Jan 25, 2015; La Quinta, CA, USA; Steve Wheatcroft hits from the rough on the 16th during the final round of the Humana Challenge at PGA West – Arnold Palmer Private Course. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
DUBLIN, Ohio – The course that PGA Tour golf professional Steve Wheatcroft visited in high school is now a course he can call home for the next week, as the Indiana, Pa. native will tee it up with 119 other golfers in the Memorial Tournament.
This may be closest event on the PGA Tour that Wheatcroft can call a home game and he expects 20 to 25 fans will make the 3 1/2 hour drive to Muirfield Village to watch him.
“It’s just a beautiful golf course and I’ve always wanted to come back and play,” Wheatcroft said. “You always want to honor the greats and play in their tournaments. It’s nice to finally get the nod here and give it a shot this week.”
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Wheatcroft’s journey has been an interesting one. His first PGA Tour event was in 2001 and then he played an additional two in 2005. His first made cut did not come until 2005. In that season he made 25 starts and had one top-25 result on the season. He did not play full-time again on the PGA Tour until 2010 when he made 27 starts and placed third in the Puerto Rico Open.
He also qualified for the U.S. Open making it through sectional qualifying in the Rockville, Md., area and tied for 63rd place in the tournament which was played at Pebble Beach.
The 2012 season was disappointing for Wheatcroft as he missed 13 cuts in the 22 tournaments he played in and registered one top-25 finish. He spent 2013 on the Web.com Tour and finished outside of the top-25 and the same thing occurred in 2013.
Fueled by a win at Albertsons Boise Open in a playoff over Steven Alker, Wheatcroft secured a place on the PGA Tour, this time he hopes to be able to keep that spot.
Wheatcroft, 37 is 99th in the FedEx Cup points race and is 97th on the money list earning just over $672,000 on the season. Among his accomplishments on the season are a runner-up finish at the Humana Challenge and co-leading after one round at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
The top 125 on the PGA Tour this year will earn their card for the 2015-16 season and Wheatcroft feels he is on a good pace to accomplish that.
“It’s been a fun year and hopefully a building block to keep getting better as the year goes on,” said Wheatcroft.
Wheatcroft will tee off on the 10th hole Thursday to open his Memorial Tournament. He will be paired with Russell Knox and Troy Merritt with a tee time of 1:38 p.m.
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Tuesday was Wheatcroft’s first time playing Muirfield Village and as was the case with many golfers before him came away impressed.
“It plays completely different on Tuesday than it will on the weekend,” Wheatcroft said. “It’s nice to get some eye lines on where to be hitting shots, but at the same time I know it’s going to play completely different when the tournament starts.
“You’ve got to get after the par 5s and give yourself good looks at birdie. The main thing on each of the holes is to keep the ball under the hole and try to leave uphill putts if you can. If you do that then you’re going to be way better off.”
Following the Memorial, Wheatcroft will go back to Rockville to attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open.
While there is a qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, seven miles away from where Jack Nicklaus will shake hands with golfers on the 72nd hole, Wheatcroft feels it is his best chance to win as he feels he does not play as well on the Ohio golf courses.