Bart Bryant had not planned on donating his body to golf. But the only majors on his resume during an 18-year pro career are surgeries.
"Left rotator cuff in '92, left elbow in '01 [actually mid-December of 2000], right elbow last year," he said yesterday after a 4-under-par 67 at TPC at Avenel gave him a chance to get well in the only area unhealthy just now -- his wallet. At 8-under 205, he's tied for 11th going into the final round of the Booz Allen Classic.
Bryant had a chance to go even lower. But he twice botched "easy" up-and-down chances for par, the last coming on the 18th green when he missed a four-foot putt after a splendid bunker shot from about 50 feet.
"If somebody would give you 4 under at the beginning of the day, you'd take it," he said. "But it's just disappointing."
Bryant knows how costly an accumulation of those sorts of small errors can be. The difference between 10th place and 20th place here last year was three strokes. The difference in prize money was $56,250. And Bryant needs every penny possible.
He is playing on a medical exemption this year because the right elbow surgery last March forced him off the tour after six events. The exemption entitles him to 23 events. But because he was operating off qualifying-school status when he suffered the injury, he has been able to get into just nine events so far.
"Kinda back where I was," he said. "Which is fair."
So far this season Bryant has won $75,928, which puts him 193rd on the money list. He must crack the top 125 by season's end to avoid going to Q-School for the sixth time. And he will follow that humbling route once more if he has to.
"Because I don't know how to do anything else," he said, smiling. "My girls [Kristen, 15, and Michelle, 10] like to shop, so I'd better keep playing."
TPC at Avenel has been relatively kind to Bryant. He has won more than $114,000 in four appearances here, the bulk of it coming with a tie for ninth two years ago.
"It kind of fits me," he said. "I don't know why."
Other courses might also fit him, if he could stay healthy enough and up his tour status enough to play them. He finished tied for 36th in the first event of the season in January, the Sony Open, then got into just two more tournaments in the next two months.
Bryant has made the cut in his last four tournaments, tying for 32nd and earning $26,670 in the Buick Classic three weeks ago. He shot 75 in the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic and dropped into a tie for 47th. A top 10 here not only would boost his earnings by nearly $130,000 but also guarantee him a spot in the next tour event.
"Right now, I'm feeling real good," he said. "I'm as healthy as I've been in a long time. I feel like my game is starting to come around. Mentally, I'm just throwing away so many shots this year, doing dumb little things. That has to stop."