BOLTON, Mass. — If there were one stretch of golf James Driscoll might wish to take a mulligan on, it would be the back nine of the finale at the Reno-Tahoe Open in early August.
“I was in like the top 10 or 15 with nine [holes] to go,” Driscoll, the Boston golfer who will enter this week’s season-ending PGA Tour event in Orlando ranked 125th on the money list, said Monday. “I didn’t really do anything that bad; I made like two bad swings and shot 40 on the back nine. It probably cost me quite a bit of money, but everybody does that at some point.”
Had he turned one of those four bogeys in seven holes down the stretch into a par that Sunday in Nevada, Driscoll might not be holding down the spot that separates golfers with fully exempt tour status in 2012 from those who’ll have to slog through qualifying school to earn their tour cards. As it happened, Driscoll finished T38 at 5-under, 10 shots back of winner Scott Piercy.
What’s that again? In most years, the fall series’ Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic would likely hover somewhere between “who cares?” and “what’s that tourney’s name again?” in the consciousness of even the most ardent golf fan. This year, however, the tilt-within-the-tilt featuring Webb Simpson and Luke Donald vying for the money title has captured everyone’s attention.
Everyone except, perhaps, guys like Driscoll, Bobby Gates (No. 124), and No. 123 D.J. Trahan, who, with just $9,761 separating them, have their sights set on playing well enough to earn tour membership for the upcoming season. But Driscoll, back in his hometown for a promotional fitting at The International Golf Club & Resort’s TaylorMade Performance Center, some 45 minutes from Boston, noted matter-of-factly that his cash status was not exactly a shocker.
“I’ve known all along that I need to make ‘X’ amount of dollars, so in a lot of ways I’ve been on the bubble for two months. It’s not like a new thing,” said the 34-year-old who has taken home $645,835 in tour winnings this year. “It’s not like I woke up one day; I’ve been in this position for a while.
“If you’re 125, 124, 123, you’re in the same boat,” Driscoll added. “It’s not like I’m the only guy on the bubble.”
Help from Tiger’s coach. If Driscoll seemed philosophical about the make-or-break event set to start Thursday on Disney’s Magnolia & Palm Courses, maybe it was because he has been inside the top 125 only twice since becoming something of a fixture on tour in 2005. Even coming off a missed cut at last week’s McGladrey’s Classic, Driscoll said his ball-striking was “pretty good” since he enlisted the help of Tiger Woods’ swing coach, Sean Foley, in May.
Indeed, Driscoll put the event (in which Ben Crane staged an improbable comeback to stun Simpson on the second playoff hole) in the same category as Reno and other disappointments (“I don’t really look back on stuff like that; I just think it’s useless”) and recognized what he had to do.
“If I’m within one of the cut line, I’m not playing my game very well,” he said. “If I’m playing well, I’ll make the cut by three or four shots but if I’m right on the cut line, I have other things to do.
“I know if the stuff I’m working on starts to work out and I hit the ball better,” Driscoll stated, “I’ll be fine.”