Monday, October 22, 2012

Justin Leonard Has One More Shot to Keep His Card

Texas' own Justin Leonard is struggling through the worst season of his PGA Tour career. Perhaps that's not suprising. He is over 40 now, a time in pro golfers' careers when many of them - even major championship winners like Leonard - start to see their tournament results sink a little lower, and to have more inconsistency, more poor performances.

Leonard, who has 12 career PGA Tour wins, hasn't won since 2008. His exemption status in 2012 is based on the multiple-winner exemption, but that expires at the end of the season. He currently sits 138th on the PGA Tour money list. Only the Top 125 retain fully exempt status for 2013, and there is just one tournament left in the season.

That's the Disney, which takes place Nov. 8-11. Leonard has played all the Fall Series tournaments, and picked up a little ground with a 30th-place finish at the Timberlake Shriners event. But he missed the cut at the Frys.com Open, and last week was 69th at the McGladrey Classic. Although he cashed there, he dropped on the money list.

Leonard's previous worst finish on the money list was 109th in 2006, which was (until this year) his only time outside the Top 100. Eight times in his career Leonard finished in the Top 15 of the money list.

So what happens if Leonard can't find some Disney magic and move into the Top 125? Don't worry - there are other exemptions Leonard can call on to remain a full-time PGA Tour player in 2013. For example, golfers who rank in the Top 50 on the career earnings list have a one-time exemption they can use at any time to retain their card. Leonard is 9th in career earnings.

Depending on where he finishes on the money list, Leonard will probably save that exemption, however. (There's also a second one for being in the Top 25 on the career money list.) So long as he's within shouting distance of No. 125, Leonard will get into enough tournaments through his partial status that, combined with a sponsor exemption here and there, he should still be able to play a full or very nearly full schedule in 2013.

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