There’s nothing more Cheyenne Woods can do but sit and wait.
On Sunday, Woods played her final competitive round of the 2019 LPGA Tour season at the Indy Women in Tech Championship. She Monday qualified to earn a spot in the field and rode that opportunity as far as she could, finishing T31 in Indy for her best finish on Tour in 2019.
“It definitely hasn’t been the ideal year,” Woods told LPGA.com after her final round in Indianapolis. “Coming in not really knowing what I was going to play in and trying to get into as many [events] as I can. It’s just nice to put good numbers up there and play solid golf. Could have been better.”
It may not be enough for Woods, who sits in a precarious position on the LPGA Tour’s Money List and will once again be left wondering about her status for next year. Woods had to return to the LPGA Q-Series in 2018 in order to retain her card. Her T51 finish over the eight-round qualifying tournament earned her little status on Tour, which often left her with the only option of trying to Monday qualify. She made just 13 starts on Tour in 2019 and has also played on the Symetra and Ladies European Tours.
“It was tough at the start of the year,” Woods said. “I played the first three Monday [qualifiers] and I missed it by one, lost in a playoff, lost it by one. I was just trying to play wherever I could as much as I could.”
Woods’ Monday-qualifier appearance in Indy was a last-ditch effort to secure her card, or at least avoid returning to Stage II of the LPGA’s Qualifying Tournament in mid-October. After this week’s Volunteers of America Classic, players positioned Nos. 101-150 on the Money List will be forced to return to Q-Series in order to retain their cards. For those who finish outside the top 150 on the Money List, they’ll first have to make it through Stage II before competing in the eight-round gauntlet at Pinehurst known as Q-Series.
At the start of the week in Indy, Woods sat at No. 164 on the Tour’s Money List. Her finish moved her up to No. 149 with total earnings of $23,648.
That left Woods with one last opportunity to earn money for the year, at the final full-field event of the season in Texas. The Tour’s swing through Asia is limited to the top 80 on the Money List. But Woods wasn’t in the field in Texas. She was hoping a top-10 finish in Indy would get her into the field. After coming up short, Woods flew from Indianapolis to Dallas to again try and Monday qualify. She shot 74 to finish six strokes outside of qualifying.
But Woods has been through all this before. Whether she must return to Stage II or advances to Q-Series in late October, Woods will return to the LPGA Qualifying Tournament for the third time since joining the LPGA Tour in 2015. Expectations were undoubtably high for Woods, now in her fifth year on the LPGA Tour, as she shares a family tree with one of the greatest players to ever play the game of golf. Unlike her famous uncle who won 24 times in his first five seasons on Tour, Cheyenne Woods has just two top 10s. Her struggle has been learning how to improve, in order to keep pace with the ever-growing competition on Tour.
“This is my fifth year out here and I feel like I’ve plateaued a bit,” Woods explained. “I haven’t played up to my potential. I love it and I just want to play the best I can.”
In an effort to further improve, Woods added another coach to her team. She’s still working with her childhood instructor Michael LaBauve, who has taught Woods since she was 9 years old. This year, Woods also began working with Scott Hamilton, who is based in Atlanta. On his website, he lists more than two dozen students on the PGA and Korn Ferry Tours. He hasn’t worked with Woods on any major changes, just fine-tuning her game.
“Since Q-Series last year, I’m just looking at the game differently and picking apart my game and being honest with what I need to work on,” Woods said. “I’ve really been working on short game and putting. I’m a great ball striker and just mentally just getting comfortable with shooting low numbers and knowing that I’m capable of competing and being in contention.”
At No. 149 on the money list, Woods’ fate will be determined after the final putt drops on Sunday in Texas. Four players below Woods on the Money List are in the field: Suzuka Yamaguchi at No. 150, Celine Herbin at No. 152, Dori Carter at No. 158 and Brittany Marchand at No. 166. Regardless of who could bump Woods outside the top 150, she has every intention of continuing to pursue her dream of playing full-time on the LPGA Tour, whether that means returning to Stage II, Q-series, or both.
“I just want to get back on the right path and have a really great year next year,” Woods said with a smile.
Woods’ path back to the LPGA remains up in the air. For now, all she can do is sit and wait.