Down goes Frazar ... and other players on the brink
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The monorail whizzed nearby, the Magic Kingdom loomed in the distance. Not that Harrison Frazar noticed as his 2007 golf season came to an end Friday at Walt Disney World, a strange setting for so much strife.This is supposed to be a happy place, but there were plenty of long faces on the Palm and Magnolia courses, where the last event on the PGA Tour schedule is unfolding, golfers' careers in the balance. And it is more about guys such as Frazar than it is about those at the top of the leaderboard. The Children's Miracle Network Classic is filled with players looking to salvage a poor year, hoping to avoid Q-school. And several were left to pack their bags on Friday after missing the 36-hole cut, the year over and their future in doubt.
"It's been a grind," said Frazar, 36, who will finish outside of the top 125 -- and thereby not be fully exempt -- for the first time in his 10-year PGA Tour career. "It's been taxing on me, my family. It's been depressing. Lost faith in a lot of things along the way. I'm glad it's over in a way that now I can move on. At the same time, I don't know what lies next for me."Frazar came into the week with a sliver of hope. He made the cut last week at the Ginn sur Mer Classic and was 130th on the money list, roughly $60,000 out of the No. 125 spot. But a double-bogey 7 at the fifth hole on Friday led to a front-nine 40 that pretty much ended any hope. Frazar played the back nine in 36 lonely, uninspired strokes, knowing he wouldn't be making a dime, thereby not moving up the money list. It was the 10th time he had missed the 36-hole cut in his last 12 tournaments. "I faced the same thing this week that I faced for the last five months," Frazar said after a somber embrace with his wife, Allison, beside the 18th green of the Palm course. "A lot of doubts. Bad ball striking. Lack of direction in my golf swing. Struggling with the putter. Lack of interest and energy. I played so much and so poorly for so long. You put all of those things together and it makes for very bad results. It's a bad formula for any business that you're in. It doesn't matter if it's the golf business, the restaurant business, whatever. You're not going to make it in life with that combination." Ted Purdy had similar angst. He began the week at 125th on the money list, directly on the bubble. Make the cut, and he'd feel reasonably secure. Miss and his own fate would be out of his hands. Purdy birdied the final hole on Friday, but it wasn't enough as he failed to reach the weekend by two strokes. "I didn't care, and it went in," said Purdy, who knows he will be passed on the money list, hence a ninth trip to Q-school. "I'm tired. It's been a long seven weeks. These golf courses the last seven weeks 3-under, 4-under, 6-under to make the cut. You have to make birdies. Par doesn't mean much. And my game I'm just not playing very good."
Meanwhile, Mathias Gronberg made the cut on the number at 3-under-par. In four weeks, he has gone from 155th on the money list to 124th, aided by a tie for third at the Texas Open."I was more stressed about it when I was 155th," he said. "If you finish 151, you're out of it. And I wasn't playing good. But at least now I've given myself a chance this weekend. And no matter what, I'll have somewhere to play. That is the whole idea, to have a chance." But Gronberg still will be looking over his shoulder. While Purdy missed the cut, J.B. Holmes (126th), Kevin Stadler (127th), Craig Kanada (129th), Joe Durant (131st) and Chris Stroud (132nd) all made it. Bob Heintz, who is 135th, shot 67 to give himself another chance. A big move by any of those players could mean exempt status for them while leaving Gronberg on the outside looking in. The number 125 is the PGA Tour's difference between success and failure. Finish inside the number, and you are set for another year -- fully exempt, able to play whatever regular events you choose. Finish outside, however, and things change. Frazar can expect to get into 18 to 20 events based on a likely finish of between 126th and 150th. (Same for Gronberg if he gets bumped out.) So at least he has that -- and the chance to improve his position at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament next month, if he chooses. For rookie Michael Putnam, things are direr -- although his perspective is different. Putnam, 24, played his first year on tour after finishing 17th on last year's Nationwide Tour money list. Putnam's problem wasn't missed cuts -- he made 19 of 29. He just didn't finish high enough once he did make it to the weekend. And when he missed the cut Friday, it meant finishing outside of the top 150. A trip to the second stage of Q-school will be required for Putnam just to make it to the 108-hole final down the road from here at Orange County National, Nov. 28-Dec. 3. "Obviously, I wish I had a couple of more weeks because I didn't finish inside the top 125," Putnam said. "But this was a long year. The longest year I've ever played. A lot of tournaments. I finished it on a sour note, missing five of the last seven cuts in the fall. That's where you're supposed to be making your money. It's disappointing and I wish I had some more golf. It's probably better that I don't and get refocused on Q-school so I can get back out here." Putnam sounded upbeat, despite his disappointment. His 2007 season was a learning experience. "I think I pressed too much," he said. "There are plenty of tournaments. I kept thinking I had to catch up but I look back and had plenty of chances." Frazar was not nearly as optimistic. He brought his family to Disney, hoping for some good, positive vibes. He even finished second on Wednesday in the annual Father/Child Tournament, Boys Division II, for ages 4 to 6. He and his son, Ford (age 5), shot 24 in the nine-hole event. Alas, the magic did not last. Although Frazar has never won on the PGA Tour, he has been a consistent performer, never finishing worse than 98th on the money list before this year. But this season was bad enough to have him considering some changes he did not disclose. At this point, he's not even sure about Q-school "It's going to be a game-time decision," he said. "I'm only going to go if I feel like I've got some issues taken care of, feel like I've got a chance to compete. I'm not going to go and take up space and beat myself up. Because if I go there and I'm not in the mood to be there and don't have the energy to fight. That's the big thing, you have to have the energy to fight. If you don't, you're dead in the water. "If I don't have the energy to fight, it could set me back for a long, long time. So part of me is saying just take my 18 to 20 [starts]. The other part of me is saying don't give up, go to Q-school and fight it. But this is more than just the next month. This is about the rest of my career. And I have to figure out what's best for me." Bob Harig is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.
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