As July commences, the chase to make The Finals truly ramps up. Yes, you heard that right, The Finals. For those who don't remember, The Finals is a series of four Web.com Tour events that combines the Top 75 on the Web.com Tour money list and Nos. 126-200 in FedEx Cup points to determine 25 PGA Tour card recipients for the 2013-14 season in addition to the Web.com Tour's Top-25.
While the Playoffs - and a $35 million pool - is plenty nice, most players would merely like to have the ability to have another shot at that pool next season. And that's what makes The Finals so fascinating, because not only will it include young upstarts who may have just missed clinching PGA Tour cards through the Web.com Top 25, but it will also include PGA Tour veterans looking to keep their playing privileges as well.
Non-Members Movin' On Up
Jordan Spieth - We've said it before, and we'll say it again. This kid - he's only 19 - is playing golf that's way beyond his age, with a consistency that's utterly mind-boggling. Consider this: Spieth began the year with no status on any tour. He now has made more than $1 million, has five top-10s in 15 starts on the PGA Tour and has secured his tour card for the 2013-2014 season. While he's still technically a non-member, and thus needs a win to compete in the FedEx Cup, what's amazing about what Spieth is doing is that he's playing with an air of confidence usually seen out of a 29-year old, not a 19-year old. If Spieth keeps up this strong play, that first victory could be right around the corner.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano - At 261 non-member FedEx Cup points, Fernandez-Castano has the FedEx Cup points equivalency ranking of 133rd and would look pretty safe for The Finals. But Fernandez-Castano has another number on his mind. A temporary member since April - which affords him unlimited sponsor's exemptions - with three top-10s in nine starts, his earnings of $568,698 gives him an equivalency placement of 102nd on the money list. If he can keep that up - and he has a couple starts in majors and World Golf Championship events with big purses upcoming - he'll clinch his card for next season, avoid The Finals altogether and give himself the option to become a PGA Tour member. So watch Fernandez-Castano the next two months because even if he's not in contention for a win, every shot could very well count.
Jeff Klauk - In March we wrote about Klauk - who was back on the PGA Tour after brain surgery. Yes, brain surgery. Before his extended medical leave ended after his eighth start of the year at the RBC Heritage, Klauk amassed 115 non-member FedEx Cup points. That puts him 175th on the equivalency list and just one solid finish from possibly getting into The Finals that way. But with no status on the PGA Tour, he'd require sponsors' exemptions to play in a PGA Tour event, and that hasn't happened so far. Following Hilton Head he moved to the Web.com Tour hoping to make it to The Finals that way but in 10 starts he only has one top-25 and little more than $16K in the bank. However, if he can somehow catch fire and get some momentum going he's only about $22K outside of that 75th spot, which qualifies for The Finals. So if you're looking for a story to root the next two months, Klauk is a strong candidate.
Blayne Barber - Earlier this year we also wrote about Barber, who was praised in the golf community for disqualifying himself after the first stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School after he deemed he had broken a rule. His honesty got him into three PGA Tour events earlier this year on sponsors' exemptions, where he amassed 53 non-member FedEx Cup, including finishes of T42 finish at the Northern Trust Open, T24 in Puerto Rico and T133rd at the Byron Nelson. In addition to those three starts he has four on the Web.com Tour, where he tied for sixth in Louisiana and missed the cut in the other three events he entered. His money total sits at $17,806, so, like Klauk, he needs a good finish to get into The Finals.
Members Hangin' On:
John Mallinger - I've believed for a while that Mallinger and John Merrick were the two best players without a PGA Tour victory no one knows about. Well, Merrick got his first win at Riviera earlier this year, so one would think it's time for Mallinger to step up. However, 2013 hasn't been so kind to him, as he's 176th in FedEx Cup points and has no top-25 finishes in 12 starts. What's been the problem? Well, he's 157th in driving distance, 102nd in driving accuracy, 124th in greens in regulation and 149th in strokes-gained putting. That is not a winning combination.
Glen Day - With slow play in the news so much lately we thought we'd check on the man believed to have gotten the last slow play penalty on the PGA Tour - more than 15 years ago. Day is 193rd on the list, with most of his 62 points coming virtue of a tie for 10th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Day will need to get another start or two (he has only played three events so far this year) to secure his spot in the Finals, but a tie for 10th sure will help his cause toward getting there.
Paul Casey - Casey is a player fantasy owners should absolutely watch in the remaining portion of the PGA Tour season. After several years of injuries and other issues, Casey returned to the winner's circle two weeks ago when he won the Irish Open on the European Tour. Currently 219th in the FedEx Cup standings, the fact that Casey's win got him into the Open Championship - and should help him get into the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship - makes him a prime target to rise into the Top 200 and give himself a ticket into The Finals, if not a chance to keep his PGA Tour card altogether if he plays well enough.
John Daly - The ever interesting Daly - who nearly got back his PGA Tour card last fall before stumbling in Las Vegas - is 224th in FedEx Cup points. On the PGA Tour in 2013 he's only made four cuts in 12 starts, with a best finish of 50th in Puerto Rico. But even with all his public fits and tantrums Daly is a popular figure who continues to get sponsor exemptions, so there is a chance that an event could give him a shot, which he could parlay into a good enough finish to make The Finals.