Len Mattiace is as upbeat about his golf game as he’s been in a very long time.
But the Jacksonville resident and Nease graduate is well aware that the next month will be a long, difficult haul as he attempts to regain the PGA Tour card he lost in 2005.
Mattiace tied for seventh on Sunday in the Web.com Tour’s Cox Classic in Omaha, Neb., moving him from 80th on the money list to 58th, qualifying for the Web.com Tour Finals. Mattiace needed to finish 75th or higher and left no doubt with a final-round 67 to finish at 16-under-par 268 at Champions Run.
His 72-hole score was his best in relation to par since winning the second of his two PGA Tour titles at the 2002 St. Jude Classic (18 under). Mattiace also set a personal record for his 151 career Web.com Tour starts.
“I’m feeling very good and looking forward to these events,” said the 46-year-old, who has been in a prolonged slump since a skiing accident injured both knees in the winter of 2004. “I like where I am. I hit a lot of good shots [in Omaha], made some putts and I feel like I have some momentum.”
Mattiace, who was fully exempt on the PGA Tour from 1993-2005, failed to keep his Tour card when his exemption ran out. He reached a low point in 2007 when he made only 2-of-26 cuts on a combined PGA Tour and Web.com Tour schedule.
However, Mattiace began seeing progress with a tie for fourth in Panama in February, the opening Web.com Tour event of the season. He added another top-10 finish at the Rex Hospital Classic to reverse a stretch of seven tournaments in which he made only one cut, and went on to make four-of-six cuts into August to get within the top 75.
Mattiace then missed the cut in his next two starts in Springfield, Mo., and Knoxville, Tenn., to fall to 80th but rebounded with a week in Omaha that included tying his career-low as a professional with a 64 in the second round.
“Nothing had really changed in those weeks,” he said. “I missed the cut by one in Knoxville. I was still seeing progress with my swing and knew I was playing well enough if a few putts fell in. That happened [at Omaha].”
Mattiace, a long-time student of Jim McLean at Doral, continues to communicate with his mentor but also has been working with Mickey DeFrancesco at the Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., and Michael Hunt, a teaching pro at the Bayonne Golf Club in New Jersey.
Without going into minute technicalities, Mattiace said his work with them has enabled him to return to his bread-and-butter: hitting fairways. Mattiace is 29th in driving accuracy on the Web.com Tour this season.
“I’ve never been the longest guy in the world so I need to hit fairways to have a chance,” he said. “I’ve been pretty straight for most of the year.”
Mattiace will join 7 other area players in the Web.com Tour Finals. Making it off the Web.com Tour money list were Nick Flanagan, Russell Knox, Aron Price, Steve Wheatcroft and Tim Wilkinson. Knox also was eligible off the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup points list (Nos. 126-200), along with Bud Cauley. Jeff Klauk is in the finals off his FedEx Cup points as a non-member of the PGA Tour.
The Web.com Tour Finals begin on Thursday with the Hotel Fitness Championship at the Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind.
There will be stops in Davidson, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio, before the finals end with the Web.com Tour Championship Sept. 26-29 at the TPC Sawgrass Dye’s Valley.
All four events have a $1 million purse and will be aired on the Golf Channel.
Wilkinson finished 10th on the Web.com Tour money list to clinch his PGA Tour card by being among the top 25. Players between Nos. 26-75 and those off the FedEx Cup points list will have to finish among the top 25 in earnings from the finals events to get their cards.
Garry Smits: (904) 359-4362
Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/sports/2013-08-27/story/len-mattiace-straightens-out-his-golf-game#ixzz2dHNDYpQq