Web.com Bubble Watch: A Round and A Round We Go!

Bubbles sometimes reflect many things in our lives.   Photo Credit: Google Images

Bubbles sometimes reflect many things in our lives. Photo Credit: Google Images

Bubbles can be beautiful, free and floating away soon after we create them in reality, our minds or in our life. They seemingly take on an energy of their own. It is as if when they are getting bigger they become clearer and less dense and are able to go higher and higher, farther and farther than us mere humans. They glisten and sparkle upon creation and relieve our minds of any difficulties at all in life. Perhaps we imagine being safe in that bubble, protected from any worldly issues. Nothing can touch us as we are enveloped in Disneyland as our magical life unfolds.

And then the bubble pops, the bubble bursts and we are left with nothing.

Top 25 performance on teh Web.com  Tour or in the Finals is the only ticket to the PGA TOUR.

Top 25 performance on teh Web.com Tour or in the Finals is the only ticket to the PGA TOUR.

The PGA Tour, via the Web.com Tour, is a bubble blowing machine cranking out 50 new versions a year. For each one of those 50 golfers who get 2016 PGA TOUR cards there is another golfer who loses his card and privilege to compete on the best and most lucrative professional golf tour in the world. Fortunately then, it is not like the bubble that pops or bursts, there is debris that can easily be patched back together into a successful golfing life. There is the well-padded cushioned landing back on the Web.com Tour where the rebound to the main tour is sometimes quick and permanent. There are mini-tours and the chance to qualify for the Web.com Tour if the bubble shatters completely and falls down through the Web.com safety net.

Dye's Valley determines the fate of many professional golfers!

Dye’s Valley determines the fate of many professional golfers!

There is also the realization that competitive professional golf is only the tiny lucrative green bulls-eye in a huge golfing world, business, and industry. There are club pro positions, instructing positions, even broadcast positions available and many, many more business positions that mean a person can be around the game they love and still make a living even if not any longer via their golfing skills.

But the reality of the final event of the PGA TOUR season is upon us. The Web.com Tour Championship, the fourth and final event of the Web.com Tour Finals is being competed this week on the difficult Dye’s Valley¬† Course at TPC Sawgrass. In the last two years, six golfers have gone safely into the PGA TOUR bubble while six have been extracted. Who knows how many will create their bubble this week and ride it to the 2015-2016 PGA TOUR?

The ultimate bubble is actually three bubbles this week as the winner of the Regular Season 25 (Patton Kizzire), the winner of the Finals 25 (TBD) and the winner of the Tour Championship (TBD) who will be invited to join Web.com Chief Executive Officer in ringing the bell at the NASDAQ in New York City on Monday, October 5th.

Here we go with a round-by-round Bubble Watch:

Round 1 on Thursday, October 1st, 2015

_24 Beautiful 17th  499 yds

The beautiful 499-yard par-4 17th on Dye;s Valley.

The pairings are so designed to present the players around the bubble in the television window to follow the tour card seeking drama. To progress the dream, you have to make money this week which means you have to make the cut on Friday. Like any bubble, what happens in the environment, outside the bubble, what other players do can be as crucial as to what happens inside the bubble, inside any one player’s mind and posted scores. Other players rocketing up or down the leader board impact the money distribution and therefore your bubble too.

I followed the 12:42 pm group of Eric Axley (No. 20), Ryan Spears (No. 21) and Brian Davis (No. 22) on the back nine. Remember the Top 25 in the Finals get their cards. The Regular Season Top 25 are already in and just trying to improve their ranking to be eligible for more tournaments next season.

On a day when the field pretty much averaged an even par of 70 (actually 70.112) and the low score was a 7-under par 63 by Rhen Gibson who rocketed up to No. 2 after starting the day safely at No. 18 on the list of Top 25 to earn a card in the Finals.

It's complicated even with billboards to help explain how the system works to determine the Finals Top 25.

It’s complicated even with billboards to help explain how the system works to determine the Finals Top 25.

Axley started at No. 20, birdied the 2nd and double bogeyed the difficult 503-yard par-4 8th hole making the turn at 1-over 36. On the 408-yard par-4 10th, with water all the way down the right side, his tee ball was left in the trees and close to the out-of bounds. The ball finished out-of-bounds and evidently the marshal signaled a no-good shot by waving and crossing his arms below his knees which in reality is the official caddie signal for a ball in play. After the other guys teed off and Axley apparently wasn’t going to play another tee shot I signaled that the ball was indeed out-of-bounds. My caddie training by Mr. Donald Cross at TPC Sawgrass during the winter of 2009/2010 came in handy but not for Mr. Axley as he was upset with the initial signal and that he hit the next one out-of-bounds. After playing his 6th shot from the fairway he recorded a quadruple bogey 8. To his credit he rebounded with three birides before bogeying the last two and posting a 4-over par 74 for the day. For us it would have been a double mulligan par on the 10th and a 90 on a good day.

Ryan Spears in orange putting out on the 18th as Eric Axley (black) and Brian Davis (blue shirt) and their caddies look on.

Ryan Spears in orange putting out on the 18th as Eric Axley (black) and Brian Davis (blue shirt) and their caddies look on.

Spears started at No. 21, was even on the front before making four bogeys with a lone bogey on the par-5 16th on the back and posting a 3-over par 73 for Round One. With the normal par-5 8th and 17th playing as long par-4s it must seem like forever after playing the par-5 first hole for another reachable par-5 to appear. Spears was frustrated with the slowness of the greens leaving downhill, down-grain putts short and having it feel like 4 less feet on Stimp Meter versus a week ago on the Scarlet Course at The Ohio State University in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. We have experienced the opposite effect from slow to fast if you have ever played a firm-and-fast golf course the day after a professional tournament. The fairways do get narrower and the greens, well beyond this golfer’s capability!

Davis started at No. 22, was 1-over on the front, bogeyed the 10th but birdied the 12th and 16th on the way to the big Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass. Even with an even par 70, Davis was projected to fall to No. 25 and become the Bubble Boy for Round Two while Axley (No. 26) and Spears (No. 28) fell out of the desired Top 25 in the Finals competition.

Round 2 on Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Round 2 at the Web.com Tour Championship is no ordinary Cut Day on the Web.com. For those on the bubble, missing a cut today means missing out on the opportunity to make money and advance up the Money List and solidify the chance to be in the Top 25 of the Finals and earn a PGA TOUR card for next year. With six players entering the Finals Top 25 in the last week since the inception of this new format, a player just inside the bubble can be a sitting duck. That being said, there are mathematical probabilites where even though a player is not playing his position can be improved. Usually because a non-Top 25 player is playing well and is projected to win a lot of money and end up as one of the Top 25 at the end of the tournament. So if you are not playing, you can’t help yourself and can only hope for some quirky nature of fate to give you buoyancy into the Finals Top 25.

Today I joined the 12:31 pm group of Steve Allan, Justin Hicks, and Jhonattan Vegas, respectively Nos. 23, 24, and 25 at the start of the week on the 10th hole. With some 30 inches of rain in the last 45 days, Dye’s Valley was still a bit soggy with Life, Clean & Place in effect for the second day in a row. Like yesterday, today would be rain-free. Play golf, earn a card to the 2015-2016 PGA TOUR.

The 11th hole was wide open for play after the Hicks delay on No. 11.

The 11th hole was wide open for play after the Hicks delay on No. 11.

I watched this group for only three holes but it seemed like a lot longer time as it took a while for Hicks to determine where his golf ball last crossed the water hazard on the difficult 229-yard par 3 11th hole. By the time he took his drop and made bogey there were two groups on the tee and a wide open 12th hole waiting to be played. Maybe there should be a 5-minute time limit of making a decision on where to drop!

Allan’s lone birdie in Round 2 would come at the first on his way to a 38-40=78 and a missed cut by nine strokes. Hicks would shoot a 70 with two closing birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 but his 143 would miss the cut by three strokes. Vegas needed a good back nine to follow a good front nine of 1-under 34. He found water right on the 10th and took a double bogey. Later, so focused on his target on the par-5 16th, knowing he needed an eagle to make the weekend, he inadvertently pulled a 3-iron instead of a 4-iron and found the water hazard long. Though recovering with a par and then birdieing the long par-4 17th he missed the cut by two strokes.

Of the six Bubble Boys I watched, Nos. 20 to 25, only one, Brian Davis made the cut that came at Even Par 140 and he made it right on the number with an opening pair of 70s.

I caught up with the 12:20 Smylie Kaufman, Bill Lunde and Brad Fritsch group on the 14th green and followed them in. Lunde at No. 29 and Fritsch at No. 30 were outside the bubble looking in at the start of the week. Kaufman, true to his first name, was all smiles as he had already earned a card by finishing No. 13, well within the Regular Season Top 25 to earn his card for next season. The 23-year old LSA graduate who won the United Leasing Championship in May double bogeyed the par-5 16th and missed the cut by one strokes.

It all came down to the 18th for Lunde and Fritsch to make the cut on Friday.

It all came down to the 18th for Lunde and Fritsch to make the cut on Friday.

Lunde and Fritsch hopes of playing the weekend all came down to a potential short chip-in on the last green. Lunde, with three birdies in the last six holes, needed another one at the 18th to make the cut. He missed the green just long and had a makeable chip. I remember seeing Lunde chip in on the final green to win the 2008 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Classic. Could he do it again. Close but no, missed cut.

Fritsch, needing a par to make the cut, made it interesting as his ball nearly found the water hazard left off the tee. With an awkward stance he was forced to chip out and then missed the green. His makeable chip was more difficult and came out heavy. As fate would have it he knocked in the 15-footer for bogey, also missing the cut by one stroke.

On Friday the field average score was 69.860 and the cut to 72 players came at even par.

Amidst the Bubble Watch a golf tournament is breaking out.¬† Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo shot 66-64 to take a one-stroke lead over 2009 U.S. Open Champion Lucas Glover heading into the weekend of what surely will be an exciting finish to the 2015 Web.com season!