Every year, the players outside of the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list get kicked to the curb, forced to either retain their Tour card by other methods (prior tournament wins, all-time money list exemptions, etc.) or enter Q-School. Some of them are up-and-comers, still on the cusp of being a full-time Tour player, and some are older guys, struggling to stay relevant. Either way, here are nine (well, 11) of the guys that struggled on the PGA Tour in 2011.
Hole One: Angel Cabrera
Angel Cabrera might be the most unlikely two-time major champion of all time. After holding off Tiger Woods at Oakmont in 2007, Cabrera won the Masters less than two years later.
Born in Cordoba, Argentina, on September 12th, 1969, Angel Cabrera was raised by his grandmother after his parent split up around the time of his fourth birthday. Cabrera spent his childhood at his second home, Cordoba Country Club, where he began caddying when he was 10. He got his first bag of clubs at the age of 16, and turned professional just four years later. Cabrera made the European Tour on his fourth try in 1995, and was in the top 10 in the Order of Merit by 1999.
Cabrera’s first European Tour victory was in 2001, at the Open de Argentina, during the event’s one year on the Euro Tour. Cabrera also won it again the next year when the Open de Argentina returned to the Tour de las Americas. Angel won again the next year at the Benson & Hedges International Open, a apt title given his on-course chain-smoking habit at the time, which he has since substituted for incessant nicotine gum-chewing, and subsequently returned to. Cabrera won next in 2005 at the BMW Championship in 2005 over Paul McGinley, and his two most recent wins have been his two majors. In addition, Angel Cabrera has won 28 times on the Argentine Tour, six times on the Cordoba Tour, and he has made three Presidents Cup appearances.
This year, Cabrera has only really contended once. He was in the final pairing at the Masters on Sunday, but his final-round 71 was not enough to pull out the win.
Hole Two: Paul Casey
Paul Casey was born in Cheltenham, England, though his family later moved to Weybridge when Paul was six. Casey was offered a scholarship to play golf at Arizona State University, where he had a standout career. Casey was the first golfer to win the Pac-10 Championships three times, and in his third year he broke the scoring record previously held by Tiger Woods. Paul also won the English Amateur twice, and he was on the 1999 Walker Cup team.
Casey joined the European Tour in 2001, and it took him just 11 events for him to pick up his first win at the Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship. He finished the year 22nd on the Order of Merit, and was the Tour’s Rookie of the Year. Two years later Casey won twice, at the ANZ Championship and the Benson and Hedges International Open, and he finished sixth that year on the Order of Merit. Paul Casey won twice in 2005 and 2006, once in 2007 and twice in 2009 on the European Tour. He also won on the PGA Tour in 2009, which he joined permanently that year (after a brief foray in 2005), at the Shell Houston Open, which propelled him to a high of third on the Official Golf World Rankings. Casey has five top-10s in majors in his career, as well as three Ryder Cup appearances. This year he won the Volvo Golf Champions on the Euro Tour, but Casey was winless on the PGA Tour in 13 starts.
Hole Three: Justin Leonard
Leonard was born June 15th, 1972, in Dallas, Texas. An accomplished amateur golfer at the University of Texas, Leonard was twice an All-American, and he was the individual NCAA Champion in 1994. He also won the Haskins Award that year for the best collegiate golfer. Leonard is one of only a handful of golfers to go straight from college to the PGA Tour without going to Q-School.
Justin joined the PGA Tour in 1994, and won two year later at the Buick Open. After a win the next year at the Kemper Open, Leonard won the Open Championship in 1997 at Royal Troon, beating Darren Clarke and Jesper Parnevik in a playoff. Leonard would win nine more times, including the 1998 Players Championship and, most recently, the 2008 Sanford St. Jude Classic. Leonard has been on five Presidents Cup teams and three Ryder Cup teams.
This year, Justin Leonard doesn’t have a single top-10, and has only played in one major, the British Open.
Hole Four: Mike Weir, Ben Curtis, and Shaun Micheel
With Tiger Woods off his game and Phil Mickelson still not yet winning majors, 2003 was owned by underdogs. Three of those underdogs, Mike Weir, Ben Curtis, and Shaun Micheel are outside the top 125 on the money list this year. Weir won the Masters, Curtis won the British, and Micheel won the PGA.
Weir was born in Sarnia, Ontario. After getting a set of passed-down clubs from his godfather’s son, also a lefty, Weir met Jack Nicklaus at the age of 11. His increasing abilities in the sport of golf, coupled with his lack of increasing height, caused Weir to give up his first love, hockey, and attend BYU on a golf scholarship.
Weir turned professional in 1992, and began his career on the Canadian Tour. Weir won the final stage of PGA Tour Q-School in 1998, and won on the PGA Tour in 1999, 2000, and 2001. He then won the Masters in 2003, his third victory of the year. He has won twice since. This year, in 15 events, Weir has 11 missed cuts and two WDs.
Ben Curtis was born in Columbus, Ohio, and attended Kent State University. He turned professional in 2000, and played on the Hooters Tour through 2002. Curtis earned his PGA Tour card at the end of the year through Q-School, and started on the PGA Tour in 2003.
Curtis only qualified for the Open Championship because of one lone top-10, at the Western Open, where he placed 13th. Curtis won at Royal St. George’s, beating Thomas Bjorn and Vijay Singh in just his first major appearance. Curtis would also win the Rookie of the Year award. Ben has won twice since, but this year he has missed 11 cuts in 19 events.
Shaun Micheel was born in Orlando, Florida, attended Indiana University, and turned pro in 1992. Growing up on a golf course, Micheel taught himself the game. He won the Singapore Open in 1998, and at the Nike Greensboro Open in 1999. Out of the blue, Micheel won the 2003 PGA Championship, but he has seldom been heard from since. He contended again at 2006 PGA, but he hasn’t registered a win on the PGA Tour since. This year, in 23 events, Micheel has missed 10 cuts and has two WDs.
Hole Five: Fred Couples
Everyone knows Fred Couples, or as CBS would like you to know him, Jim Nantz’s college roommate. He has 15 PGA Tour wins, including the 1992 Masters, in addition to two European Tour wins. Couples also has five Champions Tour wins (four last year and one this year), including the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, a major on the Champions Tour.
Couples has a good year in 2011, but didn’t play much on the PGA Tour. He did, however, have some early-season success. Couples contended in several events during the PGA Tour’s west-coast swing, including a T7 at the Northern Trust Open, where only a final-round 73 kept him out of the winner’ circle. In five events this year, Couples has missed just one cut.
Hole Six: David Duval
David Duval was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1971. Duval’s father was a local golf instructor. David’s childhood was not one shared by most professional golfers, as his brother died at the age of 11 after an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant by David failed to save his life. Duval went to Georgia Tech, and he was named All-American four times. He was also named 1993 National Player of the Year, and even led a PGA Tour event while still in college.
Duval won early on the Nike Tour (now the Nationwide Tour) in 1993, at the Wichita Open and the Nike Tour Championship. On the PGA Tour, Duval won 13 times, including the 1997 Tour Championship, the 1999 Players Championship, and the 2001 Open Championship. After the Open, Duval would win just once more worldwide, at the Japan Tour’s Dunlop Phoenix Tournament, which was later that year. He has not done much since, though he did record a T2 at 2009’s U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
I’ll admit, I thought David Duval would have a good year in 2011. He didn’t, making just eight cuts in 20 events, though he did record a T7 at the Northern Trust Open.
Hole Seven: Rocco Mediate
Rocco Mediate was born in Greensburg, PA, outside Pittsburgh in 1962. Mediate attended Florida Southern College, and was a member of the golf team along with Lee Janzen. The pair was able to lead Florida Southern to the Division II National Team Championship in 1985.
Mediate turned pro that year, but he wouldn’t pick up his first win until six years later. That first victory came at the Doral-Ryder Open, with Mediate becoming the first player ever to win on Tour using a long putter. Mediate has had chronic back problems, which forced him to have surgery in 1999. He did, however, record wins in 1999, 2000, and 2002. Rocco didn’t win again until last year, when he won the Frys.com Open in stirring fashion by holing out all four days.
In 2011, Rocco has played in 20 events, but he has missed nine cuts and has five WDs. Luckily, his win last year secured his Tour card for 2012.
Hole Eight: Kenny Perry
Perry was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in 1960. His father introduced him to the game at the age of seven, and he attended Western Kentucky University. Kenny Perry turned professional in 1982, but missed the Tour his first two tries at Q-School, although the second time was only because his wife went into labor during the fourth round.
Perry’s first win came at Jack’s Memorial Tournament in 1991. He won again in 1994, 1995, and 2001, following that up with three wins in 2003 and two more in 2005. Perry went on a tear in 2008, picking up three wins and accomplishing his goal of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He almost followed that up with a victory at the 2009 Masters, but bogies in each of the last two holes dropped him into a playoff with Chad Campbell and Angel Cabrera. When he lost in the second playoff holes, he missed out on becoming the oldest winner of the Masters. He would however go on to win twice in 2009, and is currently the highest earning PGA Tour player without a major victory.
This year, Perry only played in 13 PGA Tour events, missing seven of the cuts and withdrawing from one event. He did play nine events on the Champions Tour, and even recorded a victory recently at the SAS Championship, on October 2nd.
Hole Nine: Michael Sim
This one’s a bit painful for me. At the beginning of the year, for our 2011 Season’s Preview Staff Predictions, my choice (read, guess) for a player outside the top 50 in the world to make headlines was Michael Sim. My logic was that the sweet-swinging 26-year-old Aussie would improve on his 65th place on the PGA Tour money list and make some waves in 2011. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It looks like Sim is going to place outside to top 200, and he hasn’t performed well at all in 2011.
In 17 events on the PGA Tour, Sim made just four cuts, missing 12 and withdrawing once. He earned just 27 FedExCup points (FedExCup winner Bill Haas, by comtrast, earned 2,760 points) and wasn’t even entered in any of the four majors, a huge step back from 2010. He only finished one Tour event under par, and even that was the John Deere Classic, where the winner was Steve Stricker at -22.