $68,971. A 15th-place finish or better would help Simpson pass Donald this week.

Either way, things will remain interesting heading into next week's season-ending PGA Tour event, the Children's Miracle Network Classic at Walt Disney World.

Here is why the money title is important to both players, when it would normally appear to be just another nice achievement:

A little-known perk of winning the money title is the five-year PGA Tour exemption that comes with it. Nobody thought much of that when players such as Woods and Singh were winning the money title.

But to Simpson, that is huge. He won for the first time on tour this year at the Wyndham Championship, then added another title a few weeks later at the Deutsche Bank. That means a three-year exemption. But for a guy who didn't wrap up his card for this year until last year's FedEx Cup playoffs, knowing you've got five more years is pretty significant.

And then there is Donald, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, clearly the most consistent of any performer. He's won once on the PGA Tour, twice on the European Tour and could be the player of the year on both. He also leads both money lists, and no player has ever officially won both titles. (Woods has done so six times, but he was never a member of the European Tour, so his earnings did not count.)

Donald has talked about adding Disney if Simpson passes him, but he has to commit by this Friday and his wife his expecting their second child in early November. He's already played a grueling schedule that saw him compete in eight of the last 10 weeks, including four in a row in Chicago, Atlanta, St. Andrews, Scotland, and Madrid.

Does he want to add Disney to win the money title? Will he need to?

"Maybe I'll be tempted,'' Donald said recently at the Dunhill Links. "I could play Disney. Take my daughter to Disney World. I don't know how important it is to Webb, but for someone who this time last year was struggling to keep his card that might be very appealing.''

Rickie's first victory

For Rickie Fowler, his victory on Sunday at the Kolon Korea Open certainly can be nit-picked, if you want to go that route in deciphering whether the win portends future greatness or means little.

The 2010 PGA Tour rookie of the year was playing in an obscure event on the OneAsia Tour -- they actually have two competing tours -- that saw him defeat only a handful of big-name players.

And yet among those he beat were major champions Rory McIlroy and Y.E. Yang.

He won by six strokes, shot 8-under-par 63 during the third round and was one of just six players under par for the tournament, with a total of 16 under.

So while the tournament might not have been high caliber, his golf certainly seemed to be pretty good. He separated himself from McIlroy with that 63 and then closed out the tournament -- something he's so far been unable to do as a pro.

And if that is what he needs to push him toward his first PGA Tour victory, then the Korea Open will be one that Fowler looks back on as far more than his first professional win (and a like hefty appearance fee).

Fowler will attempt to claim his first PGA Tour title his week as he traveled back through 13 time zones to play in this week's McGladrey Classic, the third of four Fall Series events.

He comes into the tournament with some confidence, if he otherwise might not know what day it is.

Fowler has played 55 events on the PGA Tour, and some of his best success came two years ago during Fall Series events, one of which he lost in a playoff. That was the Frys.com Open, just his second event as a pro.

Last year he finished second twice, but in the 2011 season, Fowler rarely contended. He was tied for second at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, his best finish of the year, but he was never a threat to win the tournament. Other than the AT&T National, Fowler was never really a contender on the final day of any tournament in the second part of the year.

And for the season, he finished 43rd in FedEx Cup points, missing out on the Tour Championship for the second straight year.

His biggest highlight before Sunday was likely his comeback in singles at the Ryder Cup last year, where he managed to forge a tie against Edoardo Molinari by birdieing his last three holes. That was impressive stuff, and he figured to build on it.

Perhaps this victory in a faraway place will serve him in that fashion.

The philosophical view

A few days after the hot dog incident at the Frys.com Open, Tiger Woods noted the intimacy associated with golf and spectators at tournaments.

"Part of the lure of our sport is our access," Woods said Tuesday at a news conference to promote his Chevron World Challenge, where he announced the field for the Dec. 1-4 tournament. "Fans can literally reach out and touch you. You don't ever touch football players unless they jump in the stands. That personal interaction is what makes golf so special. We've been very fortunate over the years to have everything turn out positively.

"This guy was just trying to gain attention for himself, which he did. I've had another fan throw an orange in Phoenix one year. Unfortunately, people have a few of their libations of choice, and do things that they probably don't normally do."

"The guy'' has been identified as Brandon Kelly, 31, by the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. Kelly was charged with disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor, hence his name was not released by law enforcement. But he admitted to the paper that he was the hot dog thrower.

"I threw the hot dog toward Tiger Woods because I was inspired by the movie 'Drive,'" Kelly said. "As soon as the movie ended, I thought to myself, 'I have to do something courageous and epic. I have to throw a hot dog on the green in front of Tiger.'"

He also said: "I honestly wish Tiger the best. One day I hope he breaks Jack Nicklaus' record.''

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?