Real stars of McGladrey are guys fighting to keep their PGA Tour cards for 2013

Zach Johnson
DON EMMERT / Getty Images
Zach Johnson is among the highest-ranked players in the field this week at the McGladrey Classic.

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Practice rounds took five-and-a-half hours Tuesday with no amateurs on the course, and the driving range was bustling at 6 p.m. The McGladrey Classic at sumptuous Sea Island, the second-to-last chance for players to earn enough money in 2012 to keep their playing privileges for 2013, is almost the equivalent of the college library the night before the final exam.

The clock is ticking.

"You think about it," said Jason Bohn, who was in danger of dropping out of the top 125 on the money list and into no-man's land until he tied for eighth in Las Vegas two weeks ago. (He's now 111th.) "It's too big of a lifestyle change not to think about it. I knew I needed to have a solid Fall Series."

That sentiment is expressed in different ways at the McGladrey at Sea Island, where a dozen Tour pros make their home.

Kevin Kisner (164): "I gotta get after it."

Scott Brown (149): "I gotta hunker down."

"Probably $100,000, $150,000 to be on the safe side," said Vaughn Taylor (139), when asked how much money he needs to earn here this week to get into the top 125. "A top-five would probably do it. I need a good week."

There are a few bold-faced names at the McGladrey -- Jim Furyk, who lives down the road in Ponte Vedra Beach, Ryder Cup teammate and Sea Island resident Zach Johnson, and tournament host Davis Love III, to name a few. But they're not the stars of this week's scramble for positioning at the bottom of the money list-call it the McGladrey fringe festival -- where careers are on the line.

"The only thing that's gonna help me," said Joe Durant (153), who's getting just his 13th start this week, "is a first or a second. There's always something to shoot for, though. A top-10 would get me into [the season-ending] Disney."

Tim Petrovic shot a final-round 64 to tie for second place at the Frys.com Open on Sunday, but he knows he can't rest now. He shot all the way up to 132nd from 200th at the start of last week, and is now tantalizingly close to regaining full playing privileges next year. (Players from 126-150 on this year's money list will get conditional status on the PGA Tour next year.)

"I'm not done yet," Petrovic said. "The way I looked at that round Sunday was it was my Monday-qualifying to get in here. I was going to Monday-qualify to get in here, but I wasn't going to be able to get across the country in time."

Sea Island is a gorgeous place this time of year. The temperature is just right for taking your dog for a walk on the beach or sitting by the putting green and staring out toward the water at nothing in particular. And yet it can be a hard place to enjoy if you're fighting for your livelihood. Case in point: Gary Christian (122), an affable, 41-year-old PGA Tour rookie who made the media rounds Tuesday.

Christian, who is originally from England but played golf for Auburn, and still lives there, has had a fine year. He played with Tiger Woods at the Barclays at Bethpage Black, and met his hero, Tom Watson, for a practice round at the Greenbrier. But Christian wants to finish the season off right, and doesn't feel he's been doing so. He missed the cut at the Frys.com; he's not a lock to stay in the top 125. Alas, he must put such concerns in perspective. He's invited his father and mother, John and Barbara, plus his younger brother, Lee, to the McGladrey, so this is sort of a working vacation. He planned to try to wrap up his tournament preparations by noon Wednesday in order to walk the island with his family, and was hoping to attend Davis Love's party for the players Thursday night. (Love also hosted the pro-am draw party Tuesday night.)

"To be honest I haven't really enjoyed what I'm doing," Christian said. "I've got to get back to enjoying myself, and my play will improve."

Not everyone is stressing at Sea Island. Gary Woodland, finally healthy after a left wrist injury derailed his season, is hoping to maintain momentum after a T9 at the Frys.com. He's 129th on the money list, but fully exempt through 2013 by virtue of his victory in Tampa last year. Brendon de Jonge, 41st in earnings, must move up into the Top 30 to get to Augusta for his first Masters in 2013. "I need a couple good weeks," he said. Others still have elected to keep it simple.

"My main goal these next few weeks," said Harris English (87th in earnings), "is to get into contention and really to see if I can win a tournament."

"I'm here because I like it here," said David Toms (67th in earnings). "How about that?"

Short game: The Fall Series will take a two-week break after Sunday, making way for the game's global stars to play in next week's CIMB Classic at the Mines in Kuala Lumpur (Tiger Woods, Jason Dufner, Nick Watney), and the following week's WGC-HSBC Champions at Mission Hills, China. ... Fred Funk, 56, who is coming off his second Champions Tour win of the season and eighth overall at last week's Greater Hickory Classic, is the headliner at this week's Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open. The Web.com Tour event will be played at Dye's Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass in Funk's hometown of Ponte Vedra Beach. ... John Huh seemed to have the Rookie of the Year award wrapped up, having won once, racked up three other top-10 finishes and earned nearly $2.7 million this year. Jonas Blixt, coming off a win at the Frys.com Open, has four other top10s, and $2.2 million. Only Blixt is in the field at Sea Island. ... American Bo Van Pelt is among the challengers at the European Tour's ISPS Handa Perth International in Australia. ... The LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship is the second event of the Asian swing. Yani Tseng defends; she and American Stacy Lewis are tied with three wins apiece in 2012.

 

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