Golf

Making the Rounds: Big Sunday boosts Elk Grove’s Spencer Levin to playoffs

AP

Spencer Levin was playing $20 birdies during a practice round with fellow PGA Tour pro Ryan Moore on Tuesday in preparation for this week’s The Barclays when he drained a 20-footer while swinging the putter with only his left arm and talking on his cellphone.

Suddenly, that’s how Levin’s year is going.

“Maybe I should just not go to sleep,” he said.

Levin turned around a “pretty bad season” with one fantastically timed great round last week. His 7-under-par 63 in the final round of the Wyndham Championship vaulted him into a tie for 18th, earned him a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs that start this week and secured his fully exempt status on the PGA Tour for next season.

He birdied five of the last six holes, concluding with an 18-footer on No. 18 that was followed by a half dozen fist pumps for emphasis.

“Sunday made up for a lot,” he said.

Finishing strong, not only on the last day but on the closing holes, is paramount to success on the PGA Tour, where the quality of play is so universally good and the leaderboards so bunched that two shots can mean 20 places, the lifelong Elk Grove and Sacramento resident said.

Sunday made up for a lot.

Spencer Levin, on his final-round 63 at the Wyndham Championship

Levin’s sixth consecutive full season on the PGA Tour hasn’t been his best partly because of his Sunday play. He pointed to the Travelers Championship in June as an example: He finished double bogey-bogey to tie for 48th when par-par would have put him in the top 20 and birdie-birdie in the top 10.

The margin is that thin. Hence, the multiple fist pumps.

What made Sunday’s round even more satisfying was that Levin knew he was playing for his job. After three consecutive missed cuts, a so-so finish last weekend would have meant going home to prepare for the Web.com Tour Finals instead of going to New Jersey to play for a share of an $8.25 million purse.

$690,260 Spencer Levin’s earnings on the PGA Tour this season

He’s been in similar spots before, during the final round of the PGA Tour qualifying tournament in 2009 and at the end of the 2010 PGA Tour season, and came through each time.

“Maybe I have to think every round is like that,” he said. “I was playing really well (Sunday). That kind of gets your mind off (the magnitude of things).”

Levin has earned $690,260 this season, which is relevant only to his bank account since PGA Tour now determines eligibility for the playoffs solely on FedEx Cup points. He is 130th on the money list but 115th in FedEx Cup points, up from No. 122 to start last week. The top 125 get into the playoffs and a guaranteed spot on the PGA Tour next season.

He said he’s given no thought to what it will take to move into the top 100 to advance beyond this week.

“I just know I have to play good,” he said.

Longtime Dixon resident Nick Watney is 52nd in points. He has qualified for the playoffs every year since the FedEx Cup was introduced in 2007.

Course records

Who holds the record for lowest round at each of the 50-plus 18-hole courses, public and private, in the region? If you are that player, can provide that player’s contact information or have insight to share for an upcoming story, email The Bee’s Steve Pajak at spajak@sacbee.com.

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