ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — It’s going to take a lot more money to stay on the PGA Tour this year.
Blame some of that on Tiger Woods.
Woods has gone over $10 million in earnings three of the last five years. The exceptions were 2008, when he played only six PGA Tour events before season-ending knee surgery and still made $5.75 million; and 2006, when he earned $9.94 million.
With chaos in his personal life and changes in his swing, Woods is at No. 65 on the money list with just under $1.3 million. It stands to reason that Woods failing to rake in so much cash means it has been disbursed down the ladder.
Another big factor is the tour has one extra tournament this year — the Viking Classic was washed out in 2009 because of rain.
A year ago, Jimmy Walker finished at No. 125 on the money list with $662,683. With three tournaments left in the season, Aron Price is at No. 125 and already has surpassed that amount. Price has $693,502.
Tour officials expect it will take as much as $775,000 to finish in the top 125 and keep full status for next year. Among those who might still have some work left are David Duval (No. 109), Canadian Open runner-up Dean Wilson (No. 122) and Kevin Sutherland (No. 116), who has not finished out of the top 125 since his lone victory in the 2002 Match Play Championship.
The two biggest spikes in money required to finish No. 125 came in 2007, the first year of a new six-year television contract, and in 2008, the year Woods played a limited schedule.
It also affects the top part of the money list.
Matt Kuchar is at No. 1 with about $4.9 million, and Sea Island was his last official event of the year. Whether he wins the money title depends on Jim Furyk, who is just over $100,000 behind and has not decided whether to play Las Vegas next week.
Either way, it will be the lowest amount to win the PGA Tour money title since Duval earned just under $2.6 million in 1998, the year before the tour signed its first big TV contract.
GRAND SLAMMED: British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen had to pull out of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf after damaging ligaments on the outside of his left ankle while at home in South Africa.
Oosthuizen already had to withdraw last week from the Dunhill Links Championship, preventing his return to St. Andrews.
The PGA Grand Slam is only for major champions, so Oosthuizen will be replaced in the four-man field by David Toms, who hasn’t been to this event since he won the PGA Championship in 2001. Only past major winners can be alternates, and Toms accepted the spot after Retief Goosen (schedule conflict) and Zach Johnson (new baby) declined.
Alternates at the Grand Slam are nothing new.
Last year was the first time since 2004 that the field had the four major champions. There have been years when Tiger Woods (2005, 2006) and Padraig Harrington (2008) won multiple majors, and years when major champions (Woods, Phil Mickelson) stopped going.
This is the first time in 20 years that the Grand Slam has two alternates in a season when four players won majors. The other alternate is Ernie Els, who is filling in for Mickelson. The PGA Grand Slam is Oct. 19-20 at Port Royal in Bermuda.
KUCHAR’S RISE: Matt Kuchar is virtually a lock to win the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average. He tied for 25th last week at the McGladrey Classic with a 7-under 273, lowering his average to 69.57. That’s 0.04 ahead of Steve Stricker, who is done for the year, and Kuchar is 0.21 ahead of Jim Furyk, which likely is too much ground to make up.
It would be the highest average to win the Vardon Trophy since Steve Elkington (69.92) in 1995.
The real perk for Kuchar would be if he holds his lead on the money list.
Players to win the money title on the PGA Tour are given a five-year exemption, which has not been relevant over the last decade with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh winning it. Both are lifetime members. Kuchar, however, was on the Nationwide Tour just four years ago.
Furyk already gets five-year exemption for winning the FedEx Cup.
EXPECTING THE WORST: Johnson Wagner already is resigned to going back to Q-school just two years after winning the Houston Open. His hope is that expecting the worst can lead to a change for the better.
Wagner was forced into a five-week break when he failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. After taking two weeks away from golf, he spent time with his coach and got after it so he would have no excuses.
He tied for eighth in the Viking Classic, then tied for 25th at Sea Island. That at least has moved him to No. 147, with the belief he at least is headed in the right direction.
“I’m looking at these five weeks as basically Q-school,” Wagner said. “It’s looking like I might have to go back, and I don’t want to. I’ve been playing to protect something all year, and now I have nothing to protect.”
What was he trying to protect?
“My job,” he said.
He was hurt by finishing at No. 153 a year ago. While he was exempt from his 2008 Houston Open win, Wagner was not eligible for limited-field events like the Colonial, Memorial and AT&T National.
“I just wasn’t getting the starts when I was playing well,” he said.
The bigger problem was being consumed with results — making the cut, climbing the leaderboard, trying to get into the top 125 to qualify for the playoffs, trying to cash a decent check.
“The point is to win and have chances to win,” Wagner said.
He has three more weeks to sort that out.
DIVOTS: Michael Allen was runner-up for the second straight week — first at the Viking Classic on the PGA Tour, then at the Senior Players Championship on the Champions Tour. … Rick George, the PGA Tour’s chief of operations, is leaving to become the chief operating officer of the Texas Rangers. … Davis Love III now has played 2,100 rounds on the PGA Tour. The McGladrey Classic was his 619th career tournament. Among players under 50, only Brad Faxon (692) has played more. … The McGladrey had a stronger field than three tournaments during the FedEx Cup portion of the schedule.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Padraig Harrington has played six consecutive Ryder Cup matches without reaching the 18th hole.
FINAL WORD: “If it had been 10 or 15 degrees colder, it would have been absolutely miserable — as opposed to just miserable.” — Matt Kuchar, on the weather at Celtic Manor during the Ryder Cup.