Tour's final day is gut-wrenching race for top 125
Photos: Children's Miracle Network Classic (Final)
View images from the final round of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, played Nov. 11 at Disney's Magnolia Course in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Tim Herron kicked his bag in frustration while walking off the final green at Walt Disney World’s Magnolia Golf Course. That’s an action that can carry serious consequences. “Usually when I walk on something, it breaks,” the 250-pound Herron said.
His frustration was understandable. He thought he’d lost his PGA Tour card after missing his 20-foot birdie putt. His reaction was unfounded, though. He wasn’t the only one unsure of his standing on this final day at Disney, though.
It’s easy to calculate the tournament’s winner. Low score takes home the trophy. It’s not as easy to figure out the money list, which always receives so much focus on the season’s final day. There are so many variables that determine a player’s final sum. Dozens of players control the fate of the few who are focused on retaining their playing privileges.
“You just have to play,” said Herron, who finished 124th on the money list. “It’s hard enough just to play golf without trying to add up all those numbers. That’s why I have caddies do my yardages.”
The final sums weren’t calculated until the tournament’s last group had completed play. That’s when Kevin Chappell was confirmed as No. 125 in the standings, the final player to retain his full status for next season.
“Not knowing is the hardest part,” Chappell said. “It’s math I can’t do.”
Chappell was 125th on the projected money list when he completed his round and congratulated for keeping his card. His status was hardly secure, though. As the final groups completed play, Chappell was less than $2,000 ahead of Jerry Kelly, who also was in the clubhouse.
Kelly made a 4-foot birdie putt on his final hole to finish at 11 under. Two players in the final two groups – Charlie Wi and Josh Teater – had to par the 18th hole for Chappell to cling to the 125th position. If either bogeyed, they would’ve tied Kelly and put enough money into his pocket to pass Chappell. Both parred, and Chappell returned home a happy man.
Herron finished 124th on the money list in spite of a double-bogey on his 71st hole after hitting his tee shot into a hazard. “After 18 years out here, I knew I had to collect my thoughts,” Herron said. He hit his approach shot on the final hole to 20 feet. Par was enough to secure his card, even if he didn’t know it.
Herron and Charlie Beljan, who earned his first PGA Tour victory, moved into the top 125. Herron started the week at No. 136 on the money list. Beljan was 139th. They bumped out Rod Pampling and Billy Mayfair, who started the week at Nos. 124 and 125, respectively. Both players missed the cut by a shot.
They’ll have to return to Q-School, along with those who fell short on the season’s final day. Russell Knox made a spirited run. The rookie was 7 under for his first 14 holes and tied for the lead. He bogeyed his final two holes, though. He would’ve kept his card if he played those two holes in 1 under. He moved from 156th to 143rd on the money list, good enough to earn an exemption into Q-School’s final stage. “That’s as good as I got,” Knox said.
Camilo Villegas was 132nd on the projected money list after three rounds here. He shot 74 Sunday and fell from fifth to 28th, finishing 144th on the money list. It’s the first time he’s failed to keep his playing privileges in his seven-year PGA Tour career.
Chappell has kept his card in his first two PGA Tour seasons. He did so this year by the slimmest of margins, making a 3 1/2-foot par putt on the final hole. He won’t have to attend Q-School, but that doesn’t mean his winter will be full of rest and relaxation.
“I’m going to work hard in the offseason to make sure I’m not in this position again,” he said. And who could blame him?