Any swing could be the difference-maker for Drisco
At No. 125, James Driscoll heads to Disney squarely on the money list bubble.
James Driscoll has played 4,777 shots on the PGA TOUR this year. If it had been 4,776, Driscoll likely would not be carrying the distinction of Bubble Boy into this week's Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
Take away just one of those 4,777 swings, particularly during one of his three top-25 finishes, and Driscoll wouldn't be in the 125th spot on the PGA TOUR's money list, just $6,313 ahead of Bill Lunde at No. 126.
A lipped-out putt here, a bad chip there, and Driscoll would be on the outside looking in. That's how razor-thin the margin of success is on the PGA TOUR. There are a half-dozen other players floating around the No. 125 cutoff who can say the same thing. They all know just one bad -- or good -- swing can be the difference between full-exempt status on the PGA TOUR for next year or another trip to q-school.
While Webb Simpson and Luke Donald duke it out this week for the prestigious money title that will be at least $6.2 million in earnings for this year, Driscoll and No. 120 Roland Thatcher, No. 123 D.J. Trahan, No. 124 Bobby Gates, No. 127 Billy Mayfair, No. 129 Matt Jones and No. 130 Steve Flesch, among others, will be battling in the trenches for something perhaps more meaningful.
A chance to continue making a lucrative living on the PGA TOUR in 2012.
Just remember what happened at last year's season-ending tournament at Disney World. Robert Garrigus entered the tournament a shaky 122nd on the money list, but walked away with a victory that earned him a two-year exemption and a refund of his q-school admission fee.
Thatcher, who started the final round with a four-shot lead, had to overcome a back-nine collapse to make a 5-foot par putt on the last hole that barely moved him inside the top 125. When it was over, Thatcher may not have said it eloquently, but his comment was as accurate as his final putt: "You'll never see a happier guy who just vomited away a tournament."
For the 33-year-old Driscoll, this situation is kind of par for the course. During his six full seasons on the PGA TOUR, he has finished 100th, 187th, 141st, 104th, 157th and is now 125th on the money list with $645,835. Only twice, when he lost in a playoff each year in 2005 and 2009, as he been able to relax and just play golf in October without checking the money list five times a day.
Driscoll has been well paid for his struggles, earning almost $3.8 million during his PGA TOUR career, so life on the edge has its advantages. But he has to right a game that has seen him miss four of the last five cuts to keep falling down the money list.
Driscoll never saw this coming when he turned professional in 2001. He had lost to Jeff Quinney in the finals of the 2000 U.S. Amateur, made a Walker Cup team and was a three-time All-American at Virginia. But he didn't become a regular on the PGA TOUR until 2005 and has been trying to avoid q-school ever since.
"I think whenever you have like a 22 or 23-year-old kid who turns pro and you're sure you're going to be the next Tiger Woods, and I thought I would have had more wins at this point in my career," Driscoll said earlier this year. "But you also realize how good the other guys are.
"It's been a long learning process just trying to find little ways to get better and stay positive because the game will really make you discouraged at times. But you just try and keep a good attitude throughout, even though it hasn't gone exactly as planned."
Driscoll, Thatcher, Trahan, Gates, Mayfair, Jones, Flesch and several others know they can make up for a season's worth of frustrating with a top-10 finish to lock up their card. Or they can have more misery piled on top.
By the time the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic is over, Driscoll hopes he will have more than 5,000 shots for the year (meaning he makes the cut). Just one of those shots, however, may be the difference.