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Goggin among local pro golfers hitting strides

Mathew Goggin has won twice on the Nationwide Tour. Johnson Wagner won in Mexico. Robert Karlsson and Webb Simpson lost in playoffs.

Brendon de Jonge is having another solid season on the PGA Tour and Corey Nagy has won twice on the eGolf Professional Tour.

It's not yet the Fourth of July and it's already been a big year for Charlotte's pro golfers.

Goggin is taking a well-deserved break from the Nationwide Tour for a couple of weeks, spending time with his family and savoring the satisfaction of having rescued his golf career from the land of missed cuts and lost opportunities.

Ranked among the top 50 players in the world at one time, Goggin's career went into free fall in 2010, costing him his PGA Tour playing privileges and sending him back to the Nationwide Tour this year, professional golf's version of off-Broadway work.

The career damage done, Goggin discovered late last year that his problems were the result of clubs that were too long for him, creating a variety of swing problems. Once the issue was identified and corrected - Goggin returned to TaylorMade this year - it felt like old times.

He has won twice on the Nationwide Tour this year and leads the tour money list with more than $300,000 in earnings, essentially guaranteeing him a spot on the PGA Tour in 2012 - or sooner if he can win a third Nationwide event this year and earn what is called a battlefield promotion given to any three-time winner.

"It's great to play well," said Goggin, an Australian who moved to Charlotte three years ago. "To win tournaments is a bonus after not winning for a long time. It sort of makes last year a distant memory."

Goggin, you may recall, was in the Sunday mix at the 2009 British Open championship, the one in which Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson in a playoff. Goggin played with Watson in the final round and had his own chance to win until late in the final round.

A year later, Goggin was lost in a blur of missed greens and bad vibes. He was forced back to qualifying school, didn't earn a spot on the big tour and wound up on the Nationwide Tour. It was around Q-school, though, when Goggin sorted out his equipment issues. Rather than approach 2011 with negative thoughts, he was optimistic.

"After I got it figured out after Q school, I was like, great, it's not me. I felt excited again," Goggin said.

"I felt like I could go out and win three times and get back on tour. If I hadn't found out (the clubs were too long) and I just came back without that sort of epiphany, it would be a different year."

When Goggin won in Panama earlier in the year, he was helped by the late collapse of other players, including Erik Compton. Goggin played well but the tournament had fallen to him rather than been taken by him.

"I didn't feel like I did a lot," Goggin said.

The victory at the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open last Sunday validated his first victory because Goggin was at or near the top of the leader board throughout the event.

"I led Saturday night and slept on the lead. It's nice to do that and get away with the win," Goggin said.

Meanwhile, Simpson sits 14th in FedEx Cup points and with two second-place finishes already, he's won as much in half a season ($2.1 million) as he did in his previous two years combined. He lost the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in a playoff and had a chance to win the Transitions Championship.

"One thing I've learned being in contention a couple of times is experience is everything. I feel a little more comfortable every time I get in contention or every time I have to make a birdie to make the cut," Simpson said.

"Last year I thought I was a better player and I wasn't getting the results. This year it's been good to see it come to fruition."

Wagner, who had conditional status on tour after finishing 126th on the money list last year, made his year early when he won the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico, making him exempt through 2013.

de Jonge's season hasn't been spectacular, but over the past 18 months he's established himself as a steady performer who sneaks into contention several times a season.

Karlsson, meanwhile, has settled into Charlotte after moving his family from Monaco last summer. He's off to the European Tour for a few weeks now but a tie for fifth at Colonial and a playoff loss in Memphis earlier this month convinced him he made the right move in becoming a member of the PGA Tour this year.

"I'm happy in general," Karlsson said. "There's been a bit of feeling my way through which events I like and which I don't ... but I do like it.

"We're extremely happy (in Charlotte). It's a big, big move up in quality of life for all of us."

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