Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Martin Laird faces another uphill fight

to keep his US PGA Tour card

They'll start the Fall Series this week (on the US PGA Tour). It's a five-event portion of the schedule that's designed to keep professional golf in the spotlight, continue to grow the game's charitable giving and give the rank-and-file players an opportunity to play.
Of course, those who just completed their season at the US Tour Championship are also welcome to compete, but few of them will take advantage of the opportunity. Other than playing in The Presidents Cup, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are done for the year.
Luke Donald won't return because he's got to play three times on the European Tour in order to retain his membership there. Dustin Johnson will play this week at the Turning Stone Resort Championship and then probably call it quits.
U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover has committed to play the Children's Miracle Network Classic at Disney World (site of his first victory in 2005) but isn't likely to compete elsewhere because of his excessive workload; he's played 25 events, the equivalent of a baseball pitcher throwing 300 innings.
But there will still be plenty of compelling stories for the Fall Series, starting this week at the Turning Stone Resort Championship and finishing in the middle of November, with the winner mugging for the camera alongside Mickey Mouse.
Here are four groups of players to keep an eye out for over the rest of season. All have compelling reasons to play well.
The "I want to keep my card" group. These guys are digging hard to get in the top 125 and avoid a trip to Q-school. They include:
Martin Laird was No. 125 a year ago and is No. 135 this go-round, as those seven consecutive missed cuts have come back to haunt him. He earned more than $100,000 in the Fall Series last year and needs similar results to assure his exempt status.
• Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey needed a second-place finish at Disney to clinch conditional status but is buried near the bottom of the earnings list. He'll need to take gold, not silver, to avoid Q-school.
Harrison Frazar is this year's Bubble Boy. He was medalist at Q-school a year ago and starts the stretch run at No. 125. He needs to hold his position or get ready for that six-round funfest. In his favor: he had a pair of top-20s in the Fall Series last year.
The "I can still win even though my hair (what's left of it) is graying" group.
Davis Love III proved he still had some fire in the furnace last year when he won at Disney. Here are three other veterans who are capable of striking some Fall Series magic:
• J.J. Henry has quietly had a good year (three top-10s) and looked more like the guy who made the 2006 Ryder Cup team. He hasn't won since 2006.
Paul Goydos won't play much, but he's definitely a threat at the Open, where he was seventh last year. His last win came in Hawaii in 2007.
Scott McCarron is finally healthy from 2006 elbow surgery and has regained his taste for competition. McCarron, whose last win came at the BellSouth Classic in 2001, has six top-25s in 25 starts.
The "veterans looking to keep their card" group. Unless you finish in the top 125 on the US PGA Tour money list or unless you win a tournament (and earn a two-year exemption), you've got to keep playing. Among them are:
David Duval is No. 116 on the money list and is out of exemption options. He's looked great at times this season (look at the highlights from Bethpage), and he's had times where he's been horrible (11 missed cuts in 18 starts).
Todd Hamilton had two outstanding weeks in the spring, where he played well at the Masters and the Verizon Heritage. He finished 25th or better three times in the 2008 Fall Series. He must defend his standing (No. 121) or slip into that conditional qualifier list.
Stuart Appleby is only No. 129 on the money list and needs to remain exempt. How is this possible? Dude could have won the Masters in 2007 and 2008. Unless he plays well in the Fall Series, Appleby will need to use his special career winnings exemption.

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