Category: Q school

September 24, 2013

Solheim Cup star Hull to skip Q-School

Posted at 5:16 PM by Pete Madden
Charley Hull
Credit: Richard Heathcote / Getty Images


Solheim Cup sensation Charley Hull cancelled plans to attend the second stage of LPGA Qualifying School and will instead rely on sponsor invitations to fill out her touring schedule.

“We applied for (Q-School) pre-Solheim Cup, never thinking the [sponsor] invitation route would get her enough starts,” Hull’s manager Joe McQuade wrote in an email to “Post-Solheim, we sat down and had a good think about things and decided that as Charley is so young, she wouldn’t want to be in the States and away from home for her entire schedule, and that her exposure through the Solheim will hopefully have given her sufficient publicity to attract the maximum six invitations. These, together with competitions such as the U.S. Open, etc., that she can qualify for, will give her a nice balance between USA and European events. Whilst I know Charley is drawn to the States, she still wants to give support to the European (t)our, which is where her professional career began.”

The 17-year-old Hull can earn her LPGA Tour card by winning a Tour event or finishing in the Top 40 on the money list by the end of the 2014 season.

In August, Hull helped Europe upset the U.S. at the Colorado Golf Club in Denver to keep the Solheim Cup, defeating established superstar Paula Creamer 5 and 4 in their singles match and then (now famously) asking for her autograph.

For more news that golfers everywhere are talking about, follow @si_golf on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube video channel.

November 29, 2012

Pros competing at Q school sound off on belly ban

Posted at 2:51 PM by


SI Golf+ Contributor Stephanie Wei polled several players competing at Q school to get their thoughts on the USGA's decision to ban the anchored putting stroke. Here are the results:

I'm in favor of the anchoring ban and the new rule the USGA proposed: 26 (63.4%)
I'm against the anchoring ban: 10 (24.3%)
I really don't care either way: 5 (12%)


Camilo Villegas: "I've used the belly before. I like it. I've been back to the short one, and there's a reason why. You don't make everything with the belly. If that was the case we would all be using bellies or anchoring putters. There's guys that like it, guys that dislike it. I have no opinion. To be honest, I don't know and I don't care enough."

Alex Noren: "If they want to use it, I think it's fine. I'm not using it, but at the same time, I mean, you've got to read the putts, you've got to hit it the right speed, and it's not just about the putter. It's like if I putt better with it, I would use it, but I don't think I do."

Franklin Corpening: "I was against the anchoring ban until this morning when I heard what Tiger was saying on ESPN, and he made some good points. I can't remember the exact wording, but he said something like, putting is an art and the stroke should be a swinging motion with your arms without anchoring the club to a fixed point. I agree with that even though I use a belly putter. When I got to the course this morning, I was like, 'Do people think I'm cheating?'"

Kris Blanks: "I think it's ridiculous. Unfortunately the governing bodies are going to do what they feel is best for the game. It's like a road; you might think the speed limit should be 65, but somebody is going to say it needs to be 45, and we just have to abide by those laws."

Morgan Hoffmann: "[Anchoring] is obviously some kind of an advantage because everybody is switching to it. I think it should be better for the game."

Ross Fisher: "I plainly think it's cheating. I don't think you should be able to anchor the club. Whether that's right or wrong, everyone has got their own opinions, but it kind of takes the feel out of the game.

"I think I remember listening to [Padraig] Harrington at the World Golf Grand Slam, and he said, 'If something doesn't happen, it's almost going to be like the long putter is going to be the putter of choice when kids are growing up.'"

Steve Flesch: "Being a benefactor of anchoring and winning three of my four events with a belly putter, you would think I would be against the change, but I don't really care if they change it. I'm kind of on both sides. I understand it. I'm not against it, I'm not for it. I don't really have an opinion because I understand both sides.

"I would vote probably against the ban, only because I have friends at home and I've seen them putt with a short putter, and they are miserable playing. Golf isn't as fun for them because they can't stroke a four-foot putt. The putter might as well be kryptonite in their hands.

"It will be hard to fight the nerves again for the pros who use the belly putter or long putter. There's a reason they're using those putters. I'm a case in point. I only go to it because I'm shaking like a leaf with the short putter. People don't just say, 'I'm going to putt like that.' There's a reason you're there."

Arjun Atwal: "I like it. I don't putt with a belly putter, and I think from what people have told me it's unfair. I can't putt with it anyways, so I don't know how it's unfair, but people think that anchoring is taking the nerves out of play when you putt.

"I suck when I try putting with the belly or long putter, Like, I really, really suck at it. People do have nerves, and it takes that out. If that happens then I don't think it's fair, so yeah, get rid of it."

Peter Tomasulo: "I'm for banning anchoring mostly because it's under the threat of becoming the norm with instructors pushing it on junior golfers especially."

Meen Whee Kim: "I liked what Tiger said about how the putter shouldn't be longer than the shortest club in your bag. Anchoring is not a common method of putting in Korea, so my coach had to explain the rule to me. I agree with the ban."

USGA, R&A to ban anchoring in 2016
BASTABLE: R.I.P. belly putter
VAN SICKLE: Rule change does more harm than good

Graphic: Understanding the new rule

September 19, 2012

Truth & Rumors: San Diego golfer shoots front nine 25

Posted at 10:21 AM by Mark Dee

Here's a quiz you'll never have to give yourself:

Q: What sticks faster in the mind?
        A) Shooting a 25 on the front nine
        B) Three-putting the 18th to miss out on a 59

Well, for one San Diego golfer, it's more than just a hypothetical question, because that's exactly what 20-year-old Todd Baek did on Sunday at Salt Creek Golf Club in Chula Vista, Calif.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Baek made three eagles, five birdies and one par en route to an 11-under-par 25 for his outward nine. But, after reaching the par-five 18th in two, he three-putted from 60 feet for par -- and a round of 60.

Baek, who played his college golf at San Diego State, still set the course record at the 6,829-yard track by two shots, and he will have plenty of momentum heading into Wednesday, when he'll play in a pre-qualifier for Q-School at PGA West.

But as for that question?

“I was more mad that I screwed up my chance to shoot 59,” Baek told the Union-Tribune.

And there you  have it. Golf: God's cure for contentment.

November 21, 2011

Truth & Rumors: LPGA rookie issues 'warning' to Yani

Posted at 1:09 PM by Mick Rouse

Yani Tseng was the main attraction heading into the Rolex Awards Reception where she picked up Player of the Year honors for the second straight year, as well as the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, but LPGA Rookie of the Year Hee Kyung Seo stole the show, according to the Golf Channel's Randall Mell.

“I’m here to issue a warning,” Seo said from the podium while turning to look at Tseng. “I’m ready to play golf at the highest level, and I want to be No. 1 in the future, so I issue this warning.”

Seo told Tseng she thought of her when looking at the caution message stamped to her car’s side-view mirror on the way to the awards reception.

“The sticker I think is meant for you,” Seo said. “It says `Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.’”

If 2011 was any indication, Seo’s analogy may very well be right on the mark—Yani may be closer to breaking Kathy Whitworth’s career victories record than it appears.

Tryon headed to Q-School finals

In 2001, Ty Tryon became one of the youngest players to earn a PGA Tour card at the age of 17. What followed included lucrative endorsement deals, raised expectations, and an overwhelming sense of pressure that Tyron couldn't live up to, reports Golfweek's Sean Martin.

Ty Tryon admits he was overwhelmed and unhappy when he earned his first PGA Tour card, at age 17. He felt like the fame that followed his record-setting achievement was forced upon him. He was no longer a kid playing a game. The prodigy had become a pitchman.

After posting a 1-under-par 71 during the second stage of Q-School, Tryon is optimistic that he can play well in the final stage and return to the PGA Tour.

“I feel lucky that I still ... have an opportunity to play on Tour and chase this game for a living,” said Tryon. “I feel really lucky, and I just want a little vindication."

“I feel like I’ve earned it. I feel like I’ve earned some of the lucky breaks just because I’ve kept on giving this a go."

This will be Tryon's second consecutive appearance in the Q-school finals -- he finished at the bottom of the leaderboard last year, missing an opportunity to regain PGA Tour status and instead walked away with conditional Nationwide Tour status. If the third time is a charm, this is certainly Tryon's best chance to redeem himself and rejoin the ranks he first took on as a teenager.

“It’s not the best story if you get out there early and you never get out there again. I’m really trying my best to turn that over into a new story. I have a chance now.”

Troubled soccer star finds success at golf tournament

Carlos Tevez may not be playing soccer right now, but the Argentinian striker is keeping himself busy out on the golf course, according to Soccernet. Tevez, who went AWOL on his Manchester City teammates and returned to Argentina without his club’s permission, won a Buenos Aires Grand Prix for professionals and amateurs, partnering with professional golfers Sebastian Fernandez and Andres Romero.

“He did not say anything about his problems with his club, but I was struck by the peace he had,” Fernandez said. “He plays golf very well.”

While his soccer career looks to be stalled until another club takes him off of Manchester City’s hands (a transfer to Milan has been rumored), at least Tevez has a solid backup plan.

Tweet of the Day


October 10, 2011

Truth & Rumors: Video shows Tiger hot dog incident

Posted at 12:51 PM by Mick Rouse

What a wiener!

Deadspin tracked down video of the fan who attempted to throw a hot dog at Tiger Woods as Woods lined up a birdie putt on CordeValle's seventh green on Sunday at the Open in St. Martin, Calif.

The man was arrested for disturbing the peace and quickly escorted from the golf course. As for Tiger? Frankly, he didn't give a damn, despite missing the putt.

"Some guy just came running on the green, and he had a hot dog, and evidently -- I don't know how he tried to throw it, but I was kind of focusing on my putt when he started yelling. Next thing I know he laid on the ground, and looked like he wanted to be arrested really because he laid on the ground, put his hands behind his back and turned his head."

For what it's worth, the National Hot Dog Council issued a statement, calling the incident "a violation of hot dog etiquette."

Woods sounds off on Na's "whiff"

Tiger Woods has officially joined the debate on Kevin Na’s whiff that wasn’t a whiff. While Na’s swing-and-miss on No. 15 at TPC Summerlin at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open has been deemed legal, Woods, who is no stranger to checking his swing, was skeptical of the ruling, according to Ryan Ballengee of NBC Sports.

“I thought it was okay if you could check swing and not pass the ball with the club, but not completely miss it on purpose,” Tiger said after asking Golf Channel’s Billy Ray Brown about the circumstances of the situation. “I think it should be the player’s responsibility to hold up their swing.”

Na, who has been upfront about his bizarre tendency, says that stopping is not an option for him.

“If Tiger is strong enough to stop his swing, good for him. I’m not, so I’m going to go over it. But I definitely think he looks cooler stopping halfway down.”

Na is entitled to continue on with the practice, whether Tiger likes it or not. According to Rule 14 under the Rules of Golf, “The player is considered to have checked his downswing voluntarily by altering the path of his downswing and missing the ball even though the swing carried the club head beyond the ball.”

Playing with the pros

Former Crimson Tide standout Bud Cauley has made a splash on Tour since turning pro at the U.S. Open in June and foregoing his senior season at Alabama. Unfortunately, playing partner and former world No. 1 Ernie Els wasn't paying much attention. Steve Elling of CBS Sports has more:

In the early stages of the third round, former world No. 1 Ernie Els turned to playing partner Bud Cauley and tried to make casual conversation.

"So, Bud," Els said, "when do you plan to turn pro."

Being a respectful kid of 21 years, Cauley politely told Els that he had turned pro at the U.S. Open in June, after leaving the golf program at Alabama a year early.

"I think by the back nine he knew I was a professional," Cauley cracked Sunday.

Elling notes that Cauley nabbed $340,000 for third-place finish at CordeValle and he is almost certain to be only the sixth player since 1980 to earn a full exemption out of college while skipping Q-school.

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December 05, 2010

Day 5 Q-school ruminations: Five ways of looking at a Q-schooler

Posted at 9:34 PM by Farrell Evans

I was at day 5 of Q-school on Sunday (Story | Scores) at Orange County National to catch some of the action and talk to a variety of players about their experiences and approach to the tournament. One is trying to do something that hasn't been done in 25 years. One is a proven PGA Tour winner with millions in the bank. One is fulfilling a childhood dream after showing great promise as an amateur. One doesn't want to be here and is playing uninspired golf. One is a journeyman who keeps coming back year after year.  Here are a few of the stories I've heard.

Joseph Bramlett could become the first African-American player to earn his PGA Tour card through Q-school since Adrian Stills did it in 1985. At seven under, Bramlett, 22, is two shots outside the projected number for the top 25. On Sunday he shot a one-over 73 on a very windy and tough Panther Lake course. "Seventy-three is about as good as I could have played today," Bramlett said. "On my back nine I hit only three greens and shot one under."

I asked him how he was handling all the attention around his possible history-making achievement. "It's about time, and a shame that it hasn't happened sooner," he said, "but at the end of the day we're all out here to play golf and put a good number up. And that's what I plan to do on Monday."

When Billy Mayfair was last at Q-school, in 1989, players could take carts and 50 PGA Tour cards were handed out at the end of the tournament. "Back then there was no Nationwide Tour," said the five-time PGA Tour winner, who finished 143rd on the money list in 2010. " If you didn't get your card, you had to go to Asia, South Africa or play on the Hooters Tour."

Going into the last day, Mayfair is tied for the lead at 16 under with Ben Martin. I asked him how this pressure measured up against being in contention at a PGA Tour event. "It's a different type of pressure," he said. "But golf is golf. I've been driving the ball well, and my ballstriking is good."

It also helps that he has  $18.6 million in career earnings.

After enduring a 2-and-1 defeat to Colt Knost in the 2007 U.S. Amateur and a couple of seasons on the Hooters Tour, Michael Thompson, 25, is just glad to be at the finals. At nine under going into the final day, he is inside the top 25. Staying there will earn him his 2011 Tour card. "Unlike a lot of these players I'm actually happy to be at Q-school," Thompson said, "because it's a step up from where I've been playing the last few years. I know that no matter what happens on Monday, I will be playing at the next level."

Thompson says he wasn't ready to be a tour player when he turned pro in 2008. "It was a reality check," says Thompson. "As an amateur I had built up a little confidence that I should be able to compete with these guys, and then I had a letdown. But I wasn't just going to give up."

Instead of getting down on himself, he got motivated to work harder on his game. In 2010 he was the Hooters Tour player of the year after racking up six top-10 finishes, four top-5s and his first Hooters Tour win. 

Proven PGA Tour players, especially guys who have won out there, bring a little edge to Q-school. Having to go through the PGA Tour's version of Survival hurts their pride. I got that feeling as I talked to the easy-going and amiable Johnson Wagner, who finished 126th on the money list this year, one spot out of the all-exempt 125. That gives him conditional status, ensuring him probably 25 events next year. The 30-year-old former Virginia Tech star got his lone PGA Tour win at the '08 Shell Houston Open. Wagner shot 66 on Sunday, but he's even par for the tournament and would have to go really low on Monday to have a chance of getting into the top 25. Wagner conceded that having a place to play next year has hurt his focus this week.  "I had no adrenaline," he told me. "I didn't get nervous one time. That's why I'm playing bad. I had an opportunity here and I screwed up. But I have a new caddie and I'm going to tear it up next year."

At the 1991 Macon (Ga.) Open, a now-defunct Nationwide Tour event, I caddied for Geoffrey Sisk, who is playing this week. (I famously dropped his bag during another player's downswing.) When I caddied for him, he was a young player out of Temple in his first year on the new Ben Hogan Tour. Now he is a 45-year-old journeyman who has managed to eke out a living over the last 20 years playing mostly on the Nationwide Tour, helped by his banker wife who is the main breadwinner for the family. Sisk finished 50th on the Nationwide tour money list this season, so he's fully exempt on that tour for next year. He came to Q-school with hopes of getting back on the regular tour, but he felt overwhelmed by Orange County National's Crooked Cat (7,493) and Panther Lake (7,223) courses. "The courses are just too long for me," Sisk says. "When you're hitting hybrids into greens and some of the younger guys are hitting 7-irons into the same greens, it's tough to compete." He shot a three-under 69 on the Crooked Cat course on Sunday, but two opening 75s all but ended his chances of getting into the top 25.

December 01, 2010

Truth & Rumors: ESPN seeks perfection, finds Tiger

Posted at 12:30 PM by Steve Beslow

Tiger on Perfection
ESPN the Magazine just released its "Perfect Issue" and asked some of the best in the world to define perfection. Tiger Woods gave his take to Gene Wojciechowski:

But I think in golf you can attain a special excellence, for sure. What I love about golf -- what I think we all love about it -- is the challenge. The game is not a game of perfection, it's a game of misses. I guess you could say it's a perfect game played by imperfect people. But that's the beauty and the art of playing this game.

Surprisingly, I found Tiger's essay to be a great read. I think it's the way he describes his "perfect shot."

I don't know if I've ever hit a perfect shot, but probably the most solid shot I've hit was during the second round of the PGA Championship at Hazeltine in 2002. I hit a 3-iron out of the left side of the left bunker on 18. My heels were dug in against the lip and I had to get the ball up over the lip, over the trees, hook it and, on top of that, you had a pretty stiff left-to-right wind. Luckily, it ended up on the green.

It's amazing to me that Tiger can't think of a single shot in his career that he thinks of as "perfect," since it seems like barely a round of his went by in the past decade without a commentator (correctly) describing one of his shots that way. Still, one has to wonder at the advisability of connecting their "perfect" brand with one of 2010's most imperfect athletes. But, as Tiger himself says, ", we're inherently flawed. We're all human."

Back to School
PGA Tour Q-School gets under way this week, and the ever-resourceful Stephanie Wei of is on the scene kicking the tires on one of my favorite events.

Just a few miles down the road from the site of this week’s PGA Tour Q-School, Orange County National, there’s one of the many massive welcome signs to the Walt Disney World Resort emblazoned with the slogan “Where Dreams Come True.” For the 166 (minus the dozen or so PGA Tour veterans) relative unknowns, faceless mini tour players or just-turned pros within six rounds of achieving a lifetime’s goal, it’s a preface to the week less sappy and overwrought than it is deadly serious.

We hear similar storylines every year, but what’s the atmosphere like the day before it starts? Surprisingly, rather relaxed in a zoo-like way. Call it the calm before the storm. And how about the mentality of the players? Cool and collected, for now.

Wei has some great quotes from a few Q-School vets giving it another go, but Scott Piercy (136th on the money list) steals the show with his somewhat...cavalier attitude.

Asked about his mentality, Piercy replied half-jokingly, “To finish the tournament. It’s six days, it’s such a marathon. By Friday, you’re like this is such BS.

“It’s definitely a different mentality than when I came here with no status than now when I don’t care. I don’t know if it gets easier. Generally speaking, the cream rises to the top and hopefully you call me the cream this week. I’m the one who’s been on Tour. It’s kind of like, these (other) guys have to catch up to me sort of thing. I had a terrible year and I’m still on Tour.

“When you first turn pro, you’re just happy to be here. I don’t really care. If I play good, then great. If I don’t, then I don’t care. I’m kind of over golf (right now). It’s been a rough year.

“Everybody is out here grinding and I’m like, f@&#, I just want to go home.”

Who doesn't love a golfer who actually tells it like it is? Other than his agent, of course.

LPGA Changes Gender Rules
There have been rumors swirling for the last few weeks that the LPGA has been looking into changing its so-called "female at birth" clause, in response to a pending lawsuit from transgendered golfer Lana Lawless. According to The Golf Channel's Randall Mell, while the details are still being worked out, the change became official on Tuesday.

The LPGA voted a monumental change to its constitutional bylaws Tuesday that will no longer require its members to be “female at birth.”

The move to amend the bylaws to allow transgender membership was easily passed in a vote in a players meeting at the Grand Cypress Hyatt just down the road from the site of this week’s LPGA Tour Championship...

Michelle Ellis, the LPGA president, confirmed that commissioner Mike Whan and the LPGA Board of Player Directors recommended the change to the bylaws. The change was a direct response to a lawsuit filed on Oct. 12 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco...

Lana Lawless, a 57-year-old retired police officer who had gender-reassignment surgery five years ago, filed the suit, alleging her civil rights were violated when the LPGA “rejected” her application for tour membership. Lawless also filed suit against the Long Drivers of America, alleging that organization adopted the LPGA’s “female at birth” rule to exclude her participation. Lawless won the women’s world long drive championship in 2008 but was ruled ineligible to participate this year. She once played to a 1-handicap as an amateur.

What's present in this story isn't nearly as conspicuous as what's absent. You're not going to find any grand statements about civil liberties or fairness and equality. Make no mistake about it, the LPGA was strong-armed into this change, and they're not hiding it.

“Mike explained the situation, and players understood what had to be done,” Ellis said. “There isn’t a lot more we can say about it right now. We’re trying to handle this the best we can.”

In the end the LPGA will be better off for this decision, as it brings them in line with the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Golf Association, the Ladies European Tour and the British Ladies Golf Union, all of which have already made similar changes. It's just a pity that it took a lawsuit to get to this point, since that's just another obstacle that Lawless will have to deal with if she makes it onto the Tour.

Poulter Pokes Sleeping Tiger
Some may find Twitter-addict Ian Poulter annoying, but at least give Poulter credit for one thing--he's fearless:

@WestwoodLee Tiger called across the putting green today & said don't you know know how to mark ur ball, I said settle down No 2

Although, if he were really brave, he would have sent that to @TigerWoods.

A Fond Farewell
Leslie Nielsen built a great career on straight-man looks and impeccable comic timing. Here's Nielsen doing what he did best--making a complete fool of himself for our amusement. Good night, funnyman.

November 22, 2009

Shaun Micheel, Jason Gore among players advancing to PGA Tour Q-school finals

Posted at 12:36 AM by Ryan Reiterman

Former PGA champion Shaun Micheel was among the notable players advancing to the finals at Q school, Dec. 2-7 at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. Over the past four days, six different sites across the country hosted the second stage of qualifying. Here's a list of the medalists from each site, and the notable names who are moving on and going home.

Brooksville, Fla.

Medalist: Jay Williamson

Notable Name Moving On: Arjun Atwal

Notable Names Who Failed to Advance: Joe Durant, Dean Wilson, Eric Axley, Ty Tryon, Frank Lickliter, Erik Compton, Jay Haas Jr., Robert Gamez

Panama City Beach, Fla.

Medalist: Garrett Osborn

Notable Names Moving On: Casey Wittenberg, Shaun Micheel, Skip Kendall

Notable Names Who Failed to Advance: Guy Boros, Jarrod Lyle, Peter Lonard

Pine Mountain, Ga.

Medalist: Kevin Kisner

Notable Names Moving On: Ken Duke, Carlos Franco, Robert Damron

Notable Names Who Failed to Advance: Len Mattiace, Drew Weaver, Mike Van Sickle

Kingwood, Texas

Medalist: Emmett Turner

Notable Names Moving On: Glen Day, J.P. Hayes

Notable Name Who Failed to Advance: Jamie Lovemark

McKinney, Texas

Medalist: Martin Flores

Notable Names Moving On: Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey, Paul Stankowski, Colt Knost

Beaumont, Calif.

Medalists: Jeff Brehaut, Brendan Steele

Notable Names Moving On: Mark Hensby, Jason Gore, Jonathan Kaye

Notable Names Who Failed to Advance: Bob May, Kirk Triplett

November 06, 2009

Rickie Fowler needs good finish at Disney to skip Q school

Posted at 8:59 AM by Jessica Marksbury

Rickie-fowler-frys4_600 Tour phenom Rickie Fowler already skipped his last two years of college at Oklahoma State — maybe he can skip Q school, too.

Fowler's first two Tour outings since turning pro this fall earned him $553,700. Not bad for a couple of weeks, but that tally is currently 10 spots and about $70,000 shy of the coveted top 125 on the money list, who are exempt from Q school for the 2010 season. The Viking Classic rainout hurt Fowler's earning potential, leaving him only one more event, next week's Children's Miracle Network Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to make up the difference.

"You know, I'm in a great spot right now," Fowler said. "Getting in the [Children's Miracle Network Classic], having a chance to get my card that way, if not, go to [the] final stage [of Q school]. I'd definitely take the win because it gives me status, and you'd be a past champion. But I'm happy with where I'm at right now as well."

The 20-year-old from Murrieta, Calif., wouldn't be thinking about Q school if he had won the Open in Scottsdale in October. Fowler posted rounds of 65-64-69-64 to finish in a three-way playoff, which he lost to Troy Matteson on the second playoff hole. Fowler was undaunted about coming up short in the playoff.

"Troy hit a great shot into 17, the second playoff hole, to a foot and a half, so it was out of my hands," Fowler said. "I couldn't do anything about it."

With a purse of $4.7 million up for grabs at Disney, Fowler will likely have to finish in the top 15 to have any hope of skipping Q school and cruising onto the Tour next year. Doing so would put him in rarefied air: the short list of guys who made it to the Tour without having to go through Q school includes Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard and Tiger Woods — enviable company, indeed.

Photo: Fowler at the Open (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

September 19, 2009

Moving on in Q-school

Posted at 7:48 PM by Gary Van Sickle

LINCOLN, Neb.--It was one small step for a man, one baby step closer to the PGA Tour.

Team Van Sickle (Mike, the player; me, the caddie dad) survived and thrived in the preliminary stage of the PGA Tour's qualifying school tournament here. Mike played superbly, posting his second 6-under-par 64 of the week in Saturday's final round. He finished 72 holes at 269, 11 under par, and rallied to win the event by one shot.

The bad news is, winning didn't technically matter. It was a pass-fail event. The top 43 players and ties in the 84-man field advance to the next round, still officially known as the first stage (even though it's actually the second). There are two more stages to survive to make it to the PGA Tour. So we're on to the next round. The tour will tell us which site Mike will be sent to -- probably Pinewild in the Pinehurst area -- next month. After that, we're obligated to send them another check for $2,800 as the entry fee (on top of the $2,500 we're already out for this stage). Hey, if you want to make an omelette, you've got to break some money-market CDs.

This is Mike's career path. He graduated from Marquette University in May, was a first team Division I All-American, won the Byron Nelson Award, led the NCAA in scoring average and birdies per round and finished his college tour with 11 tournament victories. He played in two PGA Tour events over the summer, narrowly missing the cut, and a Nationwide Tour event, where he missed by one.

Mike began the final round of the prelim five shots back. We didn't find out he finished first until after we returned to the Cornhusker, a sweet downtown Marriott hotel, just in time to hear a big groan from the ballroom, where a big party crowd of Husker fans were stunned to see Virginia Tech score in the final 30 seconds and defeat Nebraska. There was only one guy posting scores on the board at Yankee Hill, a pretty good semi-private course that hosted the tournament, and it took a good 30 minutes before he finally put Mike's linescore up. We left after that, not waiting for the final two threesomes. Betsy, his mother, looked up the scores online back in the hotel room and discovered that the leaders kind of tanked and Mike finished first by one stroke.

It was a pretty easy 64, just like his one in the second round. After a monster drive on the opening hole, he hit a 9-iron approach to the par-5 green. It spun back and, according to a greenside observer, danced right over the lip of the cup and just missed being a double eagle. It rolled back to the front fringe, where Mike two-putted from 12 feet for birdie. He rolled in a 15-footer for birdie at the second hole after a nice wedge shot. At No. 4, a long-and-mean par 4 whose green was guarded by water and whose pin was all the way back, Mike dropped a 6-iron shot that spun left to five feet for another birdie.

He made the turn at four under par and added another birdie at the par-5 10th when his eagle chip from just left of the green stopped inches away. The one glitch of the day came at No. 12, a long par 3 where the pin was tucked back left. Mike's grip slipped on his forward swing and apparently he had too much club, anyway. He pulled it left and it landed up on a hill, behind a bunker guarding the back of the green. Since the green sloped away from him, he was pretty much in jail. An attempt to skip a chip shot through the bunker didn't get on the green, then he chipped on and missed the putt. It was an annoying double bogey.

He bounced back with a wedge shot to six inches for a tap-in birdie at the next, chipped to two feet for a kick-in birdie at the par-5 14th. He missed good birdie chances at 15 and 17 and decided to go for the green at the 382-yard 18th hole. It's a par 4 that bends to the left. Mike cut the corner with a big drive that caught the cart path and took a huge bounce. We found it in the back fringe and he chipped to two feet for a final birdie. Yeah, a 64 with a double bogey is a good day.

Onward and upward. One step closer.

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