Steve Wheatcroft is looking to get back to the PGA Tour for the third time since 2007 and hopes his hometown course -- Southpointe Golf Club -- will provide him the boost he needs.
Wheatcroft, who was born in Indiana, Pa., but grew up in Washington, Pa., and graduated from Trinity High School, is No. 44 on the Web.com money list and, like all players on that tour, is angling to get into the top 25 to secure his PGA Tour card.
With only three events left in the regular season after this weekend, players outside the top 25 are starting to make their final push. Wheatcroft got off to a good start Thursday in the first round of the Mylan Classic as he shot a 5-under 66 and is one of six players tied for second and one shot off the lead.
It was the kind of day Wheatcroft was hoping for after he struggled earlier in the season but made some changes to his swing and had a strong finish last week at the Boise Open in Idaho.
Wheatcroft said the swing changes have begun to take hold, he has seen his consistency increase and he is ready to make the final push to get back into the top 25 on the money list -- only this time, when he earns his PGA card, he intends to keep it.
"My goal was to get back out to the PGA Tour and make the money that I want to make out there and to contend in tournaments" said Wheatcroft, who had earned a PGA Tour card in 2007 and 2010. "It isn't just to get out there and finish 25th every week. I want to have a chance in five or six events a year on the PGA Tour and I want to be a name people know.
"I just got so out of whack there for a four-week stretch. Something kind of clicked on the range last week. [The swing] is a lot better, especially with the irons."
Wheatcroft birdied three of his first four holes -- and that included draining a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 13 (he started on No. 10) -- but he had three bogeys in his final 13 holes.
Still, a top-three or four finish would be a huge boost to Wheatcroft's money list ranking, as he is about $36,000 below No. 25 on the list.
A win here, which would bring a $121,500 payday, would vault Wheatcroft into the top 10, but even if he doesn't win, his goal is to improve his ranking going into the final three events of the regular season.
"I'm going to go out there and try to make as many birdies as I can," said Wheatcroft, who worked at Southpointe Golf Club in his youth and through high school. "Obviously, I like the golf course."
Zack Sucher leads the field at 6 under and, like Wheatcroft, could use a boost on the money list.
Sucher is 79th and hopes to get into at least the top 75 to qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals, which would offer him a chance to earn his PGA Tour card.
The other players tied with Wheatcroft in second are Guy Boros (No. 62), Billy Hurley III (No. 37), Chad Collins (No. 34), Ben Martin (No. 4) and Meen Whee Kim (No. 28). Four players are tied at 4 under.
Martin, who with a win could make a push for the top spot on the money list, said the course played a bit soft which is why so many players scored well and are in the hunt.
"I just tried to keep the ball in front of me out there," Martin said. "I had a solid day going and then birdied the last two holes to get to 5 under, so that was a nice way to end. It wasn't anything special, I made six birdies and one bogey but I really just focused on hitting fairways and greens.
"I think if you can keep the ball out of trouble, you can put up a 4 or 5 under and that will be a really good day on Sunday."
Another player of note off to a good start, though he bogeyed No. 18 to fall back to 2 under, is Kevin Foley, who played at Penn State and is No. 18 on the money list.
Foley said if he hits the ball as well as he did in this first round but putts a little better, he should be in contention Sunday.
"I missed an easy [putt] on 15 to get to 4 under and then had the blemish on 18, but I had some really good looks coming in," Foley said.
"I think the greens are fairly soft, you just have to hit it to the right spot, but whoever does is going to have a chance to get hot and post some good scores.
"I definitely had the potential to get to [6 under or better] but I just didn't make enough putts. I'll have the same game plan as [Thursday] and hopefully I will make some birdie putts and try to make a move [today] and Saturday."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published August 2, 2013 4:00 AM