Victory poses new challenge for Sheehan

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AVONDALE, La. – The congratulations Patrick Sheehan received as he walked onto the practice tee at the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic proved one thing: a win’s a win.

While Brian Gay was dominating last week’s Verizon Heritage, Sheehan beat up-and-coming Michael Sim in a playoff at the Nationwide Tour’s Athens Regional Foundation Classic.

The victory provides Sheehan with a safety net but also some decisions to be made. He finished No. 128 on last year’s PGA Tour money list, providing partial status this year on the big tour.

Last week’s victory gives him a two-year Nationwide exemption and means his best chance at locking up playing privileges for 2010 might come via the secondary circuit.

Sheehan expects to get into about 20 PGA Tour events this year. He said he’ll play every PGA Tour event he can get into, and use the Nationwide Tour to fill his schedule. He likes to play more often than most players – about 30 to 33 events, he said.

Living in limbo between the PGA and Nationwide tours can be complex for a professional golfer. Sheehan is happy to have the opportunity.

“It’s what I do. What else am I going to do, sit at home and do nothing?” Sheehan said with a laugh. “I play golf, so I’m going to play golf. If they have a tournament, I’m going to show up and play.

“I can go home and practice, but I don’t want to hit balls for eight hours and get into bad thoughts. I’d rather play.”

The Nationwide Tour takes two weeks off after this week’s South Georgia Classic, and Sheehan won’t get into the next two Tour events, Quail Hollow and The Players. He said he’ll fill the time by playing mini-tour events near his Orlando home.

It’s not often you’ll see a Tour member moonlighting on the Moonlight Tour.

Sheehan is eighth on the Nationwide Tour money list with the $99,000 he earned for his win; last year, it took $218,902 to finish in the top 25.

Sheehan is 176th on the PGA Tour money list. He has missed two cuts in four starts, with his best finish a tie for 13th in Puerto Rico.

“If I play well, 20 events is plenty of events to keep my status,” Sheehan said. “If not, I can go back to the Nationwide in 2010 and get my card back like I did in 2007.”

• • •

Former PGA Tour winner Robert Damron was suffering from a shoulder injury even as he was winning the 2008 Athens Regional Foundation Classic. He shot 82-71 last week in his title defense, the fifth time he has failed to play the weekend in six starts on the PGA and Nationwide tours this year.

“I was actually hurting on the range for the playoff (with Greg Owen),” Damron told the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald. “I was lucky it didn’t go a lot of holes, really. I couldn’t play for three weeks after winning. My back was spasming out. Things were just spiraling downhill.”

He played eight more events (with four missed cuts, a WD and a DQ) after the victory before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery that August.

“It hurt to play. I didn’t look forward to playing,” Damron said. “I was glad to stop. When I found out I had to get the surgery, it was a big relief.”

His only check this year is $31,150 for a T-21 in Puerto Rico.

• • •

WHO’S LEADING: Michael Sim, who lost to Sheehan in a playoff last week. The $241,417 he’s earned is more than $100,000 ahead of second-place Vance Veazey. It’s also more than Ricky Barnes made to finish 25th on the money list in ’08.

WHO’S NO. 25: Jonas Blixt, a rookie from Florida State, dropped six spots to 25th. Blixt has three top-25s in seven starts, including a tie for third in Louisiana.

MOVED INTO THE TOP 25

Patrick Sheehan (from NR to 8th)

Darron Stiles (T-68th to 17th)

Rich Barcelo (41st to 19th)

John Riegger (45th to 20th)

Garth Mulroy (52nd to 24th)

MOVED OUT OF THE TOP 25

Jeff Gallagher (24th to 26)

Josh Teater (22nd to 27th)

Dustin Risdon (20th to 28th)

Steve Friesen (21st to 29th)

Craig Parry (23rd to 31st)

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