One year later, the goal is simply to get to the first playoff event.
All three are outside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings going into the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.
At least they have a chance.
Stewart Cink, three years removed from his British Open title at Turnberry, is at No. 137 and chose not to play. Cink, whose oldest son is going to college, will not be eligible to play again until October. Also outside the top 125 and not playing is two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.
The top 125 qualify for The Barclays at Bethpage Black. After that, the top 100 in the standings move on to the Deutsche Bank Championship, the top 70 to the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick and the top 30 go to the Tour Championship.
Rod Pampling is on the bubble at No. 125, 26 points ahead of Brendan Steele.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is John Daly, who tied for 18th at the PGA Championship. Daly hasn’t had his full PGA Tour card the past six years and he hasn’t gone back to Q-school. The PGA Championship was his fourth top-20 finish in his past seven tournaments, and he has missed only one cut.
Just like that, he is at No. 137 in the FedEx Cup standings, 58 points away from the No. 125 spot going into Greensboro.
“It’s baby steps for me,” Daly said. “I’m slowly but surely getting more and more confidence because I’m making a lot of cuts. Whether you play great on a weekend or bad, at least you’re playing competitive. That’s what I need, whether it’s 15 weeks in a row, 20 weeks in a row. I’ve always been a guy that likes to play a lot, anyway. So I just feel like I’ve got a great rhythm.”
IT CAN BE DONE: One of the complaints about the PGA Tour doing away with Q-school as a way to earn a tour card is that it forces the college star to spend a year on the Web.com Tour instead of going straight to the tour. Dustin Johnson and J.B. Holmes are among those who went from college to Q-school to winning in their first year.
Ben Kohles has proved that it’s still possible.
He finished up at the University of Virginia in the spring, turned pro and won back-to-back on the Web.com Tour. Kohles is No. 2 on the money list, assured of finishing in the top 25 to get onto the PGA Tour. If the new system were in place next year, he still would be guaranteed one of the spots after the “Finals,” the three tournaments that blend Web.com Tour and PGA Tour players to decide who gets cards.
But it could hurt participation in the U.S. Amateur every August and the Walker Cup every other year. Kohles said his original plan was to play the U.S. Amateur, being held his week at Cherry Hills, before turning pro. However, he was offered a spot in Columbus, Ohio, won the tournament and was on his way.