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.
The Honda Classic was first played in 1972, when it was born as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic.
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 the WGC-Accenture 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 at the Mayakoba Classic.
THE JOURNEY: During weeks like the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, when Mark Wilson drives a courtesy car to The Ritz-Carlton to play for $8.5 million in prize money, it’s easy for him to remember how far he came.
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.
NO SPRINGBOARD: Winning an opposite-field event comes with a two-year PGA Tour exemption, though the FedExCup points are cut in half, and prize money is the smallest of the year.
Winning doesn’t always guarantee a change in status, as the Mayakoba Golf Classic has shown.
Four of the last five champions were in Mexico last week -- defending champion Johnson Wagner, Cameron Beckman, Brian Gay and Fred Funk. The exception was Mark Wilson (2009 champion), who has won three times in the last 14 months. Wilson finished third at the Accenture Match Play in Arizona and earned $600,000 -- $66,000 less than what John Huh earned for winning in Mexico.
DIVOTS: Hall of Fame member Judy Rankin lost her husband of 45 years last week when Walter “Yippy” Rankin, a popular figure on the LPGA Tour as his wife played and later worked in television, died after a long battle with cancer. The memorial service was Monday in Midland, Texas. … A Champions Tour player has finished in the top 10 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic the last two years. John Cook was third in 2011, and Michael Allen tied for ninth this year. … Johnson Wagner donated $12,500 to The First Tee of Greater Houston. Wagner won the Shell Houston Open in 2008.
STAT OF THE WEEK: American-born players have won the opening nine events on the PGA Tour, the longest such streak since 1991 when the list of winners included Phil Mickelson, who was an amateur at Arizona State. Americans won the first 11 events that year, a streak that Ian Woosnam ended at New Orleans to go to No. 1 in the world.
FINAL WORD: “This is the Tiger Woods in the now time. (We) can’t keep going back and comparing where he was.” -- Nick Faldo.