It’s not where David Mathis expected to be, nor where he hoped to be.
Mathis is playing in the Rex Hospital Open this week on a sponsor’s exemption. And while the former Campbell golfer is grateful for the opportunity and excited about a “home game” in front of family and friends in the Web.com Tour event, he’d rather be on the PGA Tour.
Nothing against the Web.com Tour, he said. He earned his golf spurs on the developmental tour, but he had become something of a regular on the PGA Tour, playing for big purses and against the world’s best players.
But golf can be a cruel sport. One day you’re driving a Lexus courtesy car to Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles. Take a wrong turn in your career and you quickly can feel fortunate to be driving to TPC Wakefield, with a place to play.
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“It’s been an interesting year, I guess you could say, after playing on the PGA Tour,” Mathis said. “Coming back and needing a sponsor’s exemption into this event is a little weird. But I’m thankful.”
Mathis smiled, adding, “It is nice to be staying at home, sleeping in your own bed.”
And sleep might be a relative term. Mathis and his wife, Chastity, have a two-week-old girl, who was born at Rex Hospital.
“I’m getting kind of broken sleep,” he said. “But that’s OK. I just need to get going.”
Mathis, who turned 40 in February, said he has been dealing with a ruptured biceps tendon. He has made three Web.com appearances this year, missing the cut each time.
His last “MC” was a week ago in the BMW Charity Pro-Am, a tournament he won in 2008, when he was 14th on the tour money list with more than $276,000. That earned the Winston-Salem native playing rights on the PGA Tour in 2009, although he did come to the 2009 Rex and finished third.
In 2011 and 2012, Mathis earned more than $700,000 on the PGA Tour. He had two top-10 finishes in 2012 and tied for eighth in the 2011 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Mathis’ best PGA Tour showing came last year when he tied for fifth in the Reno-Tahoe Open. But the rest of the year was forgettable as he closed 165th on the FedEx Cup points list.
In past years, Mathis could have competed more regularly on the Web.com Tour after losing his PGA Tour card, but a change in qualifying has made the Web.com Tour the primary entry point for the big tour.
“With all the new rules and decisions that have been made up top, it’s just a debacle, really,” he said. “I’m having trouble getting into events. I’ve won twice on this tour and had four years on the big tour. They’re basically telling me I’m not good enough.”
Mathis went to the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship in February, only to shoot 76-78 while aggravating the biceps injury. He played in the Panama Claro Championship in March.
“After that I was trying to get in an event and trying to get healthy at the same time,” he said.
Mathis, who lives in North Raleigh, said he was buoyed by Brendon Todd’s victory this past weekend in the Byron Nelson Championship. Like Mathis, Todd spent time on the Web.com Tour and the former Green Hope High standout now is a winner on the big tour for the first time.
“Watching him win … and knowing the struggles he went through, it was like a light and it’s encouraging,” Mathis said. “Trying to get it all together, it’s hard sometimes to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
All Mathis can do is keep working, keep trying. A year ago, Raleigh’s Chesson Hadley was the Rex winner. Why not another “hometown” guy?
“As long as I can stay healthy, I feel like my game is in pretty good shape,” Mathis said. “It’s a matter of me getting competition rounds under my belt. But the problem is I feel like I’m limited. I’ve got this week and then who knows?”