FORT WAYNE – Not all the players in the Hotel Fitness Championship are there because they still need to prove they have the game to make it to the PGA Tour.
And not all are there because of a lack of success on tour.
Some are in the middle. Some have shown they belong on the PGA Tour but, because of injuries, haven’t been able to accumulate the requisite points to have their tour cards guaranteed. So they have to compete in the Web.com’s Tour Finals, which begin at Sycamore Hills Golf Club on Thursday, and reinforce that they’re good enough and healthy enough to be back in the PGA Tour next season.
Steve Marino falls into that group. He has had myriad injuries the past few years, including breaking his leg and tearing ligaments in his ankle by jumping out of his boat and onto a sandbar last year.
I was out until April, the avid fisherman said. I didn’t get enough starts to make that top 125 in the (FedExCup) rankings and couldn’t really get anything going. But I had a good year.
In 13 PGA Tour events this year, Marino, 34, made the cut seven times and earned $294,565, putting him at 169 in the standings.
Over the past three years, he’s competed in only 31 events, making the cut in 14.
In the five years before that, though, he played in 139 events, earned almost $9 million and finished between 15 and 72 in the rankings.
Clearly, he’s good enough. But he needs to use the Web.com Tour Finals – which includes tournaments in Davidson, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; and Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida – to prove he deserves one of the 25 PGA Tour cards still up for grabs.
The Hotel Fitness Championship, which is in its second year, 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.
Obviously, nobody wants to have to do this (after being on tour), but it is what it is, Marino said. I think they have it dialed in with the playoff format. They have four great courses. You’d rather not do it, but I’m not going into it with a negative.
Some players, such as Tag Ridings, Harrison Frazar, Dudley Hart and Brandt Jobe were given medical exemptions to compete at Sycamore Hills.
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.
There will be a pro-am today benefiting the Evans Scholars and the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House, and the public can attend. The championship runs Thursday to Sunday at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course.
Last year, Marino tied for 52nd at Sycamore Hills at 7 under. That was 13 strokes back of Immelman’s winning score.
I remember the course being awesome, Marino said. It was in great shape. There are some really good holes out here. I know they changed up some things and tried to make it more difficult. The rough looks nastier. I love the place. I love the course, and I’m looking forward to the week.
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.
It’s definitely an eclectic mix of players out there, Marino said. But golf is golf, and you have to go out there and prove yourself. Whoever plays the best will get through in the end.