The Nationwide Tour plays the Fresh Express Classic this week in the San Francisco Bay Area after a three-week break. Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice will serve as tournament host and tee it up in the tournament. The Fresh Express Classic also is the first televised event of the season. All four rounds will be carried on Golf Channel.
1.) Don’t call it a comeback: The G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) will once again be roaming the hills above San Francisco’s East Bay. Rice shot 83-76 here last year. He also played last year’s BMW Charity Pro-Am, but said he was done playing Nationwide Tour events after being disqualified. He’s scheduled to play both the Fresh Express and BMW this year, though.
“My main goal was to help the (Fresh Express Classic) be successful and I am happy that we are able to do that again this year,” Rice said.
2.) Who’s No. 1?: Brenden Pappas leads the money list with $114,523, about $13,000 ahead of Mathew Goggin. Pappas claimed an unofficial victory at the Bogota Open, which was shortened to 36 holes because of inclement weather.
3.) Another Bubba: Bubba Dickerson, the 2003 U.S. Amateur champion, is fourth on the money list. He’s the tour’s highest-ranked player without a victory. Dickerson, who hasn’t played the PGA Tour since 2007, has finished no worse than 16th in three starts.
Darron Stiles is about $5,000 behind Dickerson. He finished second at the season-opening Panama Claro Championship after getting in as the ninth alternate. He’s finished no worse than 13th this year.
Other notables in the top 25 on the money list: Matt Every (No. 6), Julian Etulain (No. 8), Erik Compton (No. 9), Tommy Biershenk (No. 11) and Danny Lee (No. 22).
4.) Status symbol: Every is playing on the PGA Tour this week in an attempt to retain playing privileges. He has two events remaining (including this week’s Texas Open) to earn $262,673 and keep his Tour card through a medical extension. If he doesn’t keep PGA Tour playing privileges, he’ll return to the Nationwide Tour, where he won the 2009 Tour Championship.
Etulain may be high on the Nationwide Tour money list, but this week’s Fresh Express Classic could be his last start for some time. He doesn’t have status, so he’ll have to rely on top-25 finishes, sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifying for additional starts. He’ll earn Nationwide Tour status if he earns an additional $11,919 to equal No. 100 on last year’s money list. Etulain, 22, won the Tour de las Americas’ Order of Merit in 2010. He has finished third and 13th in his past two Nationwide Tour starts.
5.) Manic Monday: Joel Skarbo won a playoff to qualify for the Fresh Express Classic. He played his last five holes of his round 5 under (birdie-ace-par-birdie-birdie) to shoot 68, then won a 5-for-4 playoff to get in the field.