golf

Disney the last chance to keep a job

McGirt have to have his spot secured this year

The Associated PressNovember 7, 2012 

On The Fringe Golf

FILE - In this July 29, 2012, file photo, William McGirt reacts after missing a putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff in the Canadian Open golf tournament at the Hamilton Golf and County Club in Ancaster, Ontario. McGirt wound up playing every tournament for which he was eligible from June to early November, 14 events in 17 weeks. Thanks to his runner up finish at the Canadian Open, he is No. 70 on the money list.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette, File)

NATHAN DENETTE — the associated press

— One player dug his feet into the sand and hit one bunker shot after another, his focus unbroken. A few hundred yards away, another player cast his line into a pond filled with bass next to the 15th tee on the Magnolia Course.

Disney is a vacation for some, a grind for many others. It’s easy to see who falls into which category.

This is the final PGA Tour event of the year, and the stakes never have been higher. The top 125 on the money list keep full tour cards, meaning they can play whenever and wherever they want next year except for the majors, World Golf Championships and a few other invitational events that have smaller fields.

That much hasn’t changed.

What makes a tour card so valuable now is that 2013 is a transition year on the PGA Tour, which translates into a shorter season with fewer opportunities. The regular season will last about seven months leading into the FedEx Cup playoffs. After that, a new season (2013-14) will start in October.

For the past six years, players who either didn’t get into a lot of tournaments or got off to a slow start could always count on the Fall Series — four tournaments at the back end of the season — to make up ground and get into the top 125. But that opportunity is going away. The Fall Series events, along with two tournaments in Asia, will be the start of the new wraparound season.

Players who finish out of the top 125 can still play, as long as there was room for them at tournaments. They had to get in line behind the fully exempt players, along with 50 others who earned cards through Q-school and the Web.com Tour.

But with more players expected to sign up for more tournaments in the shorter season, playing opportunities for the others could be limited.

That’s putting it nicely.

“Those guys are in deep, deep trouble,” William McGirt said after a few attempts trying to find the right words for a family newspaper.

McGirt, a former Wofford standout, was in that position last year, needing a big finish at Disney to keep his card. He didn’t come particularly close, wound up at No. 141 and earned his card at Q-school. Knowing that status out of Q-school would be lower this year, imagine his relief when McGirt was runner-up at the Canadian Open to secure his card. He is at No. 70 with a little more than $1.2 million. The only roller coaster he will be on this week can be found across the street at the Magic Kingdom.

“Compared with last year, this is as relaxed as you can be,” McGirt said Tuesday. “I’ve talked to a couple of guys about that situation. I told them the last thing you can do is think about it. From the U.S. Open last year, it was getting into FedEx Cup, and I went from that to keeping my job. I spent the better part of last year thinking about what would happen. I was mentally fried.”

McGirt wound up playing every tournament for which he was eligible from June to early November, 14 events in 17 weeks.

Disney has been the final official event on the PGA Tour schedule for the past six years, and it’s always been fascinating to watch the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Those who were safe inside the top 125 on the money list were mainly concerned about the lines at Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Those on the outside were concerned about keeping their jobs. There is tension over every shot, broken up by the long, low whistle from the train at Thunder Mountain.

A year ago, Roland Thatcher missed the cut at Disney and lost his card by $1,695. Thatcher played out of the No. 126-150 category this year and got into 20 events, a number that figures to shrink next year. D.J. Trahan finished 125th on the money list and played 26 times.

Disney bills itself as the “happiest place on earth.” There were plenty of long faces on the practice green, which was quiet even for a Tuesday.

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