It was a year ago that Brantford, Ont.'s David Hearn started the PGA Tour's Fall Series, posted two consecutive top-10 finishes, and assured himself of retaining his exempt status this season. Hearn will tee it up in the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open that starts Thursday in Las Vegas. He tied for fifth there last year and is ready to begin another strong Fall Series. He plans to play three of the four tournaments.
"I feel like I've made some good progress this year," the personable 33-year-old said Wednesday from Vegas. Hearn made it into three of the four FedEx Cup playoff series before bowing out because he didn't get into the top 30 on the points list. Only the top 30 players on that list were eligible for the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Hearn made it through only one of the lucrative playoff events last year.
"One of my goals this year was to make a deeper run in the FedEx," Hearn said. "It was exciting for me to play the three tournaments. Ultimately you want to be at the Tour Championship because that shows you've played world-class level golf all season."
Hearn has played plenty of good golf this year, although, as he said, he never really got hot and contended into the closing holes of a last round. Still, he's had two top-10 finishes and is 93rd on the money list with $973,912. Hearn finished 114th last year, when he won $869,072.
It's been a busy year for Hearn. His wife Heather gave birth in June to Ella, their first child. They purchased a new home in Delray Beach, Fla., a southern base for the couple. (They also have a home in Brantford). He started working with a new caddie, Brent Everson. Everson spent much of his 20 years as a PGA Tour caddy working for Justin Leonard. Hearn said Everson has helped him, especially in new situations.
Most recently, Hearn had three weeks at home in Brantford. His home course is the Brantford Golf and Country Club, which was founded in 1879 and remains one of the finest places in Canada to enjoy a day's golf. Hearn played there on Sunday, finishing in time to watch the Ryder Cup singles matches.
"I was following what was happening on my phone while I was playing," Hearn said. Back at home, he settled in to watch on television, and, like all golfers, was riveted by what unfolded.
"You knew Luke [Donald] was going to be tough against Bubba [Watson] because he'd be hitting first into every green and so he'd be first on the green every time," Hearn said. "And how about Justin Rose making those three putts [on the final three holes to defeat Phil Mickelson]?"
Donald, in winning the opening match, set the tone for the European comeback. Hearn, meanwhile, wouldn't mind making the team match play competition for which he's eligible: the Presidents Cup, that is. Nick Price, with whom Hearn played this past winter in a casual round in Hobe Sound, Fla., will captain the International team when it takes on the U.S. a year from now at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
"The Presidents Cup would certainly be fun," Hearn said. "I need to play pretty well to make the team, but it can be done."
One of the things Hearn will need to do better, he feels, is to drive the ball with more variety. He's had trouble this year turning the ball right to left with his driver. But he recently spent time in Carlsbad, Calif. at TaylorMade, whose equipment he plays, in an effort to sort things out.
"It's just finding the right shaft," Hearn explained. "I got into some bad habits because I've been using shafts that are too stiff. I need a shaft that kicks a bit more. I think we finally have it. One of my goals in the Fall Series is to get my driver tuned to get ready for next year."
As for this year, Hearn can look to the experience he had playing the final round of The Barclays in New York with Tiger Woods. That was the third tournament in the FedEx Cup, and Hearn was playing with Woods for the first time. He wasn't at all anxious. He shot 71 to tie for 10th while Woods shot 76 to fall to a tie for 38th.
"I needed to experience that if I want to move my game to the next level," Hearn said. His caddie Everson helped him feel comfortable playing with Woods. "The next time I get in that situation I will have that to draw on."
Starting in Vegas, and moving into the 2013 season, Hearn has many useful experiences to draw on. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him win soon on the PGA Tour.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein