Bubble Boys

Bubble Boys

by Tadhg Harrington

6th August 2019

Snipers Alley. That dreaded time of the year for a PGA Tour golfer has come and passed. The margin between a fully exempt card and conditional status was a decimal point of a shot. For others, like our own Seamus Power, conditional status normally confers about 15 starts next season but a trip to tour school awaits 150 golfers vying for a golden ticket to the chocolate factory. 

Not for the faint-hearted!

In this game, you have to accept failure, success, whatever it is, because you’re going to fail way more than you’re going to succeed. If your best is good enough, then it’s good enough. If it’s not, it’s not.Shawn Stefani.

Seamus Power

Our own Seamus Power finally succumbed to the toil that is trying to keep your card on the PGA Tour finishing in 143rd spot in the FedEx Cup standings leaving him with conditional status. This means he can rely on roughly fifteen starts on the main tour while plying his trade on the developmental Korn Ferry Tour. He could win his card back immediately if he were to finish in the top 25 at Tour School, i.e The “Korn Ferry” playoffs, three separate tournaments, 150 players, with the top 25 securing a tour card for next season. And he has previous, getting his card back in 2017 via tour school and being the “bubble boy” in 2018 when he placed 125th on the season list. He has only missed one cut since late June so is trending in the right direction, and with $2.5 million in career earnings so far he has the ammunition to fight another day. All of Ireland will be wishing him well. 

Bubble Boy ~ Pat Perez!

Talking of “bubble boys,” this year’s lucky winner was Pat Perez, but Pat already had another exemption to rely on as did Austin Cook (130th), Jason Duffner (136th), Zach Johnson (154th), Jimmy Walker (158th) and finally Brendan Steele (171st). Try telling that to former “Big Break” champion, Richy Werenski, who gave it his all in the final event at the Wyndham Championship to finish in a tie for 39th place but come up a measly two points short of the safety net. “It sucks,” Werenski said. “I mean, I tried. I don’t know. It was just kind of a tough year, I started playing solid golf again the last month or so, but it just wasn’t enough. It’s tough out there.” On Tour, the difference between 125th place and 126th place in the FedEx Cup standings can be life-changing.

Martin Kaymer.

It is also reflective to pursue the former players that were considered part of the furniture on Tour. Martin Kaymer hasn’t won anywhere since 2014 at the U.S. Open and his five year Tour exemption for that win is now up. Bill Haas, a seven-time winner on Tour, was involved in a car crash in 2018 in which the driver was fatally injured. He has not won since 2015 and is struggling. Daniel Berger played on the Presidents Cup team two years ago and has suffered several injuries so may be entitled to a medical exemption for next season. Finally, the very promising Sangmoon Bae missed two years for military service in the prime of his career. The South Korean won one of the Tour school events last year to regain his Tour card but missed 13 cuts in 21 events this year, and the future looks bleak. 

Viktor Hovland.

Special mention has to go to the third of the class of 2019 would-be superstars, Viktor Hovland. His college teammate at Oklahoma State University, Matthew Wolff and former world amateur number one, Collin Morikawa have both already won this season to secure playing rights for the next two seasons. This is an incredible achievement as two college players have never won their Tour cards before in the same season without going to Tour school. Viktor made a great job of joining them and making it three cards but just came up short at the Wyndham Championship. A tied second place would have been good enough but in the end, a weekend charge of 64-65 saw him finish fourth and miss out by 67 points.
“I feel like I’ve just been playing better and better every single week,” Hovland said. “Obviously this is my best finish throughout the five tournaments that I played. I’ve just got to keep it going in the Korn Ferry Finals, and hopefully, I’ll make it through.”

Five professional starts.

In his five professional starts, he finished in the top 20 in four of the events. His record since turning pro reads t54- t13- t13- t16- 4th with a scoring average of 69.9. He now heads for the Korn Ferry finals in a couple of weeks to try and secure his Tour card, but even if he doesn’t make it through, he can still rely on up to seven sponsors exemptions for the PGA Tour next year and Korn Ferry status. Who would bet that he won’t breakthrough?  “Shot a couple of good rounds or really low rounds, but mostly it’s just been very consistent,” Hovland said. “I think that gives me a lot of confidence going into the (Finals), because there are three tournaments and I know that if I just play my game, I should make it through.”

No credit as an amateur!

Hovland who hails from Oslo in Norway was the low amateur in both the Masters and the U.S Open this year, and this is where it gets even more interesting. He received no credit as an amateur for his t12 at Pebble Beach or t32 at Augusta National which would have earned him his tour card. The 21-year-old has shown maturity beyond his years and said this, “I already knew that it wasn’t going to count. So I mean, it is what it is, I just should have played a little bit better, and it wouldn’t have been a problem. No, I don’t have any complaints.”  The USGA has since changed the rule to allow winners of their amateur championship to play in the professional version no matter their playing status. Many shrewd observers in the game think he could be the best of the class of 2019.

With big money endorsing him and big money already earned, he has the time, barring injuries, to shine even brighter and must be on the radar of the European Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington.

Cameron Champ?

word of warning, if the class of 2019 took the time to scroll down the leaderboard at the Wyndham Championship, they would have seen the name of Cameron Champ, dead last. He, of course, is last years superstar, winning in just his second event at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Still ranked number one in distance of the tee, the eye-popping drives, haven’t translated into scores. But this is the fickle nature of Tour life, the 24-year-old has had some injury problems, and it is way too early to write him off just yet! Think Justin Rose starting with those 21 missed cuts. Sean Foley, coach to both Champ and Rose, put it best when he said recently about Rose, “Well it took almost unbelievable levels of failure and mistakes to get to that level of wisdom and understanding.”

Nature of the beast.

It is the nature of the beast where those less well endowed are looking for a sporting hero so that when they fall they can kick them and feel better about themselves.

Because the kids become such a hit and so well-known, they can’t really play bad in quiet,” Foley says. “They build them up, put them in the super pairings and everyone knows who they are. It’s a gift that you did well and you earned the amount of money you did, but when things start going the other way there’s going to be just as much attention and in a negative light.”

Short term failure.

“That determination in the face of short-term failure is key to long-term success, golf is not about the guy who is happiest. It’s the guy who can endure the most disappointment and still get up the next day and keep doing it.” Sean Foley.

Smiling Cinderella!

We couldn’t finish this week’s tales of woe and gnashing of teeth sprinkled with the future hopes of 20 something-year-old superstars without alluding to the dream run of Hinako Shibuno in winning the AIG Women’s British Open. Known as the “Smiling Cinderella,” the 20 year old rookie from Japan, playing in her first overseas event (which just happened to be a Major!) won with a clutch birdie putt on the last after a majestic final round where many had chances but the clock never struck midnight for Hinako who endured a tough start but ground it out like a seasoned veteran, smiling and fist-pumping her way to victory. To put this in context, only one other Japanese player has won a Major championship on either the LPGA or PGA Tours, and that was way back in 1977. Shibuno won the hearts of the enthralled crowd and won her own version of the glass slipper, a Major Championship. 

And this is precisely what keeps golfers coming back for more when it looks futile and to an outside world looking in, plain stupid, they keep going because of Cinderella!

If she can do it, then why not me? 

Thank you for taking the time to read! It is greatly appreciated. Follow our Ryder Cup Captain at our dedicated Ryder Cup page and over at his website. Finally, don’t forget to sign up for my FREE monthly digital magazine. Finally, you also have a chance to win a dozen Titleist Pro V1’s each & every month. Tadhg.

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