Improbable 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic finish draws attention to thin margins on PGA Tour

This time eight days ago, Nate Lashley and Doc Redman were not qualified to play the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Monday? They're $2.1 million richer, both going to the Open Championship and likely both going to have their PGA Tour cards in 2020. This, as much as any 1-2 finish in recent memory, highlights just how thin the margins are on the PGA Tour and how one week -- heck, one day -- can change the trajectory of your professional life.

For Redman, who at 19 under finished second at Detroit Golf Club behind Lashley's 25-under mark, it began last Monday. He shot a 62 in the Monday qualifier to get into just his second PGA Tour event of 2019 and his seventh all time. Then he shot a 68 and three 67s to finish solo second, grab 300 FedEx Cup points and slide into one of two available spots for The Open in two weeks.

The 2017 U.S. Amateur champ had been primarily playing on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and didn't have any meaningful status on the big boy circuit. Now he has special temporary membership on the PGA Tour (via his FedEx Cup points total) and is probably a top-25 finish away from locking up a top-125 finish in the FedEx race, which would earn him a card for next season.

"I hadn't even thought about it really," Redman said of his new status. "I knew what was at stake, but I was trying not to think about it. I actually didn't even think about the Open Championship until someone said it to me after. But it's awesome, I can't wait."

Everything about Redman's life has changed after the 331 strokes he took in Detroit last week, but it might not have changed as much as the life of the man who beat him. Redman went from No. 711 in the Official World Golf Rankings to No. 190, which is huge, but Lashley went from No. 346 to No. 101 with his first win.

Redman actually beat Lashley by six in the Monday qualifier as the latter finished two strokes out of a five-for-two spots playoff. Lashley became an alternate for the event and got in at the 11th hour. When the opportunity presented itself, Lashley responded by grabbing his first top 10 at a non-opposite-field event on the PGA Tour ... ever (also, it was a win).

While Lashley does have his PGA Tour card this season and had made 14 starts leading up to the Rocket Mortgage Classic, nothing about his game suggested he was going to win by any number, much less six (again, he has a single top 10 at an opposite-field event). The fact that he took advantage of the one opportunity he's ever had on a weekend to win a tour event after sneaking into the field through the back door is astounding!

Here's what a clearly-shocked Lashley said in his post-tournament presser.

"I mean, I wasn't even sure I was going to get into the tournament," said Lashley. "Ending up being in here right now, it's a dream. I'm just really grateful that I got into the tournament. Happy to be here in Detroit and love the place and look forward to coming back."

Now he's in The Open, on the PGA Tour for two more years (at least) and made more money on Sunday than he had made in the rest of his PGA Tour career combined. Two guys started playing The Orchards Golf Club last Monday with hopes of just getting a Thursday tee time. They combined to shoot 44 under. This is what makes the PGA Tour compelling, even when massive names aren't involved.

"Not getting in through the Monday was a little disappointing," said Lashley. "I feel like I played really well. I knew I still had an outside chance of getting in, and once I moved up to first alternate and found out that David Berganio wasn't going to play, I was just really happy. I was just excited to be in the golf tournament really."

The thing I keep coming back to is how different the path of each of these players is because of things that are difficult to control. What if Berganio doesn't drop out? What if Redman skips the Monday qualifier to get to the next Mackenzie Tour event? What if any number of things goes differently?

This is the addiction though, right? This is why guys can't quit this stuff. Why they keep coming back. Lashley went 12 years between starts on the PGA Tour -- from 2006 to 2018. In that time, he got his real estate license and nearly stepped away from the game. It would have been easy to. He's 36 and has made half as much money in his career as Brooks Koepka has made in majors this year. But he kept coming back because you never know when it's all going to flip on you.

"... I realized golf's a lot of fun, it's a blessing to be able to come out here and compete," said Lashley. "Especially now playing at the highest level. I'm glad I stuck it out."

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories