By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer
SUNRIVER, Ore. - As the drama of the final round at the PGA Professional National Championship unfolds on Wednesday, viewers and followers might not know that there will actually be three tournaments being concluded - not just one. Wait, what?
It's true, and it has led to some of the most incredible and tension-filled days in golf. Players on the upper half of the leaderboard will be vying to: 1.) Win the Walter Hagen Cup (winner) 2.) Earn points toward making the PGA Cup team (10 players) and 3) Earn a spot in the PGA Championship (top 20 in this event).
In a surreal but very possible scenario, at the end of the 72nd hole there could be three playoffs running concurrently. And make no mistake, every player that arrived this week - and now especially the players contending - will have all three goals in the back of their minds as they tee it up on Wednesday. Even more, this means that players not a part of the final groups will still be grinding.
Though virtually every player near the lead stated that he could not afford to think about the consequences at stake on Wednesday, they all talked about the three separate goals as they came into the week.
1.) Winning the National Championship: Having one's name engraved on the Walter Hagen Cup means becoming a part of golf history. Such golf icons as Sam Snead and Bob Rosburg have won the coveted trophy. Even more, being recognized as the top playing professional amongst 27,000 peers is the ultimate professional acheivement for most.
"Winning the PGA Professional National Championship (2007) was the highlight of my golf career." -- Chip Sullivan
2.) The PGA Cup: Think of the Ryder Cup, with fewer fans in the gallery perhaps, but every bit the amount of tension, drama and significance. Team USA will compete against a team from Great Britain & Ireland in September at Slaley Hall in Northumberland, England. To qualify for the team, players earn points at two PGA PNCs and can also earn points if they qualify and make the cut at the PGA Championship.
"It would mean everything to get back on the PGA Cup team. I'm really trying not to think about it, because I'm not in that position yet. I didn't get any points last year and I don't even know what I have to finish here to get in. I'm trying to not even think about it. If it happens, it would be an absolute dream. I've said it before - it's a bigger deal than playing in the PGA Championship. That might seem silly to people, but unless you've done it and experienced it you wouldn't understand. Anybody who's played on that PGA Cup team that I've spoken with has felt the same. It's an incredible experience." -- Scott Erdmann
3.) A spot in the PGA Championship: The season's final major championship will of course feature the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. And teeing it up alongside will be the top 20 qualifiers (no ties - all ties to be settled by playoff until 20 spots are determined) from this championship.
"Every golfer's dream is to play in a major. As a club professional - being able to do so while representing your association and your peers - that's more than special. That's the goal when you arrive this week. To be in a position to achieve that is something that is important and very exciting for Wednesday." -- Danny Balin
So as you tune in on Wednesday to watch, be aware that the name at the top of the leaderboard is simply only winning one of the three main events. And the rewards and stakes for these players are so comparatively high to the players you may see who play for millions on a weekly basis. All three events can be considered life-changing, and Wednesday will see the action and answers unfold for all three. It should be an amazing day.
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