Mills feeling the heat

IAN HUTCHINSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

Jon Mills put a twist on an old cliche when he said on Friday that it was the heat not the humidity that was dominating the weather in Las Vegas, where he had just missed the cut at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

They were going low at TPC Summerlin, where the cut came in at a record six-under on a day when co-leaders Matt Kuchar and Mark Turnesa couldn't establish any distance between themselves and the rest of the pack despite their 18-under scores after 36 holes.

Mills was unable to jump in on this birdie barrage as he recorded 71-73 to leave his next hope for a big payday at this week's Fry's.com Open at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"It's one of those things where I wasn't hitting the ball close enough to the hole. For the most part, I'm hitting the ball fairly solid and under control. I just never really got it close enough," Mills said.

"You see some of those scores on the leaderboard -- I know it's out there. I know I can do it," he said, adding that his inability to finish things off has been a common theme lately.

"For the past few weeks, I haven't scored very well. I feel like I'm playing maximum golf right now. I'm doing every-thing fairly decent. I'm just not getting anything out of my game right now," Mills said.

"I need to make some more putts and hit shots when I need to. I feel like, the last three weeks, putting has been fairly solid. I'm just hitting a lot of good putts and they're not going in or I hit good putts and misread them. It's just things like that."

Those inches and feet that he misses by could start to feel like miles for Mills, who needs to get his game to the same level as the mercury in a thermometer on a hot day in the desert to avoid the chilly prospect of qualifying school.

The missed cut in Vegas was his fifth in a row and time is running out with only three tournaments left to make it into the top 125 players on the money list who keep their full-time PGA Tour cards. Mills was 146th going into the Vegas event.

So, the heat on Mills in the Sonoron Desert will not be so much about temperature or humidity, but more to do with the situation he finds himself in during his second whirl on tour.

"I'm in a position right now where I'm probably going to need $300,000 to keep my card," said Mills, who has made $489,510 in 29 tournaments thus far this year.

It isn't an enviable position, to say the least, but it is doable these days on tour, where a couple of high finishes can turn a season around. Mills is aware of that after Nationwide Tour wins at the 2007 Albertsons Boise Open and 2005 Canadian PGA Championship helped propel him to the PGA Tour.

Mills will meet with his coach Dave Woods this week in Scottsdale, but there are no plans to make any big changes to his game.

"We're just going to go over my game and see what needs to be looked at and go from there," said Mills, who admits that the major challenge is more cerebral than physical.

In his first year on tour in 2006, Mills got caught up in the urgency of making cuts and found himself forcing the issue instead of playing his normal game.

He wound up missing the cut in 21 of 27 tournaments that year to finish 227th on the money list and found himself back on the Nationwide Tour last season.

This year, things have got much better with Mills making 16 cuts so far, including four top-25 finishes, but it still may not be enough unless he finishes the season strongly.

As much as he needs to play with urgency this week in Scottsdale, Mills needs to find a balance to avoid falling into that bad habit of putting too much pressure on himself.

"It's getting in the right mind frame, getting that confidence a little higher and just having fun out there," he said. "Sometimes, I feel like I even over-try."

THE SHORT GAME

Mike Weir returns to the Frys.com as defending champion after jousting with Mark Hensby in the late stages of last year's event to win by one shot. That was Weir's first win since early 2004 and tied him with the late George Knudson for most wins by a Canadian, each with eight.


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