LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – It’s deja vu all over again for PGA Tour veteran James Driscoll. A year ago, Driscoll entered the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic on the hot seat at No. 125 on the PGA Tour money list and finished T-12 to avoid a trip to Q-School. This week his job is again on the line. Is Driscoll sweating it? He assumed a worry-free attitude Tuesday, threw his head back and laughed.
“I’m five spots better this year,” he said. “So I’ve got that going for me.”
There’s an added sense of urgency this week as time is running out to claim one of the top 125 spots on the 2012 Tour money list. No one wants to be voted off the PGA Tour island.
“Your livelihood for next year could depend on it,” said Kevin Chappell, No. 123 on the money list.
The attention naturally focuses on the 125th spot, but everyone has something at stake this week. There are pros, such as rookie Roberto Castro, who are trying just to protect their position on the money list. Castro ranks No. 118 and likely is safe, but even he conceded that if he were to miss the cut, Sunday would be spent nervously confirming his status.
The view from the outside looking in is more precarious. Stuart Appleby is toiling in 162nd place. It’s been a tough stretch since Appleby shot a final-round 59 to win the 2010 Greenbrier Classic. Appleby blamed his poor performance on a back injury, but he has managed to keep his golf in perspective.
“The game owes you nothing,” Appleby said. “I had all year to achieve my goals. I’m not worried in the least.”
That’s easier said if you have a backup plan. In Appleby’s case, if he doesn’t earn enough this week, he said he plans to exercise his one-time top-50 career money-list exemption for 2013. Appleby, who ranks 19th in career Tour earnings ($26,741,811), used his one-time exemption for being inside the top 25 in career earnings in 2010.
“It’s loaded and in the barrel,” he said. “I’m ready to fire it off.”
Appleby, 41, concedes he would like to save that exemption for a future date, but he looks at it with neither self-pity nor sentimentality.
“It would be great to have it for a rainy day, but, you know what? This is a rainy day.”
Even the long shots farther down the money list have plenty to play for. Take Zack Miller, who is ranked No. 198 in season earnings. His short-term goal is to protect his position in the top 200, which will guarantee him limited status on the Web.com Tour next year.
“I just want to have something to fall back on,” Miller said. “It will take some pressure off playing in second stage of Q-School next week.”
It’s a tall order, but Miller still could advance straight to the final stage of Q-School if he moves into the top 150 this week. He figures he needs a top-3 finish. All he can do, he said, is control what he can control.
“My prep is always the same,” Miller said before laughing darkly. “I’ll probably just have less sleep.”