Lee has battle to qualify for PGA Tour

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 25/09/2012
Danny Lee
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STRAGGLING: New Zealand golf No 1 Danny Lee is 164th on the PGA Tour money list.

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At face value, US$48,400 (NZ$58,080) for a week's work represents a good payday for New Zealand golf No 1 Danny Lee.

But a second-placed finish at the WNB Golf Classic on the second-tier United States tour has done little for hopes of playing on the PGA Tour again next year, or the odds that he will be seen on the fairways at the New Zealand Open at Clearwater in late November.

Lee, who won the same event last year on his way to earning a PGA Tour card for 2012, needed to successfully defend his title yesterday to give his hopes of another top-25 finish on the web.com tour the shot in the arm he desperately required.

He held a two-shot lead heading into the final round but could only card a mixed round of even-par 72 (four birdies and four bogeys), finishing at 16-under par. He was overtaken by American Luke Guthrie, who scorched home with a six-under 66 to win by a stroke.

Lee, 21, could have done with the US$94,500 winner's cheque, but had to settle for almost half that in a two-way tie for second.

Essentially, he has two ways of picking up his PGA card before a last-ditch attempt at qualifying school, which, if required, would rule him out of a return home for the Open. He needs a top-125 finish on the PGA tour or a top-25 finish on the web.com tour.

Having missed out on the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour, Lee has been playing on the second tier web.com tour. Yesterday's result saw him leap from 157th to 73rd, from just four events, but he still lies about US$78,000 off the top-25 and time is running out.

He has one last shot at next week's Chiquita Classic in North Carolina, which he would need to win. The next three tournaments on the web.com clash with the PGA Tour Fall Series, which provide him with the best chance of keeping his card.

If he does not win at the Chiquita, he would at least need to earn enough money to push inside the top 60, who contest the web.com's season-ending Tour Championship from October 25-28, giving him one final shot at a top-25 finish and a PGA Card in 2013.

More likely would be securing the card through the four Fall Series events on the PGA Tour. He is 159th on the PGA money list and the top 125 retain their card.

While that calculation seems far easier, all the other players just inside or outside of the top-125 are looking to improve their chances too, meaning Lee would need to feature near the top of the leaderboard in at least one tournament but probably two.

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If Lee does not retain his card, he will remain in the US and play in the qualifying school event at La Quinta in California, which clashes with the November 22-25 New Zealand Open.

If he somehow manages to keep his card before then, it may open a window to return home where he would undoubtedly be the big drawcard for tournament organisers.

The other factor to throw in the mix is his workload. Lee has played 12 of the last 14 weeks and traditionally struggles with such intensive periods of competition.

If he plays at the Chiquita Classic next week, then three Fall Series events in successive weeks and possibly the web.com Tour Championship, that would take him to 17 tournaments in 19 weeks - a tough ask for any player, particularly one who has been injury prone.

It is almost worth flagging the web.com path and focusing on the Fall Series events.

- Canterbury

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