How One Putt Could Make or Break a Season
Five feet, 3 inches. That's the length of a par putt Jesper Parnevik missed on the 18th hole Saturday morning, April 20, as he completed his rain-delayed second round of the RBC Heritage. In the process, that single putt moved the cut from 1-over par to 2-over par, and let a host of golfers (22 by our count) back into the tournament. A PGA Tour-record-tying 91 golfers made it to the third round, and for some, that one putt could make or break their seasons.
There are two ways to look at this from a Reshuffle List perspective.
1. Golfers saved by Parnevik's miss.
Thanks to Parnevik, these golfers got the chance to play the weekend and bank bigger checks:
James Hahn - Hahn shot 66 on Saturday and eventually tied for 35th, but the extra rounds did not impact his tour card aspirations - he's already made $740K and has all but clinched his card for next season. Still, an extra $27,384 that he otherwise would not have earned is a nice payday.
Casey Wittenberg – Wittenberg, the No. 1 money earner on the Web.com Tour last year, has not had the greatest of starts to his season. In 11 events he's only made four cuts and has just one top-25. It was a T15 at Torrey Pines that banked him nearly $95K, but he's struggled to make much more since, having only $148K and change in the bank and sitting 148th in the FedEx Cup points standings. Parnevik's putt gave him a shot to make a move on the weekend and improve his status. He didn't take advantage, though, shooting a Sunday 80 that sent him back to a 70th-place finish and only $11,600.
2. Golfers hurt by Parnevik's miss.
When more than 78 golfers make a 36-hole cut, the PGA Tour enacts a second cut on Saturday, leaving just the closest to 70 to play Sunday. Those who don't meet that threshold get signified with the "MDF" – made cut, did not finish – moniker on leaderboards. They get paid for the place they currently stand, but don't get to play the final round. Had Parnevik made his putt, and the ordinary cut line drawn, these players would have been in the clear to play the weekend. Instead, they were trunk-slamming after the third round. Indeed, four Reshuffle List players met that fate:
Patrick Reed – We spoke two weeks ago about how Reed has cooled off since a solid beginning, and MDF'ing at the RBC won't help much. His Saturday round started with three bogeys on his opening nine, preventing the hot start he needed to ensure a Sunday appearance.
Lee Williams – Williams shot a 5-over 76 on Saturday, a round that featured back-to-back double bogeys on holes 12 and 13. Lee came into the RBC having missed six of his last seven cuts, and a paycheck of just $10,440 won't help matters much.
Henrik Norlander – Norlander has really struggled in his rookie season. Beginning this third reshuffle period in the 32nd spot, Norlander has just nine starts thus far this year, with no finish better than a T41 at the season-opening Sony Open in Hawaii.
D.H. Lee – Lee's fate at the RBC Heritage was pretty much sealed when his third-round featured this stretch on Harbour Town Golf Links' holes 13-18: bogey, double bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey. Ouch. Lee's best finish is a tie for 48th at the Sony Open, and while he's made six cuts in 10 starts, most of his finishes have been 70th and higher. That rough start to his third round was the last thing Lee needed.
Update on Non-Members' Quest to Get Tour Cards
In March we touched on a number of players who are not full-fledged members of the PGA Tour but who hope to add that distinction to their resumes, using the Non-Member FedEx Cup points list as our guide. Here are the three men who hold the top three spots on that list:
Jordan Spieth - Spieth is now officially in the driver's seat. When we wrote about him last month he had just picked up temporary special membership for the rest of 2013, nabbing himself unlimited sponsors exemptions for the remainder of the season. Fast forward a month and he's now advanced even farther. As Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press astutely pointed out this week, his tie for ninth at the RBC Heritage rendered that non-member FedEx Cup Points list meaningless. He's now earned $662,398 this season, which puts him about $15K ahead of Kevin Chappell's final figure that was good for the 125th spot on the money list in 2012.
While 2013 is a transition year as the PGA Tour moves to FedEx Cup points instead of earnings to decide who gets tour cards, it will still give the top 125 on the season-ending money list cards like the old days. (This is most likely the last year for that.) That essentially locks up Spieth's card, as Chappell's 2012 total is almost unattainable in a truncated season. And even though Spieth is technically not on the PGA Tour money list because of his current membership distinction, as long as a golfer earns at least what the 125th guy makes, he gets a card. So it looks like Spieth's decision to leave college early has most certainly paid off.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano - Fernandez-Castano's high finishes at high-level events - a T9 at the Match Play, T2 at Bay Hill and T20 at the Masters - put him second on the non-member FedEx Cup points list with 278 points. If he were a PGA Tour member that would place him 75th on the regular FedEx Cup points list. His earnings this year total $387,520, giving him special temporary membership as he has now exceeded what the 150th player on the money list earned last year. As major season continues and Fernandez-Castano continues to spend more time on this side of the Atlantic, his chances of locking up a place on the PGA Tour for next season increase by the week.
Thorbjorn Olesen - He may have an unusual name, but the man can flat out play. Olesen's performance in this year's high-profile tournaments, like Fernandez-Castano's, has been equally impressive, finishing seventh at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tied for sixth at the Masters. In total, he has amassed 258 FedEx Cup points and $485,700. He has also taken up special temporary membership for the remainder of the season and is one solid finish away from securing his card on the PGA Tour for the 2013-2014 season. Why has Olesen been so good? Maybe because he's 24th in driving distance (296.4 yards) and 21st in driving accuracy (66.48%). That's a pretty nice combination to have to your name.