October 28, 2009

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

Michael Sim was a dominant force on the Nationwide Tour, with three wins in 14 events. But how will that success translate on the PGA Tour?

Michael Sim was a dominant force on the Nationwide Tour, with three wins in 14 events. But how will that success translate on the PGA Tour?

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."

Nationwide Tour:

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.

Nationwide 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.

Nationwide Tour:

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.

Nationwide Tour:

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.

Nationwide Tour:

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.

Nationwide Tour:

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.

Nationwide Tour:

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.

Nationwide Tour:

8. Cameron Percy

2009 stats -- Events:22 Cuts Made:17 Wins:0

Top 10s:8 Earnings: $320,715

This long-hitting Australian earned his first trip to the PGA Tour based in large part to second-place finishes at the Stonebrae Classic and the Nationwide Tour Players Cup.

Nationwide Tour:

9. Roger Tambellini

2009 stats -- Events:22 Cuts Made:16 Wins:1

Top 10s:4 Earnings: $307,482

Tambellini is seeking a return trip to the PGA Tour, where he played full-time in 2006. He won the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic and finished runner-up at the Nationwide Tour Players Cup.

Nationwide Tour:

10. Matt Every

2009 stats -- Events: 26 Cuts Made: 16 Wins:1

Top 10s: 4 Earnings: $300,936

Nobody came up bigger when it mattered more than Every. Needing to finish at least third at the Tour Championship to earn his PGA Tour card for the first time, the University of Florida product did even better than that in picking up his first career victory. With his winner's check of $180,000, Every made an incredible leap from No. 49 on the money list.

Nationwide Tour:

11. Justin Bolli

2009 stats -- Events:23 Cuts Made:16 Wins:1

Top 10s:3 Earnings: $284,537

Bolli will be heading back to the PGA Tour after playing on it in 2008 and earning $458,022 in prize money. He won this year's Price Cutter Charity Classic and also had a second- and third-place finish.

Nationwide Tour:

12. Garrett Willis

2009 stats -- Events:17 Cuts Made:14 Wins:1

Top 10s:4 Earnings: $269,856

Willis has split time between the Nationwide and PGA Tours the past five years. He won this season's WNB Golf Classic in September and was the winner of the 2001 Touchstone Energy Tuscon Open on the PGA Tour.

Nationwide Tour:

13. Kevin Johnson

2009 stats -- Events:26 Cuts Made:14 Wins:2

Top 10s:3 Earnings: $266,915

Johnson certainly made his best performances count in a big way this season, winning both times he was in contention at the Rex Hospital Open and the Knoxville Open.

Nationwide Tour:

14. Garth Mulroy

2009 stats -- Events:23 Cuts Made:18 Wins:1

Top 10s:5 Earnings: $263,126

Mulroy's season was highlighted by a victory at the South Georgia Classic. The South African also had three fourth-place ties that helped him earn his PGA Tour card for the first time.

Nationwide Tour:

15. Jerod Turner

2009 stats -- Events:10 Cuts Made:6 Wins:1

Top 10s:3 Earnings: $237,993

Turner jumped from 150th in the money rankings to 17th with his win at the Soboba Classic in early October. The surprise victory came in just the ninth start of his career on the Nationwide Tour.

Nationwide Tour:

16. Alex Prugh

2009 stats -- Events:24 Cuts Made:16 Wins:1

Top 10s:5 Earnings: $233,335

Prugh turned pro in 2007 and has been improving at a fast rate. The next challenge for this year's New Zealand Open winner will be taking on the PGA Tour, where he has made just one appearance.

Nationwide Tour:

17. Jeff Gove

2009 stats -- Events:25 Cuts Made:21 Wins:0

Top 10s:6 Earnings: $221,231

This veteran of the PGA Tour (141 career events played) was remarkably consistent this year on the Nationwide Tour with only three missed cuts. Next he will try to add to his $2 million in career earnings at the highest level.

Nationwide Tour:

18. Henrik Bjornstad

2009 stats -- Events:27 Cuts Made:21 Wins:0

Top 10s:6 Earnings: $218,652

The Norwegian will get his second crack at the big time after earning just under $500,000 on the PGA Tour during the 2006 season. Among the leaders in Top-10 finishes this year, his best performance was third place at the Northeast Pennsylvania Classic.

Nationwide Tour:

19. Chris Baryla

2009 stats -- Events:14 Cuts Made:13 Wins:1

Top 10s:5 Earnings: $217,680

This University of Texas product missed just one cut all season and came up huge down the stretch by picking up his first career win at October's Chattanooga Classic and finishing T-7 at the Nationwide Tour Championship. He also finished T-8 at the Canadian Open in July.

Nationwide Tour:

20. Steve Wheatcroft

2009 stats -- Events: 26 Cuts Made: 16 Wins:0

Top 10s: 6 Earnings: $213,165

Along with Every, Wheatcroft was the only other player to use the Tour Championship to get into the Top 25 from the outside. His third place tie at Daniel Island earned him a return trip to the PGA Tour, where he played full-time in 2007.

Nationwide Tour:

21. Rich Barcelo

2009 stats -- Events:22 Cuts Made:11 Wins:1

Top 10s:3 Earnings: $199,975

Barcelo has been inconsistent at times, including five straight missed cuts during the stretch run, but a win at the Cox Classic in July was the key to earning his PGA Tour card for the third time. His best finish on Tour was a T-4 at the 2007 Reno Tahoe Open.

Nationwide Tour:

22. Craig Bowden

2009 stats -- Events: 25 Cuts Made: 16 Wins:0

Top 10s: 5 Earnings: $198,208

Bowden rode a sparkling 69.90 scoring average to five top 10s, including two in his last three starts. His tie for seventh place at the Nationwide Tour Championship nailed down his return to the PGA Tour, where the veteran has won more than $1 million in his career.

Nationwide Tour:

23. Vance Veazey

2009 stats -- Events: 27 Cuts Made: 12 Wins:1

Top 10s: 3 Earnings: $193,243

The veteran of both the PGA and Nationwide Tours won the Panama Digicel Championship in February then added two third-place finishes at the Louisiana Open and the Chattanooga Classic.

Nationwide Tour:

24. Mathias Gronberg

2009 stats -- Events: 9 Cuts Made: 5 Wins:1

Top 10s: 2 Earnings: $191,743

The 39-year-old Swede made it on this list despite just nine starts. His win at the Melwood Prince George's County Open in June was the main reason he will head back to the PGA Tour, where he played full-time from 2006-2008 and has career earnings of nearly $3 million.

Nationwide Tour:

25. Fran Quinn

2009 stats -- Events:28 Cuts Made:14 Wins:1

Top 10s:1 Earnings: $191,467

This Nationwide Tour veteran was having a steady, but unspectacular season until a breakthrough win at the Boise Open helped him become this year's bubble boy. In his career, he has three Nationwide victories and one Top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.