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Playing for a Job

12 SEP 2017

By Dave Kaplan

The FedEx Cup Playoffs took last week off, allowing the remaining 70 players in this year’s field to get some rest and relaxation before the penultimate phase gets underway this Thursday in Illinois.  Adam Hadwin and Mackenzie Hughes are still in the playoffs with Hadwin virtually guaranteed a spot in the Tour finals in two weeks time and Hughes in pretty good shape to make it if he has a decent week in Chicago.

Graham DeLaet and Nick Taylor are done for the season after failing to advance past the second playoff event. Both, however, are assured fully exempt status on the PGA Tour next year based on finishing in the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list. 

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the remaining Canadians that pegged it up on the main circuit this past season. David Hearn finished 128th and will be forced to try to earn his way back to the PGA tour through the Web.com Tour Finals. Brad Fritsch failed to crack the top 200 and consequently the Manotick native will have to go through q-school just to earn a spot on the junior circuit for 2018.

Each year, 50 players earn PGA Tour cards through the Web.com Tour. The circuit awards cards to the 25 players who finish highest on the money list at the end of the regular season and awards an additional 25 cards to those players that perform best at the year-end Web.com Tour Finals — a four-tournament stretch that got underway two weeks ago in Columbus.

Hearn lost his PGA Tour status in 2017, due in large part to a disastrous start to the season when the Brantford native missed seven cuts in his first nine starts. However, he appeared to sort his game out towards the end of the season and only missed the cut twice in his final nine tournaments of the season, during which time he earned a pair of Top-10 finishes and made over $500,000.

Hearn skipped the first leg of the Finals to rest. Obviously that puts the 38-year-old at a disadvantage heading into the final three events but he sits just $5000 back of contending for a PGA Tour card and could put himself right in the hunt with a big performance this week in Idaho.

There are five other Canadian players in this year’s Finals but only Thornhill, Ontario’s Ben Silverman has already earned his PGA Tour card for the upcoming season. The 29-year-old secured his status by finishing the regular season in 10th place on the money list, due in large part to his first career Web.com Tour win at the Price Cutter Charity Championship in August. Silverman, who earned his Web.com Tour status with an impressive Q-School performance in 2015, did not have a strong rookie debut on the AAA circuit last year. However, the 270th ranked player in the world seized his opportunity on the Web.com Tour this year, missing only five cuts in 18 starts. He also had five Top 5 finishes — including a runner-up in Portland — and took home a total of $256,906 in tournament winnings.

Although his PGA Tour card has been secured, Silverman will be looking to improve his priority standing for next season by playing well throughout the course of the Tour Finals. The former Golf Town employee got off to a decent start at the first leg of the Finals two weeks ago, when he added $8,033 dollars to his yearly total by finishing in a tie for 24th place. Silverman remained in 10th place, despite the payout, and currently trails money list leader Brice Garnett by over $100,000. However, that difference is not as insurmountable as it may seem. Silverman, who has really come on strong lately with four finishes of seventh place or better over his last five starts, could feasibly overtake the 35-year-old American if he can just ride this recent surge for the remainder of the Finals.

Listowel, Ontario’s Corey Conners missed out on the first round of PGA Tour card giveaways by finishing his debut season on the Web.com Tour in 49th place on the money list. However, the 25-year-old former Jones Cup Invitational winner gave his chances at securing his PGA Tour status a big shot in the arm by finishing in a tie for 18th place in the first stage of the Finals, collecting a total of $18,750 in the process. As a result, Conners catapulted into 9th place alongside Hunter Mahan and Seamus Power in the official Web.com Tour Finals 25 money list. Another strong finish in any of the next three tournaments would go a long way towards Conners finishing in the Top 25 and locking down a PGA Tour card for next season.

Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C. is also quite alive in his quest for a PGA Tour card, although her did not perform nearly as well as his countryman, Conners, did two weeks ago. The 23-year-old finished the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in a tie for 50th place and only took home a total of $2,812. Fortunately, Svensson sits less than $3000 back of 25th place on the tour finals money list and could improve his standing drastically with a strong performance this week at the Boise Open.

After taking medalist honours at Q School last December, Svensson struggled in his rookie season on the Web.com Tour. He missed double-digit cuts and finished his season in 66th place on the money list. However, Svensson did have two Top 10s and showed in short bursts that he does possess the all-around game to compete with some of the best players in the world.

Calgary’s Roger Sloan also qualified for the tour finals, but did not do himself any favours by missing the cut two weeks ago in Ohio. Despite the slow start, the 30-year-old’s PGA Tour hopes are still very much alive, as he currently only sits just over $5000 back of 25th place.

With playoffs happening simultaneously on both the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour, it gets a bit confusing, especially when you see former big leaguers competing on the junior circuit as David Hearn is doing. Nonetheless, there is a very real possibility that there could be as many as eight Canadians on the PGA Tour in 2018 and that is very exciting.

Dave Kaplan is a Toronto-based freelance writer and golf fanatic who is sneaky long off the tee. He’s on a crusade to inject a youthful perspective into golf media, especially the broadcast booth. Follow him on Twitter @davykap