Mills hopeful his game up to par

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

You would have to have been buried under a pile of multi-coloured leaves to not know that it has been a bountiful fall for Canadian golf.

Mike Weir and Stephen Ames both recorded PGA Tour wins. Weir beat Tiger Woods in Presidents Cup singles and there was a happy ending to the Canadian Open sponsorship issue.

"There's even still a lot of Canadians hanging around in Q-school. It would be great to see some more guys continue playing well in the fall and get out on the Tour, or worst case, the Nationwide," said Belleville's Jon Mills, who contributed to the Canadian fall harvest by earning his second shot at the PGA Tour.

Like Weir and Ames, Mills seemed headed for a winless season, but he started humming along nicely on the Nationwide Tour in late August and early September when he recorded four consecutive top-20 finishes and sat on the bubble for the top 25 on the money list who earn their PGA Tour cards.

WASN'T HAPPY

The omens were there at that point, but Mills wasn't entirely happy.

"I wasn't moving. I wasn't improving. I was barely staying in the top 25,'' said Mills, who blew out that frustration quickly with a win at the Albertsons Boise Open, where he finished eagle-par-birdie for a final-round 64.

His second Nationwide Tour win in three years rocketed Mills into fifth place on the money list and secured his place on the PGA Tour next year.

"It was nice to have that week and finally make the jump,'' said Mills.

"It was probably one of the strongest fields of the year which, obviously, is big playing against all the top players, especially on a course where I've never even made the cut."

The win and his ascension up the money list didn't mean mission accomplished for Mills, who finished fifth on the money list two years earlier when he earned his first shot at the PGA Tour.

That finish also earned him entry into several early-season events in 2006, a rare treat for a newcomer.

Hoping to get the same treatment in 2008, Mills kept playing after this year's win in an effort to maintain or improve his position on the money list. He got a mixed bag, with three top-10 finishes, a missed cut and a tie for 44th at the Nationwide Tour Championship a week ago, leaving him fourth on the money list.

"I'm happy with it," said Mills. "It would have been nice to play a little better at the Tour Championship. It was just a long year. It was kind of draining. That was my fifth week in a row and it was just a relief to be done."

Mills won't get too long of a break. He's planning to start his season at the Sony Open in Hawaii in early January after spending time before and after Christmas in Phoenix working on his game. He also plans to keep his game sharp with frequent visits to his alma mater at Kent State, which has an indoor facility.

He isn't sure what to expect as far as entry into early season tournaments, but feels he will get his fair share.

"I don't want to really worry about that too much because I feel like I'm going to get enough starts anyway," he said.

In his first year on tour, Mills played seven events by the end of February and missed the cut in five, causing self-induced pressure to set in as he started to worry about keeping his card.

In his second go-round, Mills will concentrate on trusting a game he reports is firing on all cylinders.

"Everything feels pretty good,'' he said. "I feel like it's a lot steadier. When I do have a couple of problems here or there, it's not as drastic as it has been the last couple of years.''

If he can put that game on auto pilot, and not worry about what's ahead, the long-range forecast for spring and summer may be as pleasant as the fall.


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