EVEN THE armadillos at La Cantera Golf Club outside San Antonio
knew what the Texas Open was all about. As the last full-field
event of the PGA Tour season, it was time to strap on the armor
and battle for either a spot in this week's $3 million Tour
Championship or a place on the exempt list for next year.
Winning? That would be nice, although Duffy Waldorf, whose
six-stroke victory over Justin Leonard was his first, admitted
that that's not what's on everyone's mind this time of year.
"I can relate to what they were going through," said Waldorf,
who had to make a return trip to Q school in 1990. "There
weren't too many guys in a good mood this week."
Waldorf didn't qualify for the Tour Championship--his $198,000
winner's check moved him to 35th on the money list--but Leonard
did, joining fellow rookies David Duval and Woody Austin in the
30-man field at Southern Hills in Tulsa. It is the first time
more than one rookie has qualified for the event (SI, Sept. 18).
"Ever since I finished eighth at the PGA, I've been thinking
about the Tour Championship," Leonard said. "In fact, just this
week I played a practice round with Brad Faxon, who said, 'Hey,
man, it's such a great tournament, it makes you try that much
harder to get there.'"
Leonard jumped to 24th from 33rd on the final money list. Loren
Roberts, who started the week at No. 31, tied for third to move
into the top 30 as well. That also brings an exemption for next
year's U.S. Open. "That meant a lot to me because I hurt my back
and had to withdraw at Shinnecock this year," said Roberts.
Jeff Sluman and Hal Sutton were bumped from the Tour
Championship. Sluman, who missed the cut in Texas, wound up
earning a measly $19 less than No. 30 Nick Price, who called
from the Dunhill Cup in Scotland to confirm that he had made it.
An even better story was played out at the other end of the
money list, where finishing in the top 125 (actually the top 130
because the five European Tour members among the top 125 don't
count) means avoiding the Fall Classic, which is what the Tour
pros facetiously call the 108 holes from hell that is the final
stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. The saddest story
of the week belonged to Donnie Hammond. Hammond played 5,671
strokes on Tour this year. If he had played one less in Texas,
where he tied for 15th, he would have made enough to avoid Q
school. Instead, he wound up 136th on the money list. "It's a
real kick in the butt," he said.
The week wasn't a downer for Mike Standly (to 105th from 132nd),
Mark Wiebe (112th from 135th), Paul Goydos (129th from 137th)
and Keith Fergus (130th from 134th), who left San Antonio
kicking their heels.
Goydos sweated it out in the press tent on Sunday, nervously
monitoring his status. First he was in, then he was out. In the
end Goydos's place on the money list was not secured until Kelly
Gibson bogeyed the 18th hole. Fergus, who gave up his job as
golf coach at the University of Houston to try a comeback,
thought it was all over when he triple-bogeyed the 6th hole on
Sunday. A birdie at the 17th turned out to be the difference.
"It's unbelievable what transpires over a whole year, and then
it comes down to this," he said. "I can think of a thousand
shots that could have bounced either way. But if you think about
that, you'd go crazy."
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK When the final numbers were tallied, Waldorf's win was only part of the story. [Duffy Waldorf]