Surging Wheatcroft on the right track

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Steve Wheatcroft enters this year’s Mylan Classic in much the same way he did last year: in need of a strong performance.


Wheatcroft, a former Washington resident, sits at No. 44 on the Web.com Tour money list, about $36,000 away from the top 25. Getting there is important because the top 25 players on the tour money list earn their PGA Tour card.


To make a significant leap on the money list, Wheatcroft needs a top five finish in the Mylan Classic, which begins Thursday morning at Southpointe Golf Club in Canonsburg.


“One or two weeks can get me right back on track,” he said.


Wheatcroft is coming off a good performance in the Boise Open, which finished Sunday. Wheatcroft was under par for all four rounds, finished tied for 17th and earned $10,488 to push his season total to $81,260.


It was his best score for a tournament this season. Wheatcroft tied for fourth in the Air Capital Classic in Wichita, Kan., in June and finished tied for seventh in the Colombia Championship in Bogota in March.


Wheatcroft headed to Boise coming off a three-week spiral, during which he failed to make the cut. One reason was a change he made to his swing. He and new swing coach Matt Killen made those changes to begin the season, and the results have been mixed.


“I can chip and putt with the best of them,” Wheatcroft said. “I need to be a better ball-striker.


“I told Matt that I am not concerned if I screw up the whole season. I said, ‘Let’s fix this swing because it’s gone bad.’ ”


One of the highlights came in the Houston Open in March, where Wheatcroft held the lead after the second round with a pair of 5-under 67s. His final two rounds were even-par 72 and 2-over 74, and he finished tied for 63.


He got into the tournament through a Monday qualifier.


“Monday qualifiers are terrible. They’re just not fun, plain and simple,’’ Wheatcroft told the Associated Press after the Houston Open. “I was on the PGA Tour in ’07, played terribly. I had no status. So I had to be back to Monday qualifiers and pre-qualifiers the next year. I hate them.’’


A top 25 finish on the Web.com money list automatically earns Wheatcroft his tour card. If he falls outside that mark but is in the top 75, Wheatcroft will participate in the newly designed playoff format.


The top 75 money winners on the Web.com Tour and Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour money winners’ list are eligible to compete in a season-ending, four-tournament event – golf’s version of NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup. PGA Tour cards will go to the top 25 golfers in that event.


Wheatcroft can ease a lot of pressure by playing well over the next four tournaments, including Mylan, and move up the money winners’ list.


If he does, Killen, a 24-year-old teaching pro, will get a lot of the credit. He has an impressive list of clients, including J.B. Holmes and Kenny Perry, who were in a three-way playoff with Angel Cabrera at the 2009 Masters.


“He’s a young phenom,” Wheatcroft said of Killen. “We worked on my swing together but the last month, I was on my own. I tried to fix it, but I was probably doing the wrong thing. I hit a lot of good shots, but my bad shots have been really bad. I’ve found some pitfalls, but I am getting back on track.”


There are other advantages to coming back home to play in the Mylan. Wheatcroft knows the course – he worked there as a youth – and will get to see family and friends.


“Home-cooked meals will be great,” he said. “Instead of hotel rooms, I’ll be at home.”


Notes


Tee times are expected to be released today. … Pro-Am events were scheduled for Monday and Wednesday. … Robert Streb is the defending champion. Gary Christian won in 2011 and Kevin Kisner in 2010.


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