Nationwide Tour: "The 25"
The Nationwide Tour will send a new crop of players to the PGA Tour in 2010. But last year's graduating class shows that getting to golf's highest level doesn't guarantee success there
Close calls have come to define the 2009 PGA Tour season for the Nationwide class of 2008. Remember when Matt Bettencourt began the final round at the Memorial tied for the lead? Or how about Jeff Klauk flirting with the lead on Day Two at the Players Championship?
And certainly no golf fan forgets Ricky Barnes' performance at the U.S. Open. The former U.S. Amateur champ tore up a soggy Bethpage Black and appeared to be on his way to an all-time dominant win before losing a six-shot lead and winding up one stroke behind Lucas Glover.
But with just two PGA Tour events remaining this year, none of the top 25 from last year's Nationwide money list have been able to pick up a win this season. And only one player, Marc Leishman, currently sits in the top 50 on the money list with $1,742,243 in earnings.
That's not to say there haven't been other success stories. Bryce Molder, Jeff Klauk, D.A. Points, Greg Chalmers and Scott Piercy all have earned more than $1 million and players like Bill Lunde, Greg Owen, Bettencourt are all in the top 125 right now with a good shot at earning full playing privileges again for next season.
Still, that means 15 of the players from last year's Nationwide Top 25 will not be back full time on the PGA Tour in 2010 unless they play well this week at the Viking Classic or at the season finale Children's Miracle Network Classic. That 40 percent retention rate is right around the average since 1991, according to PGA Tour research.
Next year, a new set of players will try to make the tough transition to the game's highest level. For many, like Garrett Willis, Mathias Gronberg and Vance Veazey, it will be only the latest attempt to stick on the PGA Tour. For others, like Nationwide Tour Championship winner Matt Every, it will be a first try. Regardless, it's a list that all of the players hope to avoid ever having to make again.
And now a deeper look into this year's version of "The 25."
1. Michael Sim
2009 stats -- Events: 14 Cuts Made: 12 Wins: 3
Top 10s: 9 Earnings: $644,142
Sim earned the most money for one season in Nationwide Tour history and he didn't have much suspense when it came to his plans for next year. With his third victory of the year in August, he received a coveted "battlefield promotion" to the PGA Tour. The 25-year-old Australian also had a solid showing at the U.S. Open and has two career Top-10s on the PGA Tour.
2. Chad Collins
2009 stats -- Events: 25 Cuts Made: 18 Wins: 1
Top 10s: 5 Earnings: $415, 114
Collins' year was boosted by three runner-up finishes at the Preferred Health Systems Witchita Open, Price Cutter Charity Championship and the WNB Golf Classic. Collins had his PGA Tour card for the 2008 season.
3. Blake Adams
2009 stats -- Events: 21 Cuts Made: 16 Wins: 0
Top 10s: 8 Earnings: $399,749
Adams skyrocketed approximately 500 spots in the official world golf ranking during this season of remarkable consistency. He had two runner-ups as well as two third-place finishes.
4. Derek Lamely
2009 stats -- Events: 17 Cuts Made: 12 Wins: 1
Top 10s: 5 Earnings: $374,998
This Nationwide Tour rookie vaulted up these rankings with his victory at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational in August. He has one career top-25 on the PGA Tour in four tries.
5. Tom Gillis
2009 stats -- Events: 15 Cuts Made: 13 Wins: 1
Top 10s: 8 Earnings: $364,529
Gillis won the Nationwide Tour Players Cup in June at the Pete Dye Course in Bridgeport, W. Va. The 41-year-old last played full-time on the PGA Tour during the 2005 season.
6. Chris Tidland
2009 stats -- Events: 21 Cuts Made: 16 Wins: 1
Top 10s: 6 Earnings: $354,510
Tidland narrowly missed out on earning his PGA Tour card last year when he finished 28th on the Nationwide money list. He picked up his second career Nationwide win at the Preferred Health Systems Witchita Open.
7. Josh Teater
2009 stats -- Events: 26 Cuts Made: 17 Wins:
Top 10s: 5 Earnings: $326,438
It was an impressive first year on the Nationwide Tour for the 30-year-old from Danville, Ky. He had a runner-up at the Christmas In October Classic and followed that up by claiming the Utah Championship. He capped things off with a T-3 at the Tour Championship.