Proving that the Internet is cold and impersonal and doesn’t factor in human elements, do a search and you’ll discover that it’s roughly 397 miles from Oak Brook, Ill., to White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. That’s a car ride of approximately six to nine hours.
So why has it taken Brad Faxon 28 years to make the trip?
Probably because he’s stopped so many ways along the road to enrich the PGA Tour and to shake hands with an endless amount of admirers. Yes, there’s been a great deal of money made along the way – $17,769,249, the statisticians tell us – but the guess here is he’s accumulated three times that number in friends.
Ah, but the ride is about to come to an end, because a 28-year PGA Tour career will close down when Faxon plays in this week’s Greenbrier Classic.
“I don’t know how I feel,” Faxon said. “There are serious mixed emotions. I’m really looking forward to the next chapter (the Champions Tour), but it’s hard to say goodbye after 28 years.”
With his 50th birthday landing Aug. 1, Faxon will transition over and start playing with kids his own age, starting with the 3M Championship in Minnesota on Aug. 5-7. His second tournament, the Constellation Energy Senior Players’ Championship on Aug. 18-21, will bring Faxon to Westchester Country Club in New York, of all places, a tight and cozy layout that rewards shotmaking and was the sort of venue that used to be commonplace on the PGA Tour in his era.
“I think that will be fantastic to return to Westchester,” Faxon said.
Tournament No. 1 as a PGA Tour professional was at Butler National outside of Chicago, the 1983 Western Open. Mark McCumber triumphed, and Tom Watson finished second. With a share of 44th, Faxon earned $1,360 in prize money.
Now that’s more than he’s made in his entire 2011 season, which sort of explains how things have gone for him. But he’s teed it up 11 times this year, mostly to stay competitive and help smooth the transition to a Champions Tour opportunity that he and so many colleagues never thought was part of the plan, though they thoroughly appreciate now that it is.
But he’s also played for the simplest of reasons. Faxon is one of those guys whom we used to have a lot of, the guys who played golf for a living because they actually loved the game. He looks forward to golf with friends as much as he does tournaments. Though the end of his PGA Tour career hasn’t gone smoothly, there’s no denying he’s been a consummate professional for every minute of his 28 years.
Tournament No. 702 as a PGA Tour professional will be the Greenbrier Classic. Though he’ll treat it with the proper respect that always has been his norm, Faxon will be accompanied by wife, Dory, and their four daughters because it’s also a time to celebrate a trip well traveled.
Still got game: Approaching the 20th anniversary of his birth as a PGA Tour phenomenon/circus act, John Daly showed he’s got a little bit of game beneath the Loudmouth clothing.
Playing his trademark bomb-and-gouge game on a course – Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club – that demanded patience and precision, Daly shot even-par 280 and finished tied for ninth at the RBC Canadian Open. It was worth $140,400 in prize money, which is more than double what Daly has made in entire seasons in three of the past four years.
The man who roared onto the PGA Tour stage at the 1991 PGA Championship certainly has been waiting for a week like this. The share of ninth is his first top 10 since losing in a playoff to Tiger Woods at the American Express Championship in October 2005.
Since then, Daly had played in 103 PGA Tour tournaments, made just 44 cuts and earned only $833,542.
Back-to-back: Sean O’Hair, who went on to win the Canadian Open, was one of 28 players who played in Vancouver, one week after having played in the British Open.
Eight of them made the cut in each tournament: Chad Campbell, Charl Schwartzel, Rickie Fowler, Lucas Glover, Spencer Levin, Bo Van Pelt, Ryan Moore and Jim Furyk.
Five missed both cuts: Matt Kuchar, Bob Estes, Camilo Villegas, David Duval and Mike Weir.
For Kuchar, it was a second straight missed cut after having not missed one for 29 tournaments, dating to the Quail Hollow stop in 2010.
Similar stories: As player and caddie, Villegas and Brett Waldman formed a dynamic partnership in the past few seasons, with a couple of wins and millions of dollars in prize money.
As players on separate tours, Villegas and Waldman are having similar struggles in 2011.
Villegas is mired in a bit of a slump, having missed the cut in four straight tournaments and cashing just nine checks in 21 starts. He’s 117th in the Fedex Cup standings and 123rd on the money list.
It’s been a true grind for Waldman, who earned Nationwide Tour status after a spirited run through Q-School last fall and chose to take a chance on the dream. He knew it was a gamble, but figured he’d give it a shot. But after earning a small check in his first start, Waldman has missed the cut in 11 tournaments.
Going backward: Speaking of struggles, feel free to send a cheer-up card to Gavin Coles. He was T-6 at Panama to start the season, but has missed the cut in 11 consecutive Nationwide Tour stops since.
Happy returns: Oh, and perhaps never has a defending champion been so happy to return to where he won the previous year. Not only should Stuart Appleby receive warm vibes from having fired 59 the last time he was at the Greenbrier, but it could be the medicine he needs to put a halt to a miserable stretch of golf.
In his first eight tournaments this season, Appleby won $524,000. He’s made just one cut and earned $67,786 in his past 12 tournaments.
Curious scorecard: At first glance, it would appear that Tom Gillis played poorly at the Canadian Open. But he was only 2 over for 27 of the 36 holes he played Thursday and Friday. Being 8 over on that one nine-hole split, however, did him in.
Tough course: How tough was Shaughnessy Golf & CC for Canadian Open participants? Consider that it was the first non-major without a bogey-free round since the 2008 Players Championship. Hey, even one of the PGA Tour’s quietest and most dignified players, Luke Donald, had some things to say about the set-up.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to play this type of rough every week, put it that way,” Donald said. “I do like the course. The problem with having rough like this is it takes away some of the art form of shotmaking. You are hitting the same shot every time. As long as you’re not having this week-in and week-out, then I think it’s fine now and again.”
Instant reward: It’s understandable why Adam Hadwin may have felt like a winner at the Canadian Open. As a British Columbia native, he was playing before the home folks in Vancouver, so being third and low Canadian were great honors.
The $228,800 prize? Add it to the $41,154 that he earned in the U.S. Open (T-39) and the $269,954 total dwarfs the $123,713 that he’s made in his Canadian PGA Tour career since 2009.
But, wait, there’s more. The top-10 finish at the Canadian Open earns the former University of Louisville star a spot into this week’s Greenbrier Classic.
“It threw a wrench in travel plans because I was having a week off. But it’s not a bad week to be playing,” Hadwin, 23, said.
Top-notch: While the same prize – a trip to the Greenbrier – cannot be extended to Patrick Cantlay because he’s an amateur, it’s hard to overlook yet another sterling effort by the UCLA sophomore.
With a 68-69 weekend, the young man finished joint ninth while making his fourth cut in as many starts since mid-June. All he’s done in that time is play 16 rounds, shoot in the 60s five times, fire 72 or better 11 times, and post a scoring average of 69.375.
Of course, he hasn’t made a dime, being an amateur. His prize money would have been roughly $456,297, but Cantlay has insisted many times that he’s intent on going back to UCLA and that it’s all about experience.
He’ll tee it up next at the Western Amateur in early August.
Nice streak: If Cantlay did want to know what it was like to pocket several hundred thousand dollars for four weeks’ work, we suggest he could ask Bud Cauley.
In a stretch of golf very similar to Cantlay’s, Cauley has made the cut in four PGA Tour starts since turning pro: the U.S. Open, Travelers Championship, Viking Classic and RBC Canadian Open. His stash has been $319,145, which certainly qualifies as a pretty good summer job for a college kid.
In his 12 rounds since the U.S. Open, Cauley is 30 under.