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Hard-working Wilson keeps streak alive

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Mark Wilson has been on the PGA Tour full- time since 2003, yet he has finished inside the top 50 on the money list just once.

Wilson has topped $1 million in earnings three times in his eight full seasons and has had to go back to Q-School a couple times to remain on the PGA Tour.

His victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii kept an odd streak going for the Wisconsin native. He collected his first tour win in 2007 and followed that with another victory in 2009.

Each victory came with a two-year exemption and the every-other-year wins have kept him on tour.

Earlier in his career, it was not that simple. Wilson played full time on the Nationwide Tour in 2002 and got his PGA Tour card for 2003 via Q-School.

Wilson finished just outside the top-125 on the money list in 2003, but was able to keep some playing status after placing 128th on the money list.

He played in just 19 events in 2004 using his limited status and returned to Q-School again after that season. Wilson got his 2005 tour card thanks to sharing 26th at Q-School.

In 2005, Wilson looked like he would keep his tour card for the following year after posting a then career-best finish at the Texas Open. He tied for third place that week, but that and two other top-10s were not enough for him to end inside the top 125 on the money list.

For the second time, Wilson used his partially exempt status in 2006. He was 133rd on the money list in '05, but slipped even lower in '06 when he had just one top-10 finish and fell to 155th on the money list.

Wilson returned to Q-School once again, but it was his last trip there. He managed to share 29th place to regain his tour card.

He made the most of it. Wilson needed three extra holes, but he finally earned his first tour victory at the '07 Honda Classic.

In 2008, Wilson had five top-10s and a career-best 12 top-25 finishes. Nearly two years to the day after his first win at the Honda, he claimed the Mayakoba Golf Classic for win No. 2.

His second tour victory helped Wilson finish 44th on the money list, his best career finish by 11 spots.

Wilson did struggle in 2010 and he ended 123rd on the money list. However, has kicked off his 2011 campaign in style with easily his best showing in four tries at the Sony Open.

The 36-year-old kept his every-other-year win streak going as he survived a 36-hole final day in which he held off a hard-charging Tim Clark. In his previous three starts at the Sony, Wilson had finished no better than tied for 20th, but the fourth time was the charm.

Wilson, not known for hitting it far, was 24th for the week in driving distance. In five other important statistical categories -- driving accuracy, putts per round, putts per green in regulation, greens in regulation and sand saves -- Wilson finished inside the top 10 in each.

More importantly, Wilson balanced five bogeys with 21 birdies. The biggest part of the final two stats, Wilson had zero bogeys and eight birdies in Sunday's 36-hole sprint to the finish.

Wilson said it best after the win, "I don't have too many bogey-free rounds in my career, so it's pretty cool to have two in the same day."

Cool indeed.

KEEP THE TOUR IN HAWAII

It seems like every year the question gets asked, does the PGA Tour really need to start its season in Hawaii?

I say, why not?

I like California, Arizona, Texas and Florida as much as the next guy, but the first two weeks of January when I am digging out of snow, I want to see Hawaii.

The scenery itself helps me warm up. And in reality, how many courses on the mainland are in tour shape in January? Very few.

Granted there were weather problems at the Sony Open with Thursday's play being completely washed out, but it could have been a lot worse.

At one point last week, 49 of the 50 states had snow on the ground. Entire states were not snow covered obviously, but January weather is unpredictable for much of the U.S.

The tour is in California for four of the next five weeks and will play on 10 different courses as three of the events use more than one course.

The one event in that span that is not in the Golden State is in Arizona, as the tour returns to the Grand Canyon state at the end of February. That wipes out 12 possible locations for moving the first two events back to the mainland.

Keep the tour in Hawaii so winners can start the year at Kapalua and the rest of the tour can start in Honolulu at the Sony Open the following week.

If you think those events need more star power, there's only one thing you can do, raise the purses. That will be tough to do, but if you think those two tournaments aren't as relevant since guys like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson aren't there, then give them more incentive to show up.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Huge field on the European Tour this week as four of the top five players are playing in Abu Dhabi. Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington and British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen will also be there, while Phil Mickelson will be making his first-ever start at the event.

- Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal are expected to be named Ryder Cup captains this week. Neither is a surprise.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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