Those who miss the now-or-never vibe at Q-School must have enjoyed the tense final round of the Web.com Tour Championship.
For every success story of a player moving inside the top-25 bubble to earn his PGA Tour card, there was a corresponding tale of frustration and disappointment Monday at Atlantic Beach Country Club.
Five-time PGA Tour winner Jonathan Byrd won the tournament title by four strokes, but as usual the more compelling action was found further down the leaderboard.
In all, five players went from outside to inside the magic number, as the top 25 money earners after the four-event Web.com Tour Finals secured their playing privileges for next season (which begins Thursday in Napa, Calif.).
Seamus Power earned the 25th and final card by $2,688 over Adam Svensson, who missed the cut this week.
One of the feel-good stories Monday was Steve Wheatcroft, who began the week at No. 23 on the money list but was projected at 29th after a third-round 73. It’s been a difficult year for the 39-year-old, who broke his finger in his first tournament and played through a chipped bone and torn cartilage in the back of his hand … but returning to his home course helped calm his nerves. “I’m in the back nine of my career,” he said, “but man, I don’t want it to stop yet.”
Wheatcroft is guaranteed at least one more year on the big tour, after he shot a bogey-free 67 Monday.
“It’s been a long year and it’s been a struggle,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over.”
There were plenty of other heroics, too.
Chad Collins made eight birdies in the final round to lock up his card.
Tom Hoge made the cut on the number, then came home in 31, including a 15-foot birdie on the last, to return to the Tour.
“The feeling is really hard to describe,” he said. “In golf, there are so many downtimes, but it was a pretty cool day today.”
Byrd, meanwhile, wasn’t even sure whether to tee it up this week. At No. 66 on the money list, he needed a pep talk from his wife earlier in the week just to enter the event, then shot 24-under 260 to head back to the big leagues.
“I had nothing to lose this week,” he said, “and that helps.”
Sam Saunders, who on Thursday became the seventh Web.com player to shoot a sub-60 score, tied for second to return to the Tour. He shared runner-up honors with Shawn Stefani, who broke down in tears afterward.
“Just relief,” Stefani said. “Tears of joy.”
Most heartbreaking was the plight of Matt Harmon, who had worked his way inside the top 25 heading into the final round. With three early birdies Monday, he maintained his position, but he bogeyed the 13th, missed a 3 1/2-footer for birdie on 17 and then three-putted from long range on 18 for another bogey. That left him at No. 32, and he took out his frustration on his putter, bashing his club into the side of his bag and snapping it into two pieces.
Also on the outside looking in after the Finals were Ryo Ishikawa, Cameron Percy, Matthew Southgate (who was hit with a four-shot penalty in the penultimate event) and Roberto Castro, who reached the Tour Championship in 2016.
Ben Crane began the season finale in the 18th position, but he decided to skip the Web.com Tour Championship. Crane has been dealing with a back injury, his manager told GolfChannel.com, and he headed to New York City to see his doctor. (He also attended a sponsor outing at the Presidents Cup.) Crane is listed in the field this week at the Safeway Open, and he is hopeful to play about 20 events this year on Tour, after finishing 147th in FedExCup points.
If the pressure to compete for a PGA Tour card wasn’t enough, the 55 players remaining at the Web.com finale needed to wait another day to learn where they’ll be playing next season, after inclement weather wiped out play Sunday.
Former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein topped the Finals money list. Here is the full list of the 25 players who earned their card via the Web.com Tour Finals:
1. Peter Uihlein
2. Jonathan Byrd
3. Nicholas Lindheim
4. Rob Oppenheim
5. Ryan Armour
6. Sam Saunders
7. Shawn Stefani
8. Jonathan Randolph
9. Bronson Burgoon
10. Keith Mitchell
11. Tyler Duncan
12. Denny McCarthy
13. Troy Merritt
14. Tom Lovelady
15. Martin Piller
16. Alex Cejka
17. Matt Jones
18. Cameron Tringale
19. Brett Stegmaier
20. Corey Conners
21. Steve Wheatcroft
22. Chad Collins
23. Tom Hoge
24. Joel Dahmen
25. Seamus Power