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After reaching the semifinals last week at Dove Mountain, he talked about his early days out of North Carolina when he began his journey on the mini-tours and played for money to pay the rent. OK, that was a slight exaggeration, but only because he lived at home.

“I was living with my parents and out of my Volkswagen,” said Wilson, who drove a 1998 Jetta. “That’s life on the mini tour. I was chasing my dream. I wouldn’t change my story at all. Those three or four years on the mini tour makes me appreciate more what we have out here. I remember the days of the loneliness out there and trying to find your game.”

There were not many five-star hotels. Some were lucky to have a street lamp.

“There was a place in Jacksonville, Ark.,” Wilson said when asked about the low point in his lodging. “There were a lot of critters in the room with me and my roommate. There was certainly no ironing board _ not only in the room, but at the front desk. It makes me appreciate, like I said, the Ritz-Carlton.”

Wilson won the consolation match to finish third. He earned $600,000. That pushed his career earnings to over $12.6 million. He also went to a career-high No. 24 in the world ranking.


RESHUFFLE: One big week in the desert was all John Mallinger needed to help his schedule over the next month.

Mallinger tied for second in the Humana Challenge, which wound up moving him from No. 24 to No. 1 in the priority ranking of Q-school and Nationwide Tour grads. The list is reshuffled after the West Coast Swing, and it will not be changed until after the Masters.

It’s the pecking order for which players get into tournaments. Mallinger is in the Honda Classic this week, which would not have happened if he had stayed at No. 24.

Sang-Moon Bae, who lost in the quarterfinals at Match Play, went from No. 20 to No. 2.

The road to the Masters is a tough time to be getting into big tournaments, for it includes a World Golf Championship next week at Doral and the Arnold Palmer Invitational (120-man field) at Bay Hill.

Bae, of course, was among the top 50 from his success on the Japan Golf Tour last year, and was in Doral, anyway.

The biggest drop was Stephen Gangluff, who went from No. 3 in the priority ranking to No. 41 after the reshuffle. He played six times and made two cuts, finishing 77th in Phoenix and tying for 73rd in Mexico.


NO SPRINGBOARD: Winning an opposite-field event comes with a two-year exemption, though the FedEx Cup points are cut in half, and prize money is the smallest of the year.

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