oct17 Keeping your card


Brett Quigley figured his PGA Tour card was safe for next year when he left the Deutsche Bank Championship the first week of September and had surgery on his right knee to repair torn cartilage.

He was at No. 109 on the money list with $717,411.

Darren Clarke finished at No. 125 last year with $660,898. Tour officials figured $700,000 would be enough this year, although there was some uncertainty with the reconfigured schedule putting seven events of the Fall Series after the Tour Championship.

Not many saw this coming.

In four weeks since the FedEx Cup ended, Quigley has fallen 15 spots to No. 124. He is $358 ahead of Alex Cejka, and $22,131 ahead of Craig Kanada. And with his season over, he has nowhere to go but down.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Quigley said Monday. “I haven’t seen any golf the last three weeks, but I’ve got people calling me with the results. ‘You’re down to 121. You’re down to 124.’ I thought anything over $700,000 was safe. Obviously, it moved a bunch.”

It’s almost enough for Quigley to enter a tournament on wounded knee.

“I’m chomping at the bit to play,” he said. “But just walking with (daughter) Lily for 45 minutes I’m pretty sore. I couldn’t imagine playing five hours for five days in a row. I know I’m not ready to play.”

He said he would take a minor medical exemption, which will give him as many as seven tournaments next year to make up the difference between his $717,411 and whatever winds up being the earnings for No. 125.

The change has even astounded tour officials, who were trying to figure out what happened.

“I was surprised,” said Andy Pazder, the tour’s vice president of competition. “We saw something in the $700,000 range, and that number has come and gone. It’s moving toward $750,000 and beyond. I can’t explain it without having analyzed some things. The fields being different, maybe more guys are getting in.”

None of the four winners – Steve Flesch, Chad Campbell, Justin Leonard and George McNeill – were outside the top 125 when they won. But six players already have moved inside the top 125, with Michael Allen making the biggest move from No. 154 to No. 98.

And there are still three tournaments remaining.

Money for No. 125 increased by $3,474 in 2005 and then by a more substantial $34,162 in 2006. The increase in total prize money on the PGA Tour is about $10 million, not much different from the past two years.

“The right guys are making the money,” Quigley said. “And some of the bigger guys are not winning, and certainly not playing the last few tournaments.”

ELS DILEMMA: Ernie Els won the HSBC World Match Play Championship for the seventh time, and enough of the mammoth prize money was applied to the European Tour money list that he surged ahead of Padraig Harrington on the Order of Merit.

Whether he stays there is out of his control.

Els recently signed a three-year deal to play in the Singapore Open, not realizing it will be held the same time (Nov. 1-4) as the season-ending Volvo Masters on the European Tour.

Harrington is $307,745 behind Els, and will be at Valderrama for the tour finish. Justin Rose is in third place, $352,225 behind, and he will have two starts remaining on the European schedule, including this week in Portugal.

“How can I say it? The end of the year, you’ve got the wheelbarrow out. You want to cash in a little bit,” Els said of the appearance fees he’ll get from the Singapore Open. “It just happened that this tournament is the same week. I didn’t know before we signed that last year. It’s unfortunate. I don’t know how it slipped their radar.”

This is not the first time Els has stuck to a commitment. He skipped the Presidents Cup in 1994 because of the British Masters.

Els won the Order of Merit in 2003 and 2004, and there’s a chance he can win the Harry Vardon Trophy a third time.

HAVE GAME, WILL PLAY: Damon Green long has been considered one of the best players among caddies on the PGA Tour, and he had a chance to show it while in Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

Green, on the bag when Zach Johnson won the Masters, decided to pay $525 to enter the 41st edition of the Bermuda Open, which attracted a 66-man field to Port Royal Golf Course. He was 1 under through three rounds until closing with a 66 on Sunday to finish third behind defending champion Tim Conley and Brian McCann, a regular on the Canadian Tour.

“Not too bad,” Green said.

Green, who played the Nike Tour a dozen years ago, had not played competitively since the Grapefruit Open in Vero Beach, Fla., about a year ago. He has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open, but never has made it out of final stage of sectional qualifying.

“I guess this was my first national open,” he said.

Green earned $6,000 from the $50,000 purse.

LEFTIES: Phil Mickelson will be the highest-ranked player to compete in the Fall Series when he plays the Fry’s Electronics Open in Scottsdale, Ariz., and he has a chance to again be part of history by winning.

Lefties already have won five times this year, which ties the record set in 2000.

Mickelson has won three times and Steve Flesch won twice. Seven years ago, Mickelson won four times and Mike Weir had one victory. The statistics indeed are slightly skewed, but the PGA Tour dug up some research that showed six left-handed players among the top 100 in the world ranking: Mickelson (2), Richard Green (32), Nick O’Hern (38), Weir (48), Flesch (89) and Bubba Watson (93).

DIVOTS: The European Tour has afforded lifetime membership to U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and British Open champion Padraig Harrington. They received their solid silver membership cards from Tour chief executive George O’Grady during the HSBC World Match Play Championship. Europe now has 31 players to have received honorary lifetime membership. … Masters champion Zach Johnson extended his sponsorship endorsement with AEGON and subsidiary Transamerica for five more years. … Greg Norman, the inaugural winner of the Australian Golf Writers Association rookie of the year award, has agreed to give his name to the honor.

STAT OF THE WEEK: In the three LPGA Tour events where she made the cut in 2007, Michelle Wie finished a combined 91 shots behind the winner.

FINAL WORD: “If I’m having a holiday, I don’t bring golf clubs. I don’t have fun unless I’m really putting effort into it.” – Padraig Harrington, on playing the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda.


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