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November 1, 2016

The Magic Number is 125

Fighting for a PGA Tour card and a chance to compete

One of the more stressful weeks of the 47 on the PGA Tour wrap-around season is the final one of the regular season at the Wyndham Championship in August at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Jobs are at stake that week and the door slamming frustration and uneasiness is palpable. The top 125 in the FedEx Cup Standings qualify for the Playoffs after this decisive week. Also, those who haven’t already done so, retain their tour cards and full-time playing privileges forth following season.

Those who finish between the 125 and 150 get partial status for the next season, but are subject to reshuffles through out the season in playing priority. They can join those who finish outside the 150 at the Web.com Tour Finals the following four weeks to fight for 25 PGATour cards.

This year the Wyndham produced an odd week, as nine of the 12 players sitting in the 120-131 spots entering the week either missed the cut or withdrew, leaving only a couple players in position to make a move. By week’s end the two biggest opportunists were Shawn Stefani and Kyle Stanley. Both entered the week outside the top 125 and finished within it. Stefani began at 133 while Stanley started at 127.

So with all the pressure and the gravity of what they’re playing for, did Stanley find himself pounding more balls on the range that week?

“No not really, if anything it’s kind of the opposite,” Stanley said. “You try to make your preparation more quality instead of quantity. It’s human nature to think ‘Oh I’ve got to play really well this week’ and over-prepare. But it’s the big picture isn’t it? Life is going to go on after (Sunday).”

It did for Stanley as he finished tied for 14th in the event, moving him to 116th and into the Playoffs. Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, finished the week at 148 but made a move toward the top 125 in the first three rounds. The 29-year-old also limited his time on the range at Sedgefield.

“I think at this point in the season we’re all tired, we’re all ready to be done,” Saunders said. “It’s such a long season and I think conserving energy is as important as anything.” Matt Jones entered the week at 124, but a missed cut left him on the outside looking in at 126. The 36-year-old veteran was understandably frustrated as he left the property.

“I wasn’t expecting to play well because I’ve been playing terribly and it’s just a tough golf course,” Jones said.

Shawn Stefani entered the week at 133 and dealt with severe allergies all week, blowing his nose between swings in the final round. The Texan said his hands were shaking on the 72nd green as he stood over a long birdie putt. He would convert the necessary par to make the Playoffs and secure his 2016-17 card. He teared up as he answered questions afterward.

“It’s not easy what we do and oh, man, it’s just nice to finish off on a good note,” Stefani said. Stefani conserved his energy and did not hit the range during the early part of the week. A veteran who did not keep his card at the Wyndham was Australian Cameron Percy. The 42-year-old said both he and his wife were applying for their green cards, so she could work if need be, just in case he didn’t keep his card.

“It can drive you insane basically,” Percy said. “That’s part of our lives, that’s just the way it goes.” Thankfully a few weeks later Percy earned his card back via the Web.com Tour Finals. “This game is very volatile,” Percy concluded. You can say that again.