On the final green of virtually every PGA Tour event, a golfer will face a routine short putt of $ 200,000 to $ 500,000. It can take a second for the ball to roll toward the hole, but if the result is a costly four-foot mass, it usually takes another minute for the massive magnitude of the loss to subside.
When their rounds are complete, golfers enter the privacy of a nearby scoring tent, which will take a player & # 39; the crazy box & # 39; called. It is there that players come face to face with the tournament's prize money chart, in which the payouts for finishing the first, second, third, etc. are signed.
"Guys say, 'I just cost myself 250,000', said Jim Furyk, the winner of 17 tour events." I'm sure I said it. It is a very difficult moment.
Gary Woodland, the reigning champion of the United States Open, insisted that fear was greatest in high-profile tournaments, where a final short putt could be worth $ 1 million.
"I don't care who you are, that's a lot of money," Woodland said. "Maybe you didn't think about the money for the putt, but if you miss it, you do."
Even a week after an expensive flub, Woodland knew that colleagues might still remind each other.
"You mess with friends," Hey, that one putt is going to take you a lot of time, "he said with a laugh.
For the less experienced players on tour, there is little humor in the situation
"Those short putts at 18 are terrifying," said Martin Trainer, a sophomore on the tour with one win. "It is part of the insidious illusion of competence in golf."
Joel Dahmen, now on tour in his fourth year, painted a picture of a particularly bizarre, gripping rite of passage for the pro golfer: surviving the melting pot of the small putt with massive imports.
"It is constantly talked about by almost everyone," said Dahmen, who has nearly $ 6 million in career earnings. "Guys in the locker room after the last round drink a beer and say," Oh my god, I can't believe how much that last putt cost me. "Everyone has to figure out how to get used to it."
Last month at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Collin Morikawa, who took part in the tour last summer after a decorated amateur career, missed a short pit on the 18th hole that would have won the tournament. Forced into a playoff, Morikawa then missed a four-foot putt on the first extra hole that handed victory to Daniel Berger, who earned $ 532,500 more than Morikawa for the win.
As the second crucial putt ran out, Morikawa's head and shoulders collapsed until he rested his hands on his knees.
"Clearly it stung," said 23-year-old Morikawa two weeks later when asked about his near misses. "It's a huge learning curve. But I'm not afraid to be in those positions. I want to get involved as much as possible, because the more you are, the more comfortable you will be."
In interviews with dozens of tour veterans, a blueprint for the tension of a short, last putt emerged.
"At first you probably let the dollars pop up in your head and you screw up and cost a lot of money," says Kevin Streelman, who has toured regularly since 2008. "You get tired of that event and start treating the last putt of the day the same as your first putt of the day.
"And when the round is over, you can't tell yourself that a last putt cost you a certain amount. It's what you do for a whole career. & # 39;
But For unproven tour players, it's hard to focus on the tour's longevity as they struggle weekly to finish at the top of the leaderboard, qualifying you for an invitation to return to the tour the following year.
"Those stress and anxiety are constant," said Wyndham Clark, a sophomore tour professional with four career top 10 finishes, recalling his first year on the tour. "It affects your sleep. I have wasted so many nights on it. & # 39;
The youngest golfers on the PGA Tour are also more aware of how much they are earning as weekly travel costs double from the approximately $ 1,700 they spend on the feeder circuit of the tour, the Korn Ferry Tour and that a top five PGA Tour finish can solve their money problems for the rest of the year.
"Third place on the PGA Tour is 10 times what you earn on the Korn Ferry Tour," said Matthew NeSmith, a tour rookie. "That stuff is always in the back of your mind."
Then there are golfers who claim they have never considered how much money an individual putt could be worth, even as a freshman.
"You probably won't believe me, but I've never had a pit where I thought," if I miss this, I'll cost myself two hundred or four hundred thousand "," Justin Thomas, the world's fifth golfer and the PGA 2017 Champion winner, said. "A lot of people could tell you what a triple tie for the sixth is in a $ 9 million wallet, while I have no idea."
However, Thomas gave in on one exception – when he had to make a three-foot leg that finished third in last year's Tour Championship, earning $ 3.5 million. If he finished in fourth place, he would have made $ 500,000 less.
"That was the first time I thought," This is probably a million dollar well, "said Thomas.
He smiled at the memory since sinking the birdie putt. Some of his brothers on tour also agreed that there were benefits in passing the load of a putt with a lot of money.
"When I was younger and the money was tight, I'd think if I missed a short pit on how I lost six months' rent," said Charley Hoffman, a 15-year-old veteran of nearly $ 29 million in career earnings.
& # 39; But there is a downside, "he said." If that golf ball falls into the hole, say to yourself, "Hey, I just made $ 150,000 on a little four-foot leg, how great is that?" # 39; "