Monday, November 24, 2008

Making an Impact

The top 25 players from the Nationwide Tour were recently awarded their PGA Tour cards for the 2009 season, which got me thinking. How well does this new crop of players have to do to outshine the class from last year? The answer I inevitably came up with was, pretty damn good.

When Chez Reavie captured the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey this summer it was the first victory from the 2007 Nationwide class, but there is more to this class than the sole Reavie win. 11 of the graduates ended up qualifying for the Playoffs and played for the Fed Ex Cup. Three of those players made it to the BMW Championship which was the third of the four playoff events. Although Reavie was the only player to win, his play for the majority of the season was only average. Nicholas Thompson recorded six top 10's, eleven top 25's, 21 cuts made and was the leading money winner of the class ($1,869,329). Marc Turnesa also won albeit during the fall series at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open which put a nice finishing touch to the season for last years class.

Now a new class of Nationwide graduates will tip in up next year in hopes of making an impact on the tour as some of last years class did. Matt Bettencourt was the winner of the money title on the Nationwide in 2008 earning just under $450K. He captured the season ending Nationwide Tour Championship and the $180 grand that went with it. Look for him to try and get out of the gate quick as he finished of the season strong. Among the other 24 players, there are a few that shouldn't be overlooked. Darron Stiles, who finished seventh on the money list has PGA Tour experience and makes alot of birdies. His problem is he still has too much inconsistency in his game. If he can cut down on that he may have what it takes to make it finally out there. Australian Greg Chalmers finished 8th just behind Stiles and also has experience out on tour. Although he's never won on the PGA Tour he does have a T-2 and earned just over a million dollars during the 2000 season. Arjun Atwal is another of the graduates with tour experience. You may remember him losing the 2005 Bellsouth open in a playoff. That season he earned just under a million so he's hoping 2009 sees a return to his 2005 form. Bubble boy Ricky Barnes will finally have full time status on tour. Should he somehow manage to find the game he had to beat Hunter Mahan 2&1 to win the US Amateur at Oakland Hills in 2002 then he could be really successful. Just look at how the runner-up's career has progressed.

Getting, and keeping your PGA Tour card seems to be a real struggle at the best of times for the graduates of the Nationwide tour. However in recent years they've been getting better and even winning. Who knows what's ahead for this next class, but if they want to be compared to last years class, they'd better perform.

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