As is often the case with the PGA Tour events that take place in the midst of the football season and baseball’s playoffs, it’s all about the money at this week’s McGladrey Classic.
Only two events remain in the PGA Tour season. Much of the focus on this fortnight is on the players fighting for spots in the top 125 on the money list, which guarantees full exemption for next year.
Then there’s Webb Simpson. He’s exempt for three years after winning his first two PGA Tour titles this season. He’s earned $5,768,243 in 2011, putting him within reach of another impressive accomplishment.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to play (McGladrey), but … since I started making a run for the money title, it became pretty important to me to win,” Simpson said. “You know, it’s similar to Tour Championship; it’s hard not to focus on (the money). But we’re just trying to go out and play as well as we can, and if we win the golf tournament, it makes it all the better.”
Simpson trails Luke Donald by $68,971. Simpson needs to finish in at least a two-way tie for 15th to pass Donald. A tie for 15th is worth $70,000.
The Arnold Palmer Award is given to the winner of the PGA Tour money title. The two former Demon Deacons are scheduled to cross paths Monday at Wake Forest’s pro-am.
Winning the money title comes with plenty of prestige. There’s also this perk: a five-year PGA Tour exemption.
“To have your job secure for five years is pretty important,” Simpson said. “This game is crazy.”
Most players at Sea Island are just worried about next year. Matt Jones is the Tour’s bubble boy, ranking 125th on the money list with $602,392, less than $8,000 ahead of Steve Flesch. Heath Slocum, the McGladrey’s defending champion, is 119th on the money list. He’s exempt for next season, however, because of last year’s win at Sea Island.
Following him on the money list are Bobby Gates, Roland Thatcher, James Driscoll, David Mathis and Bill Lunde. Flesch, Paul Casey, Billy Mayfair, Tim Clark and D.J. Trahan are Nos. 126-130, respectively.
Then there’s Bud Cauley, the 21-year-old who turned pro earlier this year and is on the verge of joining a select group that has clinched a Tour card without attending Q-School.
Cauley is coming off a third-place finish at the Frys.com Open. He’s earned $671,150 in seven Tour starts, equivalent to No. 114 on the PGA Tour money list. He’ll earn a 2012 Tour card if he equals or betters the earnings of No. 125 on the money list at season’s end. If not, he’ll head to Q-School finals.
This may be Cauley’s last chance to help his chances for 2012. He has yet to receive a sponsor exemption to next week’s Children’s Miracle Network Classic. He’s scheduled to play his hometown Nationwide Tour event, the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open, instead. A top-10 finish at McGladrey would get him into the Disney field, though.
“My No. 1 goal is to get on the PGA Tour next year, so I’m going to try to give myself every opportunity I can to accomplish that,” Cauley said. He’s hardly the only one whose focus is affixed on that 2012 Tour card.