Thompson, Walker seize PGA Tour cards

Nicholas Thompson pumps his fist after making a 9-footer for bogey on No. 18.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Forget what the sports psychologists say. Nicholas Thompson’s focus wasn’t solely on his target or pre-shot routine during the final-round of the Children’s Miracle Network Classic. He was thinking about the cash, knowing he needed a good round to keep his PGA Tour card.

“I knew approximately where the number was going to be,” Thompson said. “... I went to Georgia Tech, so I can do (the calculations) on the fly out there. ... Certain people, it’s really bad to do it. Me, I like to know where I stand and what I need.”

Thompson shot 66 Sunday at Disney’s Magnolia Course to finish in a tie for 11th in the tournament and improve to No. 123 on the final PGA Tour money list; the top 125 earned 2010 PGA Tour cards.

Thompson earned $238,400 in his final two events this year to keep his card with about $16,000 to spare.

Despite continuous changes in the money list throughout the final round, just two players who started the week outside the top 125 moved their way in. Thompson, who started the week at No. 132, was one. Jimmy Walker was the other.

Both players had to make putts on the final hole to earn their card. Thompson made a 9-foot bogey putt, while Walker holed a 5-foot par putt after making double bogey on No. 17. An extra stroke would’ve cost either player his card.

This could bode well for them in 2010. Martin Laird had to make a 6-foot par putt on the final hole here last year to finish 125th on the money list. He won this year’s Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Walker, who started the week 130th on the money list, shot a final-round 69 to finish 15th. While Thompson flourished in the season’s final weeks, Walker had to overcome his fair share of poor fortune.

After a fifth-place finish at Turning Stone that earned him $228,000, Walker got swine flu in Las Vegas and missed the cut. He had to withdraw after the first round of the Frys.com Open because of a bad left shoulder.  

“You can’t think, ‘Poor me.’ Nobody cares out here,” Walker said. “They really don’t. Everyone’s fighting for their own job.”

Thompson was bloodied by the Magnolia’s 18th hole, but not beaten.

After hitting his tee shot into the right trees, he broke his 6-iron while hitting his approach from the roots. His ball came to rest 3 feet from a water hazard, and he chunked his chip 50 feet short of the hole. He left the first putt well short, but pumped his fist after making the next putt.

Birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 meant his final-hole struggles cost him nothing more than a club.

“Playing the 15th hole, he said, ‘Let’s get one more,’ ” Thompson’s caddie, Bruce Clendenen, said. “That’s when you know they’re not trying to protect something they really shouldn’t be. He wasn’t protecting his spot. I like the fearlessness, to go for it and not back off. It’s in the family, obviously.”

Thompson, and his younger sister, Alexis, the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champ, signed autographs after Nicholas’ round. He then headed home to Coral Springs, Fla., waiting to receive either good or bad news on his phone as he drove.

Even though he was projected to finish No. 122 on the money list when he walked off the course, there were plenty of times when Thompson’s position looked perilous.

He had dropped to 124th on the projected money list in the five minutes it took to do post-round interviews. At 2 p.m., he was at No. 125, $2,699 ahead of No. 126 Robert Garrigus, who’d missed the cut. There were six players on the course within one stroke of Thompson that could have bumped him.

Thompson fell to No. 126 at 2:17 p.m. when Zach Johnson made birdie on No. 16, but jumped back to No. 125 about a minute later when Walker double bogeyed No. 17 to fall to 12 under. Walker hit his tee shot into the right water, then lipped out an 8-foot bogey putt.

Thompson and Walker weren’t the only ones on a wild ride Sunday. They were just the successful ones.

Matt Weibring made eagle on No. 10 Sunday to move to No. 125 on the projected money list. Before he hit his tee shot on No. 11, he had dropped to 128th as players around him shuffled up and down the leaderboard. He finished 138th after a bogey at 15 and double on No. 17.

Seven players who started the week outside the top 125 moved inside that number on the projected money list at some point Sunday – Mathias Gronberg, Will MacKenzie, Joe Ogilvie, Weibring, Walker, Thompson and Jeff Maggert.

Thompson and Walker pushed Garrigus, who started the week at No. 123, and David Duval, who started in the 125th position, out of the top 125. Garrigus finished about $5,400 behind Walker, meaning he would’ve kept his card if he made the cut this week.

Walker started the final round projected to finish 124th on the money list. He played his first 10 holes in 4 under par to move to No. 116. It all came down to that 5-foot putt, though.

“I just knew I needed to make it,” he said.

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