In golf, the phrase "one week can change everything" usually pertains to clutch top-five finishes that help a player gain entry into a major or secure his card for next season, the type of finishes that can change a player's career. But in 2013, more than any other year, one solid week - or even one OK week - can really change everything.
As pointed out astutely on Twitter by Golfweek Magazine's Sean Martin, the big thing for young guys or players with conditional, limited or no status whatsoever is to merely make the inaugural Finals. They are the four Web.com/PGA Tour combined events that will determine who gets 25 tickets to the PGA Tour for the 2013-2014 season. To make The Finals a golfer must be either a PGA Tour member in the top 200 in FedEx Cup points at the end of the regular season or a non-member with a FedEx Cup point total that would put them in the top 200 if they were a member. And believe it or not, fitting that bill in a truncated season like 2013 is easier than you might think.
How easy? Well, according to Martin, the point total for the 200th spot has ranged from 78-110 the last four seasons. Third place at last week's Puerto Rico Open - an event opposite a World Golf Championship offering fewer FedEx Cup points than normal - was worth 105 points. So with that in mind, here are some of the noteworthy players who have already reached or are near that threshold as we hit mid-March:
Jordan Spieth, 258 points - If one week can change everything, two weeks can really make a difference. Aces do wonders for your score and that's what happened to Spieth in his third round in Puerto Rico as his hole-in-one shot him up the leaderboard. He eventually finished second, one shot back of winner Scott Brown. What's more, he followed that, playing on an exemption, with a T7 at Tampa on Sunday, earning enough money to attain special temporary status on the PGA Tour (that particular status comes with at least equaling No. 150 on last year's money list). This means he now has access to unlimited sponsor exemptions. His 258 FedEx Cup points not only leads non-members but would put him 47th in overall FedEx Cup points if he qualified. Spieth has a legitimate chance of not only locking up his playing privileges for the rest of this season but for the 2013-2014 season as well.
Jeff Klauk, 114 points - If there's a feel good story on the PGA Tour this season it has to be Klauk. Klauk missed a good part of 2011 and 2012 after having brain surgery. Needless to say, the fact that he's playing golf again is a testament to his hard work and dedication. His season has been punctuated thus far by two strong finishes, a T16 in Phoenix and a T29 at the Honda Classic. While Klauk's status is more secure than others on this list due to his medical leave of absence, no one wants to have to rely on the medical category as the decider of his fate, so look for Klauk to continue to work hard this year to secure his place for next season. Having brain surgery sure does put bogeys in perspective, doesn't it?
Matteo Manassero, 109 points - Doesn't it seem like Manassero has been around forever? But in actuality he's only 19(!) and has accumulated 109 equivalent FedEx Cup points this season, putting him in 103rd place. Although he lost in the first round at the Accenture Match Play Championship, he has finished T29-T23 over the last two weeks playing very impressive golf. The question when it comes to Manassero is not if but when - as in when he wants to come to the United States and play on the PGA Tour full time. He could be a strong spot-starter for fantasy players in the meantime, however.
Patrick Cantlay, 96 points - You may remember Cantlay is the amateur who shot 60 at the Travelers Championship in Hartford a couple years ago. Although he's playing on the Web.com Tour this year, where he's already a 2013 winner, Cantlay finished T30 on the PGA Tour last week, helping him amass enough points that his equivalency ranking would be 115th place. Cantlay missed the cut at Tampa, but could be a player with enough clout to shuffle between tours this year. Cantlay may not have to worry about The Finals, however, because a top-25 finish on the year-end Web.com Tour money list would already clinch his trip to the PGA Tour for 2013-14.
Peter Uihlein, 58 points - Uihlein isn't even playing in the U.S. this year - he's playing in Europe where he has more opportunities - but he came to Puerto Rico for the week and made good work of it, getting a T6, 30 FedEx Cup points and a trip to Tampa for this week's PGA Tour event because he finished in the top 10. One more top-25 or higher finish at some point this year should secure his spot in The Finals come August.
Blayne Barber, 53 points - This is a great story. You might recognize Barber's name as the guy who disqualified himself from PGA Tour Q-school six days after the first stage when he realized that he gave himself an incorrect penalty - off an infraction that he may not have even committed. Well that honorable move has gotten him two sponsor's exemptions so far this season, and he's made the most of them, making the cut at both the Northern Trust Open and Puerto Rico Open, finishing T42 and T24, respectively. A couple more opportunities from sympathetic tournament directors and we could be hearing a lot more from Barber before you know it.
Camilo Villegas, 48 points - Villegas is a PGA Tour member because he finished in the 126-150 range on last year's money list, but in a truncated season like 2013 he won't get many starts. While his T18 last week will help his cause, he'll rue the Honda Classic, where he became part of the most unwelcome of statistics: a first-round leader who missed the cut; 64-77 will do that to you. Fantasy owners should be wary of Villegas, who missed the cut at Tampa.
Heath Slocum, 48 points - Those who read our Q-school article will remember Slocum's tale of woe: a water ball on the 18th hole that led to a bogey and a missed card by two shots. This has all left Slocum with limited playing opportunities on the big Tour for this year. However, he has parlayed the two starts he's gotten into two made cuts and two top-50 finishes, tying for 30th at Pebble Beach and T50 in Puerto Rico. Another finish like Pebble and Slocum will know he's at least headed to The Finals in August and a shot at redemption.