Life On The Web.com Tour
October 20, 2013
Early in the morning, tournament officials don't sweat the small stuff, like providing name placards at the range. They figure any fan up at 7 a.m. probably knows which player he or she is watching hit balls.
Young pros learn that small acts of gratitude, like signing a tableful of flags, keep sponsors happy. Nevertheless, after 18 years, it's uncertain when or even if the Cox Classic will be played in Omaha in 2014.
The two players shaking hands share one goal: to be among the 25 automatic graduates to the PGA Tour. "There's definitely more camaraderie out here," says Michael Putnam, the leading money winner for the 2013 Web.com Tour regular season. "No one's flying private."
Chesson Hadley (left), the lanky Web.com Tour Championship winner, hasn't fully grown into his 6'4" frame, yet averages 306-yards off the tee. That figure would tie for first on the PGA Tour but is only 17th on the Web.com. Generally roomy course set-ups with light rough encourage players to get aggressive with the driver.
"It's never iffy if it's Malnati?" Peter Malnati, 26, holding a one-handed finish not unlike baseball legend Ken Griffey Jr., is a name to watch on the PGA Tour in 2014. He began 2013 with zero status, Monday-qualified into a Web.com event in the middle of the season, then played so well he never left.
It's not the level of competition, nor the difficulty of the courses, that distinguishes the Web.com Tour from the PGA Tour. "Out here it's peaceful," says Daniel Chopra. "Out there it's chaos, tens of thousands of people and big trucks backing in all over the place." Rare are the individuals, like Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, who succeed on the big stage from the onset.
The tents behind the 9th green at Champions Run will emanate a slightly more raucous atmosphere come the weekend. This is Thursday.
Why press the gallery rope when you can lean against the bleacher? Spectators on the Web.com don't have to rub elbows or stand on tippy-toes.
When the cut is 4-under and the tournament finishes with a playoff at 21-under, bogeys must be kept to a minimum.
As a player climbs from the eGolf Tour to the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour, each gradation of status can mean a new contract and a different relationship with his equipment and apparel sponsors.
Traveling every week, especially with cost-conscious hotels and meals, can take its toll on a human body. Will Wilcox exercises daily with no particular performance goals in mind, but simply to "ensure I get a good night's sleep."
The fabric of young adulthood on the road. Chesson Hadley, who with his wife, Amanda, is expecting their first child, goes shopping before an afternoon teetime.
The Hadleys enjoy a quiet game of cards as their host family's pet looks on. Each week, roughly a third of the field chooses to stay with families near the course rather than pay for a hotel.
Have tub of goldfish crackers, will travel. When Peter Malnati won his first Web.com event, the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, he had a celebratory meal then promptly hit the road to start the 920-mile drive to Omaha. That night he kept his eyes open until a motel in Paducah, Ky.
The Web.com Tour plays many venues where residential real estate is integrated alongside the course.