EVEN AS the guys on the Nationwide tour were battling it out at the Tour Championship to see who would finish in the top 25 and graduate to the PGA Tour next year, their predecessors were making it easier for future Nationwiders to make the jump. In 2010 the number of exemptions allotted to the feeder tour will rise to 30. "If you look at the stats, the players on the Nationwide tour have outperformed those from qualifying school. We want to reward yearlong performance," says Nationwide commissioner Bill Calfee. An immediate change would have been welcomed by Ricky Barnes, the 2002 U.S. Amateur champ who came into the week 22nd on the money list but fell to 26th during Sunday's final round. Luckily for Barnes, though, two players who had passed him went into reverse down the stretch, and Barnes took the 25th spot. Last year's Amateur champ, Colt Knost, needed no such help, easily making the grade (sixth), and 2003 Am runner-up Casey Wittenberg (16th) also moved up. In an ironic twist, Nick Flanagan, the man who beat Wittenberg in the Amateur, missed the cut at Disney and will head back to Q school after losing his card. Who else will be coming to a PGA Tour event near you? Bryce Molder (who tied for third at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, to skyrocket from 32nd to 23rd in money), Arjun Atwal (17th), Greg Chalmers (eighth) and Brandon de Jonge (second) all boomerang their way back to the big show. Further, Ultimate Game winner Scott Piercy, D.A. Weibring's son, Matt, and Spencer Levin each gets his first shot.
• TOUGH TIMES for Anthony Kim. A few weeks ago he rolled his right ankle at a friend's house so badly that he thought it was broken. Then last week he was horseback riding when his mount reared up and caused him to hurt his jaw so badly that he couldn't eat anything but noodles. Still nursing both injuries, he teed it up at last week's HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where he shot 65--73 in the first two rounds to sit five shots off the lead. (Sergio García shot 274 then beat Oliver Wilson in a playoff.) As Kim walked down the 7th fairway of the Sheshan International Golf Club in the third round, he was tapping his driver on the ground when the club dinked a sprinkler head. Kim didn't notice any damage, but at the next hole his first drive went about 150 yards and O.B. He reteed, hit another stinker and took an eight on the hole. Two holes later he consulted an official who informed him that he'd have to be disqualified for playing with an altered club (Rule 4-3b). "I was pretty shocked," Kim said, "but the rules are the rules, and I have no problem with that."
• ANNIKA SORENSTAM is leaving the game, but she's going out smelling like a rose, sort of. Sorenstam won last week's Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open, a Ladies European tour event in China, and the week before that she announced a partnership with SA Fragrances in Boston, which will develop a perfume "inspired by legendary golfer Annika Sorenstam" to be available by Mother's Day. Mom will love the scent of Annika in the morning; it smells like ... victory.
Follow your favorite players in Q school at GOLF.com.
"We would meet with players who were clueless."
—DETROIT JIMMY, PAGE G22
KEY STAT 104
Number of PGA Tour players who earned more than $1 million this year.
HE SAID | HE SAID
Any wonder Sergio passed Phil for No. 2 in the world last week?
"So it's something exciting, something that I'm driving toward, and this is a good week to have a chance at it."
"That's the last thing that I really think about, other than trying to improve my game and be the best that I can be."
ALY SONG/REUTERS (MICKELSON)
BRUSH OFF Phil Mickelson was all smiles as he traced his name in Chinese before the HSBC Champions, a European tour event, but he also announced that despite initial interest, he won't join that tour in 2009.
DAVID E. KLUTHO (GARCIA)
ROBERT BECK (MICKELSON)