Even the armadillos at La Cantera Golf Club outside San Antonio knew what the Texas Open was all about. As the last full-field event of the PGA Tour season, it was time to strap on the armor and battle for either a spot in this week's $3 million Tour Championship or a place on the exempt list for next year.
Winning? That would be nice, although Duffy Waldorf, whose six-stroke victory over Justin Leonard was his first, admitted that that's not what's on everyone's mind this time of year.
"I can relate to what they were going through," said Waldorf, who had to make a return trip to Q school in 1990. "There weren't too many guys in a good mood this week."
Waldorf didn't qualify for the Tour Championship—his $198,000 winner's check moved him to 35th on the money list—but Leonard did, joining fellow rookies David Duval and Woody Austin in the 30-man field at Southern Hills in Tulsa. It is the first time more than one rookie has qualified for the event (SI, Sept. 18).
"Ever since I finished eighth at the PGA, I've been thinking about the Tour Championship," Leonard said. "In fact, just this week I played a practice round with Brad Faxon, who said, 'Hey, man, it's such a great tournament, it makes you try that much harder to get there.' "
Leonard jumped to 24th from 33rd on the final money list. Loren Roberts, who started the week at No. 31, tied for third to move into the top 30 as well. That also brings an exemption for next year's U.S. Open. "That meant a lot to me because I hurt my back and had to withdraw at Shinnecock this year," said Roberts.
Jeff Sluman and Hal Sutton were bumped from the Tour Championship. Sluman, who missed the cut in Texas, wound up earning a measly $19 less than No. 30 Nick Price, who called from the Dunhill Cup in Scotland to confirm that he had made it.
An even better story was played out at the other end of the money list, where finishing in the top 125 (actually the top 130 because the five European Tour members among the top 125 don't count) means avoiding the Fall Classic, which is what the Tour pros facetiously call the 108 holes from hell that is the final stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. The saddest story of the week belonged to Donnie Hammond. Hammond played 5,671 strokes on Tour this year. If he had played one less in Texas, where he tied for 15th, he would have made enough to avoid Q school. Instead, he wound up 136th on the money list. "It's a real kick in the butt," he said.
The week wasn't a downer for Mike Standly (to 105th from 132nd), Mark Wiebe (112th from 135th), Paul Goydos (129th from 137th) and Keith Fergus (130th from 134th), who left San Antonio kicking their heels.
Goydos sweated it out in the press tent on Sunday, nervously monitoring his status. First he was in, then he was out. In the end Goydos's place on the money list was not secured until Kelly Gibson bogeyed the 18th hole. Fergus, who gave up his job as golf coach at the University of Houston to try a comeback, thought it was all over when he triple-bogeyed the 6th hole on Sunday. A birdie at the 17th turned out to be the difference. "It's unbelievable what transpires over a whole year, and then it comes down to this," he said. "I can think of a thousand shots that could have bounced either way. But if you think about that, you'd go crazy."