For all the success Michael Sim has had this year, one player still stands a realistic chance of catching him on the Nationwide Tour money list.
Blake Adams’ runner-up finish last week at Boise put him within $160,000 of Sim. Adams, 34, will play the final five events of the year in an attempt to catch the Australian. The No. 1 player on the money list earns a spot in next year’s Players Championship.
Sim already has set the Nationwide Tour’s season earnings record and earned a three-victory promotion to the PGA Tour. Adams is closing in on him despite not having won this year; he’s made 11 consecutive cuts, with seven top-10s in that span.
Adams is best known for being one of the tour’s longest hitters, averaging 313.9 yards per tee shot to rank second in driving distance. He’s more than just a bomber, ranking first in total driving, sixth in putting average, 18th in greens in regulation and third in the all-around ranking.
Even if he doesn’t catch Sim, Adams is destined for his first season on the PGA Tour after turning pro in 2001. It’s especially gratifying after suffering a hip injury last fall during the first stage of Q-School. He wasn’t able to hit balls between October and January while going through physical therapy, and could hit only wedges the next month.
“I would’ve hated to have played my entire career hurt and having never gotten past the Nationwide Tour, and just kind of wondering, ‘What if I had been healthy? What could I have done?’ It’s nice to be moving forward,” Adams said.
The small-town guy is headed for the Big Show. Adams lives in Nunez, Ga., population 130. “It doesn’t have a red light. It’s got a couple churches, and a post office, and that’s about it,” he said.
He spent a lot of time at home early in 2009 after starting at the bottom of the Nationwide Tour’s ladder. He finished 94th on last year’s money list; the top 100 earn conditional status.
Not that being home was all bad. His home course, Forest Heights Country Club in Statesboro, Ga., is 45 minutes from his house, so he spends a lot of his practice time hitting balls down a 15-yard-wide dirt road on his property.
“There’s pines on the left, and crops on the other side, so if you don’t hit the road, you pretty much lose the golf ball,” he said. “I feel like if I can hit it down that dirt road, I can pretty much hit it down any fairway in the world.
“The entire winter, I fish or hunt in the morning, then hit golf balls down the dirt road in the afternoon, and then go hunting or fishing in the evening.”
Adams, who played college golf at Georgia before transferring to Georgia Southern, didn’t make his first start this season until April after receiving a sponsor exemption into the Athens Regional Foundation Classic. He tied for 11th there, then tied for third one month later at the BMW Charity Pro-Am.
Those high finishes vaulted Adams up the priority standings after the first reshuffle, allowing him to play a full schedule the rest of the year.
“I’ve gotten better in certain areas, but as a whole, it’s just that I’m healthy,” Adams said. “I’m able to play pain-free.”
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Seeking to stay sharp for the PGA Tour’s Fall Series, which begins next week, five-time PGA Tour winner Billy Mayfair will make his first career Nationwide Tour start this week. Mayfair, who failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, has not played since the Wyndham Championship in August. He is 157th on the PGA Tour money list.
The Arizona native has made 643 PGA Tour starts dating to 1987. In 2009, Mayfair has missed the cut in 13 of 24 events. His game, however, has been on the upswing of late as he has played on the weekend in seven of his past eight tournaments.
Four-time PGA Tour winner Joe Durant will join Mayfair in Midland. He will be playing his first Nationwide Tour event since 1996.
Last week, 31 PGA Tour players with exempt status competed in the Albertsons Boise Open.
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The WNB Golf Classic was won last year by Marc Leishman, who is playing the Tour Championship this week. Leishman won the WNB by 11 shots, tying the largest margin of victory in tour history, to finish in the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list and earn a PGA Tour card. Leishman is 16th on the FedEx Cup points list after finishing T-2 at the BMW Championship.
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Short shots: Former UCLA player Lucas Lee ended the Albertsons Boise Open in style, and it earned him a spot in this week’s event. Lee holed his approach shot on the 72nd hole to finish T-17 in his first Nationwide Tour event. The top 25 finishers each week earn a spot in the next event. . . . Former University of Georgia All-American Chip Beck has agreed to serve as honorary chairperson of the Nationwide Tour’s Athens Classic at UGA next year. Beck is the only player in Nationwide Tour history to make a hole-in-one on a par-4. . . . The Albertsons Boise Open donated $1.3 million to charity this year, the most on the Nationwide Tour. The tournament has donated $10.6 million in 20 years.