Players began arriving at Sycamore Hills Golf Club on Monday for the Hotel Fitness Championship, which is in its second year, and they run the gamut of major champions to up-and-coming professional golfers.
It’s definitely a mixed bag of players, said 36-year-old James Driscoll, who has been a full-time PGA Tour player since 2008 but finds himself having to earn his tour card again after missing the cut in 13 of 24 tournaments this year, earning $371,404 and finishing No. 155 in the FedExCup standings.
Everybody’s here in the same circumstances, trying to fight for those last 25 (tour) cards. Half the guys probably don’t want to be here, and half are probably psyched to be here. I guess I’d be one of the half who isn’t psyched to be here, but I’m trying to embrace it as much as I can and just look at it as much as an opportunity as anything else.
The field for the Hotel Fitness Championship was finalized Monday, after the conclusion of the WinCo Foods Portland Open, the final regular-season event on the Web.com Tour.
The Hotel Fitness Championship, which is the first of four events in the Web.com Tour Finals, is open to 130 players who rank in the top 75 on the Web.com Tour or were Nos. 126 to 200 in the FedExCup rankings.
Of the 50 available tour cards up for grabs, 25 were decided through the Web.com Tour’s regular season; Carlos Ortiz led those players with three victories and $515,403 in earnings, while Andrew Putnam ($320,438), Zach Sucher ($294,166) and Adam Hadwin ($293,667) followed.
The PGA Tour players at Sycamore Hills are highlighted by Trevor Immelman, who won here last year and is also a Masters champion; Ben Curtis, who won the 2003 British Open; Chad Campbell, who finished second at the 2009 Masters; and Sean O’Hair.
The year’s biggest golf event in Indiana returns to Fort Wayne, and we have a great field consisting of PGA Tour veterans and golf’s future stars vying for PGA Tour status in 2014-15, said Duke Butler IV, director of the Hotel Fitness Championship, which is run by the Western Golf Association. With a lot on the line throughout the Finals, we can guarantee a great week of golf for our patrons.
Only about 22 players got to see the course Monday and most of them, like Driscoll, had never before been at Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills. But preparation shouldn’t be a problem for experienced players.
I’ll probably see each hole twice (before the championship), he said late in the afternoon. I’m going to play nine holes now, 18 tomorrow and try to get another nine in Wednesday. That’s plenty. I have a great caddie, and the yardage books are so good nowadays, that as long as you pay attention in the practice rounds, you should be all right.
Today’s practice rounds are closed to the public to preserve the course conditions after all the recent rainfall, but spectators can attend the pro-am on Wednesday that benefits the Evans Scholars and the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House.
The championship runs Thursday to Sunday.
This is the second year of the Tour Finals, which replaced the qualifying school system.
It’s only been happening for a couple years, so time will tell if it’s an improvement, Driscoll said. It’ll take some perspective down the road to tell whether it’s better or worse, but I think it’s very fair and gives guys four chances to play well and the guys who deserve to get through will do so.
Notes: Professional golfers Will Wilcox and Chase Wright will visit patients today at Lutheran Children’s Hospital. Tickets for today’s practice round will be honored Wednesday.