PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida (AP) — Mark Calcavecchia decided to play the final four weeks of the golf season for one simple reason.
“Sheer boredom,” he said.
He’s one of the headliners this week in the Ginn sur mer Classic, a U.S. tour’s Fall Series event that opens Thursday on the Arnold Palmer Course at Tesoro Club. Only a quarter of the top 100 earners on tour this season are in the field, which is mostly made up of players trying to find their way into the top 125 on that money list – and earn exempt status for 2008 along with it.
So there’s no Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk or Vijay Singh this week.
Instead, here comes Tripp Isenhour, Paul Gow, John Huston, and Jaco Van Zyl.
“It’s nice not to see Tiger and Phil and Furyk and Vijay and all the same guys every week, actually,” Calcavecchia said. “Kind of exciting showing up knowing that if you play well you don’t have to dust off the top 10 in the world to have a chance.”
This year, he’s had a chance just about every time out, no matter who else is playing.
The 47-year-old Calcavecchia already has a victory this season (the PODS Championship) along with five other top-10 finishes, has earned nearly $3 million (2.11 million) in 2007 and tied for second at the U.S. Tour Championship last month.
Yet, he isn’t ready to see 2007 end, evidenced by this being his third straight start on the Fall Series schedule. He plans to play in the season finale at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic in Lake Buena Vista near Orlando next week as well.
“When I said I was going to play the last four, I wanted to win another one of them and turn a great year into a really great year,” Calcavecchia said. “So I’ve got two left. I’m going to play next week at Disney and I’m looking forward to a couple big weeks – I hope.”
This year was a turnaround of sorts for Calcavecchia, who was 120th on the order of merit last season and had only one top-10 finish in 27 events.
The Fall Series has been a turnaround for Justin Leonard, too.
Leonard won for the first time since 2005 earlier this month at the Texas Open, beating Jesper Parnevik in a playoff. He’s finished at least 13th in each of his last three starts, making nearly $1.1 million (770,000) – or about as much as he’d made in nearly his last 50 starts combined.
“We can’t measure our success by results too often,” Leonard said. “There’s a few players that can, but, you know, sometimes it’s going to be in just progress. When you can win a golf tournament out here, it kind of validates things to everybody.”
Winning would do more than validate things to most in this field – it’d get them tour cards for 2008.
The top 125 on the money list after next week’s event earn full playing privileges for next year. Brett Quigley is 126th; he’s not here this week. But everyone else from No. 111 to No. 134 Kent Jones is entered in the field.
Or, for the likes of Ken Duke, a spot in the U.S. Masters is there for the taking.
“If you finish top 30 on the money list you get into an Augusta and maybe the U.S. Open, too,” Duke said. “That’s what I’m shooting for. If I win, I think it would take care of it, no question.”