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Mark Anderson seeking job security

11/9/2012 - Golf Mark Anderson

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- For all the years that the PGA Tour has been staging its season-ending event at Disney World, there has always been the odd juxtaposition of golfers sweating out their livelihoods in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom.

For a good number of players in the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, this is not a fun week. They arrived at the land of Mickey and Minnie with scowls rather than smiles and angst rather than joy. Perhaps some of the good vibe will rub off.

It is again a reminder that not everything about professional golf centers around seven-figure winners' checks, huge endorsement deals and untold other riches.

Case in point: Mark Anderson.

Don't feel bad if you've never heard of him. Even the most seasoned of golf followers would be hard-pressed to pick the PGA rookie out of the players warming up on the range.

He made it onto the big stage this year through the Web.com Tour and started off nicely enough by making cuts in eight of his first nine PGA Tour events. No big deal, huh? Well, things didn't proceed as nicely. Anderson missed the cut in 10 of his past 12 events during the regular season and was 164th in FedEx Cup points, meaning he missed the playoffs.

And he came to Disney World ranked 170th on the money list and in need of a big week to stay fully exempt, or even modest success to crack the top 150 and retain some sort of status for 2013.

It hasn't exactly been a glamorous start to Anderson's time in the big leagues. He had just two top-25 finishes and made the cut in only half of his 24 starts.

"I try not to think about it," said the 26-year-old Anderson, whose 67 on Disney's Magnolia course left him in a tie for third, 3 strokes behind leader Charlie Beljan. "I just want to play as good as I can. It's the last tournament of the year. I haven't really contended this year, so it'll be nice to enter the weekend with a chance to win it and that was kind of the goal coming into the week."

For Anderson, that was quite a lofty goal, especially when you consider how his year has progressed. His best finish was a tie for 13th at the RBC Heritage in his native South Carolina.

In his three previous events during the Fall Series, Anderson missed one cut and his best finish was a tie for 47th. This season he earned $328,219, but that's paltry for a golfer who pays his way to 25 tournaments and the expenses associated with it.

In a way, Anderson has little to lose this week. He's got to finish among the top three to have any chance of getting into the top 125.

"It's tough and it kind of makes it easier at the same time," he said. "Obviously, it's hard to win out here, and to finish top-three is great playing. But it also means I can just kind of go out there and freewheel it. I have to play well. I know that. And I kind of wish I'd take that same approach every single week.

"Sometimes when you're out here you just grind it, and obviously I haven't hit the ball well and you can't be freewheeling it. But when I'm hitting the ball well off the tee, it kind of feeds into the rest of my game. If I can just keep that driver going well -- especially out here because it's a big golf course with a lot of room where you can hit a lot of drivers, and I like that."

Anderson said he switched back to a belly putter this week, which has helped him make a few more putts, and he also points out the club is not automatic. He used it for a time earlier this year, switched to a conventional putter, and now has gone back.

"Maybe it's called golf, I don't know, but I struggled with it," he said. "For me, the belly putter is all about setup, and I think I just got into some poor setup and bad ball position with it. So getting away from it I guess maybe helped refresh it."

Anderson is in a tough spot because if he doesn't at least get inside the top 150 on the money list, he has no status next year on the PGA Tour and must return to the second stage of the PGA Tour's Qualifying Tournament next week, just in the hopes of advancing to the final stage to get his card.

If he can get inside the top 150, at least he will go directly to the Q-school finals and have limited status in a shortened 2013 schedule, regardless of how he fares at the 108-hole qualifier.

Anderson can take some solace in knowing that he's not alone in his plight this week. Dozens of players in the field are outside of the top 125, including tournament leader Beljan. Anderson shares second place at 9 under with Ryuji Imada, Harris English, Matt Jones, Round 1 leader Charlie Wi, Charles Howell III and Henrik Stenson.

"Once the summer came along, I really struggled," Anderson said. "I didn't feel very good off the tee, really struggled getting the ball in the fairway, which is critical during some of those events. Nothing really seemed to go well.

"I tried to change a few things. I changed my putter, which worked for a little bit, but I can't really explain what happened. I've just been trying to focus on the last half of the year, just trying to focus on driving the ball a little bit better and being more aggressive."