Norton, MA – Thanks to a win at the 2009 Frys.com Open, Troy Matteson avoided qualifying school and the loss of his tour card following his subpar season in 2010.
Now, teetering on the FedEx Cup playoff bubble, Matteson is playing his best when it counts most, shooting a six-under 65 on Friday to grab the early lead after one round of the Deutsche Bank Championship.
The second event of the 2011 FedEx Cup playoffs is comprised only of the top 100 players in the points standings, and 99 began the day trying to make the 70-player field at the BMW Championship in two weeks.
With $10 million at stake for the ultimate winner of the four-event, month- long sprint, Matteson needed Friday's round at TPC Boston -- his best since The Greenbrier Classic -- to get off the bubble and squarely in contention.
Nobody is more surprised at Friday's result than Matteson.
"I would have said if I could have kept it under 80, I would have been doing pretty good," said Matteson, whose warm-up went poorly in the morning. "If I don't play well, I'm not going to play (in two weeks). Your expectations probably lower a little bit, then all of the sudden you make a few birdies, and it's like, well, that's not too bad."
Should Matteson go on and win his third PGA Tour event, he would collect enough points to make the jump from 97th to fourth. The odds are against him, considering both the players right behind him on the leaderboard and his 0- for-3 mark with 18-hole leads.
Of the four players within one shot of Matteson's mark, one is the top player in the world and two others have won major championships.
Luke Donald headlines the pack at five-under 66, coming into the weekend fifth in the FedEx Cup rankings. The others are reigning Masters champ Charl Schwartzel, Tiger Woods silencer and 2009 PGA Champion Y.E. Yang and Jerry Kelly.
Schwartzel, who was one of the only qualified players to skip The Barclays last week, is still in contention for the big prize at the end.
"It just worked out that that was the one that I could maybe afford to take off," said Schwartzel, who came into the weekend 28th in the standings. "I wasn't going to take off the PGA (Championship). I was lying 20th or something on the FedEx (Cup standings), so it wasn't like I was struggling with it...I figured I'll take my chances in the three (tournaments) coming up."
Several big names are in danger of missing the BMW Championship without good showings on Labor Day weekend, and few are taking advantage of their last chance.
Padraig Harrington, however, is one of the exceptions after playing an opening round of two-under 69. He came into the weekend ranked 80th, but would sneak into the top-70 if he holds onto his current position, which is a share of 27th. No. 91 Geoff Ogilvy matched Harrington's 69 and would finish in the 70th and final qualifying spot if he stays in that spot.
Other major winners such as No. 79 Trevor Immelman (78), No. 84 Graeme McDowell (71), No. 93 Davis Love III (71), No. 94 Stewart Cink (71) and No. 99 Ernie Els (70), on the other hand, are not playing well enough just yet to make it through.
MORE TO FOLLOW.