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Billy Mayfair glad to be back in form

Billy Mayfair had 15 consecutive years of job security, so it was quite a jolt when he finished last season out of the top 125 on the money list and faced the prospect of going back to Q-school.

Even more discouraging was the way he was playing.

``I got away from my golf swing, I lost some confidence and I lost confidence in the putter,'' Mayfair said Tuesday. ``I was missing putts inside 10 feet for par, and that starts working on you after a while.''

At age 38, he had to use his one-time exemption for top 50 in career money to keep his status. He was determined to change his fortunes, and even Mayfair is surprised by his progress. His runner-up finish at the Colonial was his fourth top 10 of the year and moved him up to No. 17 on the money list.

``I knew I could do it,'' said Mayfair, a former U.S. Amateur champion whose five victories include the Tour Championship. ``My first goal was to get my status back, to stay in the top 125. I'm not going to lie; it's pretty much a surprise to be as high up as I am.

``As much fun as I'm having this year, I was not having that much fun last year.''

The turning point came after he missed the cut in Milwaukee. Both his wife and his good friend, Phil Mickelson, suggested he seek out swing coach Rick Smith.

Along with changing his grip, Smith suggested a move to the belly putter. Mayfair resisted until he shot 81 in the third round at Greensboro. Leaving the tournament, he saw a man selling clubs from a barrel and picked out a belly putter for $15. The next week, he consulted Vijay Singh and had a model made for him.

Suddenly, everything started to fall into place.

Mayfair played only once from the end of 2004 to the start of 2005, tying for 11th in a PGA Tour-sponsored event in Korea. Then he geared up for what might have been his last shot on tour.

``I knew if I didn't play well, I was going to have to go back to Tour school,'' he said. ``Obviously, some bad thoughts come into your mind. But one of the things I wanted to do was try to get some confidence back. I didn't want to slide into the year. I went to Hawaii ready to go.''

He didn't miss a cut on the West Coast, and the momentum kept building through a 10th-place finish at Quail Hollow that locked up his card, and his runner-up finish at the Colonial that has him thinking about the Tour Championship.

If he makes it to East Lake, Mayfair would be the first player since John Huston in 1998 to use a one-time exemption from career money and finish about the top 30 on the money list.


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