All to play for at Chrysler Championship
Rod Pampling has never been to the Tour Championship.
Justin Leonard has never missed one.
Jim Furyk has one last chance to extend his streak to seven years with at least one PGA Tour victory. Vijay Singh is just as determined to win his ninth tournament of the season.
Joey Sindelar wants to get in the Masters. Craig Barlow wants to keep his PGA Tour card.
"There are bubbles all over the place," Sindelar said Wednesday at the Chrysler Championship, the final full-field event on the PGA Tour. "It's fun to have that chance."
The Chrysler Championship becomes a numbers game Sunday:
- The top 30 on the money list get into the $6 million Tour Championship next week at East Lake.
- The top 40 get invited to the Masters.
- The top 70 get into all the invitationals, such as Bay Hill and the Memorial.
- The top 125 keep their PGA Tour cards for next year.
- The top 150 have limited status, meaning players can ask for exemptions or enter only tournaments that have room for them, usually spots like Tucson, Reno and the John Deere Classic.
Anyone outside the top 150 has to go back to Q-school, unless they have some other safety net.
"It definitely doesn't feel good being (No.) 126," said Barlow, who trails Olin Browne by $1,214. "The way I'm looking at this week, it's just another golf tournament. If you want to think about that it's the last tournament of the year, and I'm 126th on the money list, you're going to drive yourself crazy."
Retief Goosen is the defending champion at Innisbrook, and he has no worries at No. 13 on the money list. Playing in the United States for the first time since he won the U.S. Open, Goosen is part of a strong field that has five other players from the top 10 in the world ranking -- Singh, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Mike Weir and Stewart Cink.
Still, most of the focus shifts down the money lists, the pressure increasing at each rung.
Kenny Perry is $12,482 behind Pampling in his bid to get into the top 30 and go to the Tour Championship. Behind him are guys like Jonathan Kaye, Charles Howell III and Tim Herron. Leonard is No. 41 and probably needs a third-place finish to continue his streak.
Several players have never been to the Masters, and this might be their best chance. Ryan Palmer won Disney last week to move from No. 91 to No. 37 on the money list. His victory made him eligible for the Chrysler Championship, and now it's a matter of protecting his position.
Sindelar is No. 39, and he got some good news when he arrived at Innisbrook on Wednesday -- Jeff Maggert at No. 40, who already is eligible for the Masters, decided not to play. That means Sindelar went from a $9,000 cushion to a $61,000 cushion.
"It helps for guys trying to pass me," Sindelar said. "So I'm kind of in the protect mode. If I could finish 25th or better, I should be OK."
Sindelar has been on the bubble more times than he cares to remember. He finished 126th on the money list in 2000 and had to rely on sponsor's exemptions the next year. But he won the Wachovia Championship in May, so his goals changed from keeping a job to driving down Magnolia Lane.
Still, he knows what it's like for those guys lower down the food chain -- guys like Glen Day at No. 136.
Day didn't know his ranking on the money list, only that he needs about $100,000 this week to keep his card, something he has done every year since he joined the PGA Tour in 1994.
"I'm beyond the bubble. I'm on the wrong side of everything," Day said. "This is foreign territory."
Dangerous territory belongs to Steve Stricker, for a number of reasons.
A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, he has struggled like never before and is No. 149 on the money list. If he gets knocked out of the top 150, Stricker would have to go back to Q-school.
There's just one problem.
"I didn't send in my tour school application," he said. "I'm kicking myself a little right now."
Stricker usually takes the year off after the Canadian Open. He prefers to spend time with his family in Wisconsin, hunting and fishing and forgetting what a golf club looks like.
But given his situation, Stricker is playing for the fifth time in six weeks. If the worst happens, he can still get by as a past champion and scrape together a playing schedule for 2005.
"I don't want to be in the 'Past Champions' category the rest of my life," he said. "I found that out about myself the last half of the year. Even though I hate the game sometimes -- we all do -- I found out how much I love it."
That's the passion he'll take to the first tee at Innisbrook on Thursday, hoping that he finds something -- a fairway would be nice -- in time to make his job a little easier next year.
Either way, the season ends for all but the top 30 on the money list.
"It's like the last week of school," Day said. "You just can't wait to get out, no matter what bubble you're on. You'd like to go home happy."
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