Tim Wilkinson on cusp of finding PGA form
Manawatu golfer Tim Wilkinson is "right on the cusp" of getting the results he requires to return to the PGA Tour, according to Craig Perks.
Wilkinson couldn't get the breakthrough he required on the second-tier Web.com Tour in the United States this year, finishing 57th in the order of merit with earnings of $US100,862 and missing out on one of the 25 cards available for the PGA Tour in 2013.
The 34-year-old has now joined the qualification school process at the penultimate stage, and will require at least a top-20 finish in a field of 78 at this week's four-round event in Florida to progress to the final stage, where 156 players will battle it out for the 25 remaining cards.
Wilkinson had two years on the PGA Tour in 2008 and 2009 but a thumb injury in the second season curtailed his progress.
He hasn't been back since his medical exemption expired midway through 2010 but Perks, who also hails from Palmerston North, believes he is "really close" to rediscovering his best form.
Louisiana-based Perks, the 2002 Players Championship winner who is better known these days as an analyst for the Golf Channel, follows the Web.com Tour closely in his television role and tracks his compatriot down for a chat whenever possible.
"I've spent some time with him and it seems as though Tim was really close, he struggled a bit with his game here and there and he was just right on the cusp," Perks said of a season in which the Florida-based Wilkinson made 19 of 27 cuts for only five top-25s and two top-10s.
"Making the Tour Championship (for the top 60) was good, it gives him some security going into the next year, and I think he's just really close. He just needs to make a few more putts.
"PGA Tour q-school is such a lottery but it wouldn't be out of the realms of possibility to see him finish in the top-25 next year on the Web.com Tour and get back onto the PGA Tour, which is where I think he belongs.
"He had a bit of an injury with his thumb that curtailed his career a bit but he's heeled now. He's doing everything he needs to, he's a hard worker and in good shape physically and he's got a good swing.
"It's just a fine line between having success or not on this tour, as it is on the PGA Tour."
Wilkinson was relatively consistent this year but couldn't string the low scores together across a week, which is needed to win on the highly competitive tour where winning scores of 20-under par seem to be the norm rather than the exception.
"On that tour, you have to be very consistent," Perks said.
"I think it's the hardest cut to make in golf, there is so much depth. But you need to have a win or at least three or four top fives if you don't. He had a bunch of top-25s but unfortunatrely he didn't have the really low finishes to threaten the top-25 overall."
Wilkinson has form at q-school; he gained his spot on the PGA Tour in 2008 by qualifying in 2007. He will line up this week alongside compatriots Danny Lee, Josh Geary and Steve Alker.
There are six second stage tournaments each with field sizes of about 78 and while the number of players to progress to the final round is yet to be determined, it is unlikely to be more than 20 from each field.
Geary is in action at TPC Craig Ranch in Texas, starting this morning (NZT), while Wilkinson (Hombre Golf Club in Florida), Alker and Lee (both Bear Creek Golf Club in California) all start their four-round tournaments tomorrow (NZT).