CROMWELL, Conn. – Some testimony, if you will, to the rich flavor that exists on the PGA Tour:
• It’s not even July and a player already has earned $4 million in prize money.
• Eleven players have surpassed $2.5M.
• There are 54 who’ve piled up at at least $1M.
• And No. 125? He’s already at $361,452.
No wonder J.B. Holmes has never given thought to what he might have done for work other than this golf racket.
“It’s a great job,” Holmes said.
And Charley Hoffman is one of the many who feels blessed to be “doing what I love to do for a living.”
Truthfully, each player had a big ol’ “but” on the other end of their comments, because they live the PGA Tour on a daily basis and know there’s another view of things that folks don’t see when they’re on the outside looking in. In other words, Holmes and Hoffman know the Kyle Thompson story, while extreme, is an unfortunate side to this rough business.
Thompson, 33, is 13 tournaments into his second year on the PGA Tour and the money list column is bare. Twelve missed cuts and a withdrawal translate into zero dollars and a blanket of mystery that befuddles him. He’s ridden the roller-coaster that all pro golfers ride at one time or another, but never has it been like this 2012 season.
“The crazy thing (is), I think I’m playing pretty good golf,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve got zero to show for it this year. It’s been the craziest year of my life, so far, as far as results.”
He is home in Greenville, S.C., this week with his two kids and wife Emmi, who has somehow kept Thompson afloat during all the emotional struggles.
“She’s been great. We’ve both at times been ready to jump off a ledge,” he said, laughing, “(but) I’m not trying to get too down on it, just trying to stay positive, and be patient and all that junk that everyone tells you. But it gets pretty old. You just want it to happen.”
It’s not like Thompson doesn’t have a body of work from which to draw confidence. He’s played eight full seasons on the Nationwide Tour, won three times and been second on eight other occasions, “so I know I can do it; it’s just a matter of getting out of my own damn way and doing it.”
Easier said than done. Just ask colleagues such as Hoffman and Holmes, who might not be experiencing things to the level of Thompson, but they surely know what the mindset is like.
Just last Sunday in the final round of the Travelers Championship, Hoffman walked to the 17th tee with a two-stroke lead. His third PGA Tour title and the million-dollar paycheck were virtually in his hands . . . and then they were gone, a double-bogey at 17, a bogey at 18, a tie for second that left him in pain.
“Bad finish and bad taste in my mouth,” Hoffman said.
And Holmes, one day after vaulting into contention with a second-round 62, fell out of it with a third-round 75. He is slowly returning into form after being forced to the sideline to have two surgeries on his brain to relieve him of the vertigo-like symptoms he was having. True, he has a keener perspective of this golf business since his operations, but like Hoffman, Holmes knows people don’t have a true sense of what comes with this PGA Tour membership.
“It’s a very stressful career,” Holmes said. “Every year, if you don’t play well, you don’t have a job the next year. It’s a great job; I’m not saying it isn’t. But it’s a stressful job.”
Naturally, the level of stress on Hoffman and Holmes isn’t nearly what it is on Thompson, but they can surely sympathize.
Said Hoffman, who played on the Nationwide Tour a few years alongside Thompson: “Obviously, he’s a great player, but it’s tough. Yeah, golf’s a game, but it’s still a business, what we’re trying to do.”
And Holmes: “Golf’s one of those sports where when you’re playing bad, you don’t think you’re ever going to play good again and when you’re playing good, you don’t think you’re ever going to play bad again.”
That is where Thompson finds himself these days. Having earned a second shot on the PGA Tour via his 15th-place finish on the Nationwide Tour money list in 2011, the onetime University of South Carolina standout keeps reminding himself that he’s held his own against much of the competition he’s facing this year and that since he began working with instructor Dale Lynch two years ago, his ball-striking has improved greatly.
The second-round 68 at the Travelers? The only fairway he missed is when he drove the green at the par-4 15th. The second-round 72 the week before at the U.S. Open? “I didn’t miss a shot,” Thompson said. He had gotten through a sectional qualifier the week before in Memphis and he nearly made the cut at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
The key word being “nearly.” You don’t even get a pat on the back for that out on the PGA Tour, but it sometimes is used as positive reinforcement, which is how he was going to view the second round at TPC River Highlands, where he played his last five holes in 3 under.
“I don’t know. Maybe I haven’t done a good job (at staying patient), because the results haven’t come around,” Thompson said. “But days like today keep me coming back.”
His next stop will be next week’s Greenbrier Classic and Thompson vows to remain positive.
“I know in the back of my mind, all it takes is one good week. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any great weeks this year,” he said. “But I feel once I can break through this little barrier, this bubble, then I’ll be fine.”
Then, Thompson smiled.
“Hopefully,” he said, “you’ll interview me on the other side of this mess.”