LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – One player dug his feet into the sand and hit one bunker shot after another, his focus unbroken. A few hundred yards away, another player cast his line into a pond filled with bass next to the 15th tee on the Magnolia Course.
Disney is a vacation for some, a grind for so many others. It’s easy to see who falls into which category.
This is the final PGA Tour event of the year, and the stakes have never been higher. The top 125 on the money list keep full tour cards, meaning they can play whenever and wherever they want next year except for the majors, World Golf Championships and a few other invitational events that have smaller fields.
What makes a tour card so valuable now is that 2013 is a transition year on the PGA Tour, which translates into a shorter season with fewer opportunities. The regular season will last only about 7 months leading into the FedEx Cup playoffs. After that, a new season (2013-14) will start in October.
For the last 6 years, players who either didn’t get into a lot of tournaments or got off to a slow start could always count on the Fall Series – four tournaments at the back end of the season – to make up ground and get into the top 125. But that opportunity is going away. The Fall Series events, along with two tournaments in Asia, will be the start of the new wraparound season.
Players who finish out of the top 125 can play, as long as there’s room for them at events. They had to get in line behind fully exempt players, along with 50 who earned cards through Q-school and the Web.com Tour.
“Those guys are in deep, deep ... trouble,” William McGirt said after a few attempts to find the right words for a family paper.
McGirt was in that position last year, needing a big finish at Disney. He didn’t come close, wound up at No. 141 and earned his card at Q-school.
Knowing that status out of Q-school would be lower this year, imagine McGirt’s relief when he was runner-up at the Canadian Open to secure his card. He is at No. 70 with just over $1.2 million. The only roller coaster he’ll be on this week is across the street at the Magic Kingdom.
Disney bills itself as the “happiest place on earth.” There were plenty of long faces on the practice green, which was quiet even for a Tuesday.