PALM COAST, Fla.(AP) Nine days after an emergency appendectomy, Jeff Overton will tee it up Thursday in the Ginn sur Mer Classic. With his job on the line, he didn’t give it a second thought.
Overton is at No. 126 on the PGA Tour money list with two tournaments left, starting with Ginn sur Mer Classic. The top 125 players after next week at Disney will earn their cards for the 2009 season. The rest will have to return to the grueling Q-school in December if they want full status on tour.
“No one wants to do that,” Overton said. “I’m going to come out here and hope for a miracle.”
The miracle he is chasing will have to come on the 7,663-yard Conservatory Course at Ginn Ocean Hammock Resort, which was designed by eight-time major champion Tom Watson who apparently had big hitters in mind.
Daniel Chopra is the defending champion, winning last year in south Florida.
Overton is this week’s symbol of the desperation felt by players who are more than a few dollars short of reaching the top 125, with their chances dwindling. He has earned $788,675, leaving him less than $7,000 behind Patrick Sheehan at No. 125. Players as far behind as Robert Garrigus at No. 140 can overtake Sheehan by finishing sixth or better this week.
Overton’s doctors told him there will be pain. Although he can’t do any more damage to his body, Overton said playing golf so soon after his surgery is like swinging a club “after doing about 500 crunches.” But he’s prepared to do it, mainly because he feels he has no choice.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the game of golf,” Overton said.
Other players both marvel and understand what Overton will go through this week, because many of them are in the same situation – or were, until recent victories gave them a two-year exemption.
“It’s got to be tough,” said Cameron Beckman, last week’s winner at the Frys.com Open in Scottsdale, Ariz. “There’s no substitute for having your card.”
Davis Love III, a 19-time tour winner who began the Fall Series outside the top 125, has played well enough to improve to 115th. He could have taken an exemption next year based on career money, but Love wanted to earn it.
“I wanted to play,” he said. “Part of it is a matter of pride. You want to save your ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card for another time.”
Love said Overton’s decision to play this week shows how far tour pros are willing to go to keep their card.
“Guys want it really bad out here,” he said. “You can see the grind and see the desperation come into play.”
However, the trend through five weeks of the tour’s seven-tournament Fall Series has been for players feeling the pressure the most to come through. Except for former Masters champion Zach Johnson’s victory at the Valero Texas Open, every Fall Series winner was outside of the top 125 the week before he won.
“We’re faced with a lot of pressure,” Beckman said. “I think that’s why you see the guys doing what they’re doing. Once you get the opportunity (to win), you get into a whole other realm of focus.”