Tour players hope to find magic at Disney

Woody Austin and Briny Baird are trying to move inside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list at Disney.

No doubt, the quest to squeeze into the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list, and thus be fully exempt for 2011, is a major storyline at this week’s season finale, the Children’s Miracle Network Classic at Disney World.

That’s why there’s no surprise that Nos. 120-125 – Joe Durant, Troy Merritt, Robert Garrigus, Woody Austin, Michael Allen and Troy Matteson – are there trying to protect their status. But their closest pursuers, those at 126-129 – Briny Baird, Aaron Price, Bob Estes and Michael Connell – are there, too, as are Nos. 131 and 132, Richard S. Johnson and Scott Piercy. (No. 130, Henrik Stenson, is not there, but he’s fully exempt through 2014 thanks to his 2009 Players Championship triumph.)

But as important as that stuff is, perhaps the more compelling subplot is further down the money list where some notable names need to really hustle if they want to avoid going to second stage of Q-School.

Johnson Wagner (153rd), James Driscoll (154th), Brett Quigley (155th), Mathew Goggin (156th), Charles Warren (157th), Brett Wetterich (159th), Chris DiMarco (165th), Daniel Chopra (173rd) and Ted Purdy (182nd) already are listed on the rosters of various second-stage sites. They’ll have to go through with that, too, should they remain outside the top 150 on the money list.

At the same time, those dangling toward the end of the 126-150 category – Jeff Quinney (145th), Will MacKenzie (148th), Nicholas Thompson (150th) – can use Disney to hang on and thus be exempt straight into the final stage of Q-School.

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Allen remains a study in diligence.

He’ll be 52 in January and could be cruising along comfortably on the Champions Tour, yet he remains committed to his PGA Tour career, too.

Sitting 124th on the money list, Allen will tee it up at Disney in an effort to remain fully exempt with the younger set. Certainly, you have to give him high marks for effort, because Disney will be his 31st tournament of the year, 14 having come on the Champions Tour.

Allen has piled up $1,923,401 between the two tours, and he comes to Disney fresh off a second-place finish to John Cook at the Champions Tour finale, the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Bouncing back and forth between the two tours, Allen will be playing for the sixth time in the past seven weeks, this after having played nine times in 11 weeks from early July to mid-September.

Somewhere in West Palm Beach, most likely on a golf course, Dana Quigley is smiling.

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Finishing joint sixth at the HSBC Champions in China and fourth in a four-man skins field in Thailand might not sound that impressive, but look at the bright side: It was Tiger Woods’ first back-to-back top 10 performance of the season.

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Much is made of the fact that Woods went winless on the PGA Tour for the first time since he came aboard in 1996, but what amplifies that are the woes of his iconic sidekick, Phil Mickelson.

They combined for one PGA Tour win.

OK, so it was a beauty – Mickelson at Augusta – but still . . . one?

From 1997 to 2009, the dynamic duo combined for a whopping 98 PGA Tour wins, and the scintillating seasons were many: Such as 2000, when they combined for 13 victories, or in each of those campaigns of 2005-06-07, when they had 10 between them.

Their worst-ever total together was three, 1998 and 2004, so 2010 set a new low.

It’s not as if anyone could have seen this coming, either. After all, Mickelson rode out of 2009 on a high, with victories at the Tour Championship and the HSBC, while Woods stormed to the FedEx Cup title and completed his year with a win in Australia.

But none of that carried over into 2010, and to put things in perspective, consider their combined earnings of $5,116,765. That’s a sum Woods surpassed on his own in each of the previous 11 seasons, Mickelson in five of the past six.

All of which makes you wonder: Have they set themselves up for Comeback Player of the Year consideration in 2011?

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Here’s a thought: Christina Kim has never won a tournament in the age of Twitter.

Her winless stretch is at 134 LPGA Tour tournaments, and she’s got just two shots left in 2010: this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the upcoming LPGA Tour Championship.

If she comes up shy, it will be five straight years without a win.

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Want to talk player of the year? Fine. Want to talk shot of the year? Spare me. There’s no such thing, and let’s stop manufacturing such contrived nonsense. It must be a slow, slow news day if one takes on “shot of the year” debate.

Tell me, what was the shot of the year in 2000? Or in 1977? Or in 1953?

Who knows? More importantly, who cares?

Now if you want to talk outstanding player, Woods in 2000, Tom Watson in 1977 and Ben Hogan in 1953 still resonate. Golf enthusiasts still get the juices flowing talking about the years those players had. Has anyone ever engaged his or her self in conversation about the time Billy Bob’s 6-iron from 178 was named shot of the year over Slim Pickings’ 3-wood from 263?

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Of those currently ranked within the top 100, who has made the most significant move forward since the end of 2009? If you said Matteo Manassero, it’s a good guess, because he moved up 483 spots. Stephen Gallacher (359 spots), Fredrik Andersson Hed (258) and Rickie Fowler (223) would be great picks, too.

But they’d all be wrong.

Instead, give yourself a gold star if you said Shunsuke Sonoda.

Never heard of the 21-year-old? Well, he’s 93rd in the Official World Golf Rankings after having ended last season No. 1,083, which was slightly ahead of your club champ.

Sonoda’s only major-championship appearance was this summer at St. Andrews (he missed the cut), but the former high school teammate of Ryo Ishikawa’s has traveled the fast lane via the Japan PGA Tour – a win, three seconds, and No. 6 on the money list.

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For the most part, recent major winners have certainly maintained their value, so far as the world rankings go. Of those who’ve won majors in the past five years, only two sit outside the top 50, and one of them, Angel Cabrera, just fell to 52nd.

But the other? It’s Trevor Immelman, who has battled a tough wrist injury since winning the Masters in 2008. Presently, he’s ranked 240th in the world.

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