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Golf Tidbits: Well-known names battling for Tour cards

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Now that the FedEx Cup is over, and the rich have gotten even richer, the focus of those still playing is keeping their PGA Tour cards for the 2010 season.

Of course, the race to finish in the top-125 on the money list, which is the cutoff for those keeping their playing privileges for next year, happens every season. Now that the best of the best have been established for 2009, it is up to those near the cutoff line to provide the drama the rest of the year.

Before you disregard the final five official PGA Tour events of the season, take a look at who is battling to keep their tour card for 2010.

The list is dotted with fan favorites like Chris DiMarco, Tim "Lumpy" Herron, Jason Gore and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up Rocco Mediate as well as solid tour veterans such as Jeff Maggert, Chris Riley and Stuart Appleby.

Not good enough for you? How about former major champions David Duval, Todd Hamilton and Rich Beem losing their status on the PGA Tour? It could happen.

Of the aforementioned group of players, Duval stands highest on the money list at No. 116. There are other ways for several of these players to keep their tour status.

For example, they could use their one-time only "Past Champions" status, but only the 45-year-old Maggert would likely use that exemption at this point. They could also get into several events courtesy of sponsors' exemptions. These players have all handled the pressure of winning tournaments, so you would think the pressure of keeping the tour card wouldn't be as bad.

That may be the case for them, but what will the pressure do to players like Bill Lunde, Matt Jones, Chris Stroud, Martin Laird, Spencer Levin or Aron Price? These are rank-and-file type tour members that fill out fields on a weekly basis, but rarely find themselves in contention.

This group has combined for 16 career top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, with Laird's tie for second at this year's Reno-Tahoe Open being the best finish among the six.

Unless you follow the Nationwide Tour on a regular basis, the only name of the six that might stick out is Levin, who was the low amateur at the 2004 U.S. Open and lost to Ricky Barnes in the quarterfinals at the 2002 U.S. Amateur.

The pressure these players are going to face over the next few weeks can be overwhelming. A missed putt, a duffed chip or a skulled iron shot over a green could mean the difference between playing for millions and major championships on the PGA Tour, or thousands on the Nationwide Tour.

Critically acclaimed writer John Feinstein spelled out these pressures in a book titled, "Tales from Q School." That book gives you a clear definition of the pressure those battling for their PGA Tour lives deal with.

The book is about the six-round marathon known as the PGA Tour's Qualifying Tournament, but the pressure referred to in that book will apply to those battling for their tour cards over the next few weeks.

WOODS RAKING IT IN

Ever since turning pro in 1996, Tiger Woods has earned money by the bushel load. That has not been stopped by swing changes or injury - the cash still pours in.

In the race to become the first billion-dollar athlete, only Michael Jordan and Michael Schumacher seemed to challenge Woods.

That battle ended last weekend at East Lake, when Woods collected $10.8 million. He earned $810,000 for his second-place finish at the Tour Championship and another $10 million in annuity for winning the FedEx Cup.

According to Forbes.com, the $10.8 million Woods collected pushed him over the $1 billion mark in career earnings. That total is money won on the course, appearance fees, endorsements, bonuses and earnings from his golf course design business.

Woods' earning differential is more than 9-to-1 off-the-course to on-the- course. For the season, Woods made over $10.5 million and moved his career earnings on the course to over $92.8 million.

Woods continues to shatter records on and off the course. If he can earn $7.2 million on the course in 2010, he'll be the first golfer to break the $100 million barrier on the course.

MINI-TIDBITS

- The Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head is losing Verizon as its sponsor after the 2010 season. MCI, which was taken over by Verizon, first started as tournament sponsor in 1987. The PGA Tour has several more sponsor contracts that are up after the 2010 season, and more announcements like this could be forthcoming.

- Champions Tour player Ken Green, who was seriously injured in a car accident earlier this year, said in an interview this week that he hopes to return to the tour next season. In that accident, Green lost his lower left leg. If he returns to the tour, he would be the first amputee to play on the Champions Tour. If he makes it, I say give him the Comeback Player of the Year award and then retire the honor.

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

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