Taking a Rain Check
A canceled final round at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic
complicated the money-list race
PGA tour tournament director Slugger White gathered the players
on Sunday afternoon at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic to
explain how and why their lives were about to change. Thirteen
inches of rain had soaked Annandale Golf Club in the weeks
leading up to the tournament, and a Saturday-night deluge left
fairways and greens under water and forced the postponement of
the final round of the year's final tournament for the Tour's
rank and file. White made it clear that the fourth round might be
scrapped altogether, which led to a vociferous debate among the
assembled players. The Tour's every-man-for-himself ethos is
usually hidden beneath a veneer of civility and shared putting
tips, but all that goes out the window when livelihoods hang in
"There are a lot of guys who wish the cards would fall the way
they are right now," Brian Henninger said moments after the
meeting disbanded. "They've improved their position quite a
bit--if they don't have to play tomorrow. For one person it could
be great, but a lot of us need another round of golf here."
That last shot at redemption never came. On Monday morning the
final round was officially canceled due to unplayable conditions.
The biggest winner in the washout was rookie Luke Donald, a
promising 24year-old from England who edged out Deane Pappas by a
lone stroke to secure the $468,000 first-place check and the
coveted two-year Tour exemption that is conferred on all
tournament winners. Donald's victory may herald the arrival of a
new star, but most of the intrigue in Madison, Miss., centered on
the money-list race.
The Tour's magic number is 125; the top hundred and a quarter
money winners earn playing privileges for the following season.
Jay Williamson, a 35year-old journeyman who is used to playing
for his supper, went 716866 at the Farm Bureau and, with the
joint fifth-place money of $85,150, rose from 134th to 125th,
with $515,445. "I can't say I'm disappointed," Williamson said of
the canceled final round. "I have to be honest--I'm pretty
happy." Not so David Frost, the part-time vintner who, with a
missed cut in Madison, was left to drown his sorrows after
dropping a spot to 126th.
While everyone is fixated on the top 125, there are other
competitions within the money race. The top 40 get into next
year's Masters, and Jonathan Byrd scored that priceless invite
with a tie for fifth at the Farm Bureau, moving from 41st to 39th
and bumping from 40th to 41st Peter Lonard, who finished 54th in
Another benchmark is the top 70, which grants access past the
velvet rope of exclusive invitationals like Bay Hill and the
Memorial. Brian Gay squeaked in, moving from 71st on the money
list to 69th thanks to a solid 11th-place finish, while veterans
Duffy Waldorf (bumped from 69th to 71st) and Tom Lehman (70th to
74th) were left on the outside looking in, although they can
still sneak into the invitationals in other ways.
More grave is the battle for 150. Players finishing 126th to
150th on the money list earn conditional status on Tour and will
most likely get at least 20 starts the following year. To fall
out of the top 150 is to tumble into pro golf's abyss--Q school,
the Nationwide (formerly Buy.com) tour, other assorted
horrors--as Dennis Paulson (149th to 151st) and Grant Waite
(150th to 152nd) will soon discover.
Mike Sposa, who finished 132nd in earnings after a 54th-place
showing in Madison, offered an unblinking perspective on life at
the bottom of the money list. "My situation is not that horrid,"
he said. "The guys really feeling the heat are numbers 151 and
152. If you don't get in the top 150, you have no status. You're
not on Tour. You're nothing."
Charles Howell's sophomore slump--prematurely forecast by
some--is history. His win against a weak field at the Michelob
was an important milestone, but scaring the big boys at the Tour
Championship was more impressive. The early line on 2003: Expect
a monster year.
You don't hear boos on a golf course very often, but they rained
down on Chris DiMarco last Saturday during the Tour Championship.
DiMarco, an over-the-top Florida fan, was wearing an
orange-and-blue-striped shirt, and as he left the 18th green at
East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, he did the Gator chop, a show of
support for his team, which was to play unbeaten Georgia that
evening. The crowd, full of Bulldogs fans, booed and barked in
return. Said DiMarco on Sunday, still strutting after Florida's
20--13 victory, "It's good fun, but I put myself in a precarious
situation last night. If we hadn't won...."
The buzz among the players and caddies at East Lake was that
Sergio Garcia and Martina Hingis are splitsville.
At a news conference otherwise devoid of news, PGA Tour
commissioner Tim Finchem said on Wednesday at the Tour
Championship that next year's schedule will have 48 "fully
sponsored" events, down one from this year. Here's how the math
works: The Air Canada Championship, Michelob Championship and
Buick Challenge are history, while Charlotte is getting a new
event, and the much-discussed Tiger Woods event on Labor Day
weekend in Boston is close to a done deal too. That means the
Greater Hartford Open and Reno-Tahoe Open, both presently
unsponsored and on life support, will most likely survive, at
least for one more year.
The ubiquitous Finchem also popped down to Madison, Miss., site
of the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, for a photo op. On
Thursday he was chatting on the putting green with Tom Pernice
Jr., a member of the Tour policy board, when rascally Garrett
Willis was heard by a handful of players yelling across the
green, "There you go, sucking up to the commissioner again."
That same day Mike Sposa lost his cool--and his nine-iron--on
the par4 17th hole at Annandale Golf Club. Three under at the
time, he dumped his second shot into a pond fronting the green,
took a drop, then played a nine-iron shot over the green, where
it hit a sprinkler head and bounced into a clump of bushes. A
torqued Sposa tried to tomahawk the unfaithful club into the
ground, but it instead skittered end over end into the lake. He
played the final two rounds with a nine-iron borrowed from his
caddie, Chad Ginn, a former mini-tour player and the son of PGA
Tour tournament director Arvin Ginn.
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THIS WEEK: What was the story of the year: Tiger Woods's pursuit
of the Grand Slam, the resolution of the hot-driver issue, Annika
Sorenstam's nine victories, the Augusta National membership
controversy or Europe's stunning victory at the Ryder Cup?
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--Based on 3,824 responses to our informal survey
COLOR PHOTO: ROGELIO SOLIS/AP WATER BOY Donald's precise iron play in soggy conditionspropelled him to his first Tour win.
COLOR PHOTO: JAMIE SQUIRE/GETTY IMAGES (LEFT) GATOR BAITER DiMarco riled Dawg fans with his Florida colors.