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Up and down money list, pressure is high this weekend

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Kevin Chappell was on the Magnolia Course practice range at Disney, his only concern getting in nine holes of practice under gathering clouds and trying to remember which golf cart was his.

It's a relaxing week at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, but not for everyone. So when Chappell saw a familiar face behind him, he asked, "Are you paying attention to the top or the bottom?"

For a town geared toward amusement, stress is high across from the Magic Kingdom.

At the top are Webb Simpson and Luke Donald, who are 1-2 on the PGA Tour money list, both believing that to win the money title would make them heavy favorites for player of the year.

At the bottom are players struggling to finish in the top 125 to keep full-time jobs for next year. Play in the final tournament of the year begins today (2 p.m., Golf Channel).

"I'm here to win the money title, and I'm probably going to need to win to do that," said Donald, who is $363,029 behind Simpson. "So it feels a little bit like the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship. Third place isn't going to get it done."

Donald finished in a three-way tie for third at the Tour Championship, thus wound up third in the FedEx Cup. But a final birdie at East Lake gave him a small lead on the money list — until Simpson played Sea Island last week, lost in a playoff and picked up $432,000 to move well ahead.

Simpson feels as though he has nothing to lose. A year ago, he was No. 207 in the world and had just secured his PGA Tour card. Now he is golf's only $6 million man, a two-time winner who is No. 12 in the world.

"Talking to my wife (Tuesday), we just said, 'If we don't win the money title or player of the year, in no way will we be disappointed,' " Simpson said. "We obviously want to do those things, but this year has been a success all throughout. Whatever happens, we're going to be happy."

The stress is far greater toward the bottom.

Golf officials, perhaps mischievously, put Bobby Gates and James Driscoll — Nos. 124 and 125 on the money list — in the same group.

"I think they have kind of a twisted irony in them," Gates said. "It's tough, but it's our jobs, and we're competing against each other."

2012 SCHEDULE: The PGA Tour will open with a Monday finish in Hawaii and feature some minor movement for 2012.

Next year's schedule has 45 tournaments that count toward the money list. It opens with the Tournament of Champions, Jan. 6-9 at Kapalua, which ends on a Monday so that the final round is held before the BCS Championship game kicks off.

Because it is a Ryder Cup year, FedEx Cup playoff events will be held in three consecutive weeks.

The Transitions Championship at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor will be March 15-18.

PGA GRAND SLAM: Keegan Bradley held off Charl Schwartzel's charge to win in Southampton, Bermuda. Bradley's par-71 left him 4 under for the tournament and a shot ahead of Schwartzel, who finished with a course-record-tying 65.

Up and down money list, pressure is high this weekend 10/19/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 20, 2011 6:59pm]
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