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Golf Tidbits: New season helps in different ways

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Updated: 10/21/2013 11:35 am

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - In case you missed it, and many of you have, the PGA Tour's 2013-14 season is two weeks old.

The first two winners of what had been known as Fall Series events are two Americans who have had two different paths in their careers.

Jimmy Walker was the journeyman who somehow kept his tour card year-in and year-out by finishing inside the top 125 on the money list.

Webb Simpson doesn't have such worries since his 2012 U.S. Open title gave him a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, but his win Sunday in Las Vegas gave Simpson his fourth win in three years on tour.

Walker came back from his win in California last week with a share of 12th behind Simpson at the TPC at Summerlin.

In 2006, Walker failed to keep his PGA Tour card and went back to the then- named Nationwide Tour. He returned to Q School to keep his tour card after the 2008 season, and has finished inside the top 125 on the money list every year since to keep his tour privileges. Some years were close, like 2009 when he ended 125th on the money list, some weren't that hard.

But Walker soldiered on. He played between 24 and 28 events a year since 2008. He is the epitome of the tour regular who you hardly ever see or hear about unless he goes super low, or does something bad like get arrested.

"You know, when you don't win and you don't rack up the two- or three-year exemption or whatever, you always start off at ground zero. I got to start from the bottom and go get it," Walker said after his win. "I had always wondered, 'Will it change the way you think about things if you win'? But I want to stay hungry. When you win, I think you want to win again and then you want to win again. You got to stay hungry."

His steady play through the BMW Championship - his last event of the 2013 season - had helped Walker climb to 66th in the world rankings. Being in the top 70 at the end of the year helps get a player into certain events that he may have otherwise not had a chance to play in.

Walker, thanks to his win last week, will head to Augusta National as a Masters competitor for the first time next April. That win also moved him to 45th in the world rankings, and he climbed to 43rd this week.

If he can keep his top-50 ranking at the end of the year, Walker will be eligible to play in the first three majors in 2014. He has played in more than one major just once, last year, when he missed the cut at the British Open and PGA Championship.

The win could be a career-changer for Walker.

"I've played, not on every tour, but on a lot of tours. I won on a lot of tours. This is kind of the final stepping-stone," Walker said. "Just continue to keep doing it and keep playing well. It feels great. Wouldn't take back anything I've ever done or anything I've ever gone through to get here."

While Walker has had to scrape for everything he has earned, Simpson is starting his sixth year on tour and hasn't had to worry about battling for his tour card since he won the 2011 Wyndham Championship.

The 29-year-old is exempt through 2017 thanks to his U.S. Open win in 2012. His victory Sunday at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open gave him a title in three straight seasons on the PGA Tour.

Simpson has played on the last two United States national teams - the 2012 Ryder Cup and the 2013 Presidents Cup - something Walker could only dream of the last few years.

And now Simpson is a winner again.

"It means the world. This year, I feel like I've gotten better, I just haven't gotten a win," Simpson said after his victory.

Two different winners. Two different paths to victory.

Starting the 2013-14 season in the fall is something new for the PGA Tour. It's first two winners show the old tour is as strong as ever.

HADLEY MAKES SMOOTH TRANSITION

Unless you follow the Web.com Tour, it is unlikely you know the name Chesson Hadley. The 26-year-old won twice on the Web.com Tour in 2013 and topped the tour's money list.

With that season being over and the PGA Tour starting a wrap-around 2013-14 schedule in October, Hadley had a chance to get his feet wet on tour while many of the big names are kicking back and watching their favorite college football team.

Hadley was even par through three rounds at the Frys.com Open and didn't make it to the final round as there was a secondary cut.

He bounced back with four under-par rounds in Las Vegas en route to a share of fifth place. With those two events under his belt, Hadley has now doubled his PGA Tour career starts from two to four.

He had played the Wyndham Championship the last two years, and missed the cut both times. In these last two events, Hadley had earned over $220,000, which puts him almost halfway to keeping his PGA Tour card for the 2014-15 season.

Hadley has taken full advantage of his two starts this fall and has himself in prime position once the calendar changes to 2014.

MINI-TIDBITS

* Brandel Chamblee labeling Tiger Woods as a cheater could end up costing Chamblee greatly. First off, Woods doesn't forget stuff like that, and secondly, when Fox is looking for a lead golf analyst in a few years, Chamblee would have been among the leading candidates for the job. Something like this could hurt his chances.

* Michelle Wie seemed an odd choice earlier this year for the U.S. Solheim Cup team. She went 2-2 at that event, and all of her matches went 17 or 18 holes. Maybe it helped boost her confidence as she posted seven rounds in the 60s in her 20 rounds since that event, and posted a tie for third in Korea last weekend. That was easily her best finish of the year.

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