BOB WEST ON GOLF: Big incentives for PGA locals in regular-season finale

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Normally there wouldn’t be much incentive for golf fans in Southeast Texas to pay close attention to the PGA Tour regular season-ending Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s a low profile event that won’t feature many of golf’s top names.

This year, however, for those who follow the fortunes of players with area ties — PNG exes Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry and Lamar grad Shawn Stefani — there is reason to pay attention. Especially where Landry and Stefani are concerned.

Stroud, whose PGA Tour card for next season looked to be in serious jeopardy as recently as mid-July, averted what could have been a career crisis with a tie for fourth in the John Deere Classic. He followed up with a T15 in the Barracuda Classic and has climbed to No. 92 in FedEx points.

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Since finishing in the top 125 was required to both secure his card and qualify for the FedEx playoffs, Stroud is home free. But he still has plenty of incentive. As of now, he’s only qualified for one of three playoff tournaments — next week’s Northern Trust at Liberty National in New Jersey.

With a strong showing in the Wyndham and the Northern Trust, Stroud could move into the top 70 and qualify for the second playoff event — the BMW at Medinah Country Club in Chicago. That would keep alive long shot hopes of climbing into the top 30 and qualifying for the Tour Championship Aug 15-18 in Atlanta.

For Stroud, having saved his card at age 37, it’s pure gravy the rest of the way. All that’s at stake is the crazy money and bonuses paid out in the playoffs. Even for a guy who has banked $1,075,552 in official earnings this season, and $12.5 million in his career, that’s not inconsequential.

In the big picture, though, the money takes a back seat to knowing he has another season guaranteed. With the amazing young talent pouring onto the tour, and making it more competitive than ever, keeping a playing card is a huge deal.

Landry and Stefani, meanwhile, are currently on the outside looking in, as far as the playoffs. Landry heads to Greensboro ranked No. 132. Stefani is 134. Getting into the top 125 at the Wyndham is certainly doable. Landry, with 343 points, is 20 behind No. 125 Alex Noren while Stefani is 23 points back.

Depending on how the players between them and Noren — Austin Cook (361), Richy Werenski (361) Martin Trainer (354), Patton Kizzire (351), Peter Uihlein (351) and Daniel Berger (348) — fare, a top 20 will probably be necessary to get the job done.

Landry won’t be under the same pressure as Stefani. Thanks to his victory in the 2018 Valero Texas Open, Andrew’s tour card is good through next season.

Stefani doesn’t have that luxury. If he doesn’t finish in the top 125, his only other avenue to full time status next year would be through the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs.

Getting into the FedEx playoffs would salvage would have basically been a down year for Landry. He did that to an extent with his third-place finish in the John Deere two weeks ago, but not making the playoffs would leave a hole in his career resume.

When he played so well at the John Deere, holding the lead into the final round, it looked like Landry’s game was peaking at the right now. Then, last week at the Barracuda Classic, he missed the cut in curious fashion. After opening the points events with a score that was near the bottom, he rallied by putting together one of the second day’s best rounds.

So which Landry shows up starting Thursday in Greensboro?

As for Stefani, who nearly lost his card last year, he needs to arrive with the version of himself that authored two top 10s early in the season.

Otherwise he’ll be battling it out with all the Korn Ferry wannabes again.

Coming up: Bob West’s Chip Shots