The Scariest Q-School Ever
Inevitably the talk got around to the 2000 Q-School at PGA West, probably the most bizarre of its kind in recent (or any) memory.
Three names immediately dominated the conversation and not one of them was Australian Stephen Allan, the so-called Baby-Faced Assassin who won medalist honors in the 108-hole crucible. Nor was one of them Tim ONeal who, with two holes to play on the final day needed two bogeys to get his card. ONeal finished bogey, triple bogey.
The famously infamous three: Joe Daley, David Gossett and Cliff Kresge.
Only Kresge, of the three, would survive that Q-School and earn his playing privileges on the PGA TOUR for 2001. Daley would miss by one stinking shot. Gossett would fade into obscurity but not before doing something that almost certainly will never be duplicated.
It was still early days when Kresge, grinding like a Harvard law school student during final exams, began walking backward, in a crouch, while reading a putt. Before Kresge, or anybody else knew what had happened, Kresge had toppled off the railroad ties and into a Pete Dye water hazard. Total submersion.
Fortunately for Kresge the water wasnt deep. But he was soaked. It made Woody Austins Aquaman performance at this years Presidents Cup look tame by comparison.
Also, fortunately for Kresge, there was a TOUR official in a cart nearby. Kresge threw him the keys to his car and told him where he could find his vehicle. The instructions: Get my rain pants and a dry pair of shoes out of my trunk.
Kresges playing partners had already teed off on the next hole when the official arrived with the goods. Kresge hastily teed off before being DQd. Amazingly, he birdied the hole. Pretty soon the desert sun dried out the part of him that was still wet. And by Monday he had splashed his way to a ticket to the PGA TOUR in 2001.
Update: Kresge finished 113th on the money list in 2007 and will be back out in the Big Show for 2008.
Daley wasnt so lucky. On Saturday that week he was easing along at 16-under par and near the top of the leader board. On his 17th hole of the day, a 158-yard par 3, he pulled a 7-iron into the water and played his third shot to 18 feet.
His first putt slid four feet by, leaving him with a 4-footer for double. The putt dropped into the hole, hit the top edge of a defective cup liner and bounced out.
Damndest thing Ive ever seen, he would later say.
One cynic in the press room predicted, on the spot, that Daley would miss getting his card by a shot.
After six rounds 417 was the number. Daley finished with 418.
He hasnt been heard or seen on any of golfs big stages since.
All Gossett, a former U.S. Amateur champion and one-time winner on the PGA TOUR, did was fire a Saturday 59 that included his first ever hole-in-one and 11 birdies on the Nicklaus Private course at PGA West. It moved him from 129th to 25th with two rounds to go.
After the 59 his agent ordered him not to talk to reporters. Then he changed his mind. For his part, Gossett never appeared certain of anything those final two days. Not one of his other five rounds was better than 70. He failed to get his card.
Today, David Gossett has no status on the PGA TOUR. He made one cut in seven tries on the Nationwide Tour this year and missed the cut both times in two starts on the PGA TOUR.
Anyway, pretty soon the conversation at the rib shack moved on. Golf people dont like to dwell on haunting stories.
There will almost certainly be more sad tales this week out at Orange County National where Q-School is underway and wraps up Monday.
But the 166 guys fighting for 25 spots will have to go a long way to top the Q-School train wrecks of 2000.
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First Look: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play groups
It's officially match play time.
The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play kicks off this week in Austin, where 64 of the top players will square off in a combination of round robin play and single elimination. The top 16 players in the field will serve as top seeds in each of the 16 groups this week, while their round-robin opponents were drawn randomly from three different pods Monday night.
Here's a look at the four-player groups that will begin play Wednesday, with the winner from each of the 16 groups advancing to knockout play beginning Friday:
Group 1: (1) Dustin Johnson, (32) Kevin Kisner, (38) Adam Hadwin, (52) Bernd Wiesberger
Johnson never trailed en route to victory last year, and he'll start with a match against the Austrian. Kisner has missed three of his last four cuts, while Hadwin enters off three straight top-12 finishes.
Group 3: (3) Jon Rahm, (28) Kiradech Aphibarnrat, (43) Chez Reavie, (63) Keegan Bradley
Rahm will start with a match against a former major winner in Bradley, while a match against fellow Arizona State alum Reavie looms the following day. Rounding out the group is Aphibarnrat, who won in Brunei two weeks ago.
Group 9: (9) Tommy Fleetwood, (26) Daniel Berger, (33) Kevin Chappell, (58) Ian Poulter
This group kicks off with an all-English battle between Fleetwood and Poulter, while Berger and Chappell were both members of the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team in the fall.
Randall's Rant: Hey, loudmouth, you're not funny
Dear misguided soul:
You know who you are.
You’re “that guy.”
You’re that guy following around Rory McIloy and yelling “Erica” at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
There was something creepy in the nature of your bid to get in McIlroy’s head, in the way you hid in the shadows all day. Bringing a guy’s wife into the fray that way, it’s as funny as heavy breathing on the other end of a phone call.
You’re that guy telling Justin Thomas you hope he hits it in the water at the Honda Classic.
There are a million folks invested in seeing if Thomas can muster all the skills he has honed devoting himself to being the best in the world, and you’re wanting to dictate the tournament’s outcome. Yeah, that’s what we all came out to see, if the angry guy living in his mother’s basement can make a difference in the world. Can’t-miss TV.
You’re that guy who is still screaming “Mashed Potatoes” at the crack of a tee shot or “Get in the Hole” with the stroke of a putt.
Amusing to you, maybe, but as funny as a fart in an elevator to the rest of us.
As a growing fraternity of golf fans, you “guys” need a shirt. It could say, “I’m that guy” on one side and “Phi Kappa Baba Booey” on the other.
I know, from outside of golf, this sounds like a stodgy old geezer screaming “Get off my lawn.” That’s not right, though. It’s more like “Stop puking on my lawn.”
Because McIlroy is right, in the growing number of incidents players seem to be dealing with now, it’s probably the liquor talking.
The Phoenix Open is golf’s drunken uncle, but he isn’t just visiting on the holiday now. He’s moving in.
What’s a sport to do?
McIlroy suggested limiting liquor sales at tournaments, restricting alcohol consumption to beer.
I don’t know, when the beer’s talking, it sounds a lot like the liquor talking to me, just a different dialect.
From the outside, this push-back from players makes them sound like spoiled country club kids who can’t handle the rough-and-tumble playgrounds outside their prim little bailiwick. This isn’t really about social traditions, though. It’s about competition.
It’s been said here before, and it’s worth repeating, golf isn’t like baseball, basketball or football. Screaming in a player’s backswing isn’t like screaming at a pitcher, free-throw shooter or field-goal kicker. A singular comment breaking the silence in golf is more like a football fan sneaking onto the sidelines and tripping a receiver racing toward the end zone.
Imagine the outrage if that happened in an NFL game.
So, really, what is golf to do?
Equip marshals with tasers? Muzzle folks leaving the beer tent? Prohibit alcohol sales at tournaments?
While the first proposition would make for good TV, it probably wouldn’t be good for growing the sport.
So, it’s a tough question, but golf’s governing bodies should know by now that drunken fans can’t read those “Quiet Please!” signs that marshals wave. There will have to be better enforcement (short of tasers and muzzles).
There’s another thing about all of this, too. Tiger Woods is bringing such a broader fan base to the game again, with his resurgence. Some of today’s younger players, they didn’t experience all that came with his ascendance his first time around. Or they didn’t get the full dose of Tigermania when they were coming up.
This is no knock on Tigermania. It’s great for the game, but there are challenges bringing new fans into the sport and keeping them in the sport.
So if you’re “that guy,” welcome to our lawn, just don’t leave your lunch on it, please.
How Faxon became 'The Putting Stroke Whisperer'
AUSTIN, Texas – During a charity event a few years ago Brad Faxon was asked what he’s thinking about when he putts. A hush fell across the green as everyone within earshot eagerly awaited the answer.
Imagine having the chance to quiz Leonardo da Vinci about the creative process, or Ben Hogan on the finer points of ball-striking. Arguably the best putter of his generation, if anyone could crack the complicated code of speed, line and pace, it would be Faxon.
Faxon mulled the question for a moment, shrugged and finally said, “Rhythm and tempo.”
If Faxon’s take seems a tad underwhelming, and it did that day to everyone in his group, the genius of his simplicity was on display last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Before arriving at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy ranked 124th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting, losing .1 strokes per round to the field. In fact, he’d missed the cut a week earlier at the Valspar Championship when he needed 58 putts for two days and made just a single attempt over 10 feet.
It’s one of those competitive ironies that having the weekend off turned out to be just what McIlroy needed. He went home to South Florida to work on his game and ran across Faxon at The Bear’s Club.
Although Faxon’s take on the art of putting was probably more involved than it had been a few years earlier, he seemed to have touched on all the right points.
“Freed up my head more than my stroke,” McIlroy explained. “I sort of felt like maybe complicating things a bit and thinking a little bit too much about it and maybe a little bogged down by technical or mechanical thoughts.”
Earlier in the week McIlroy had a slightly different take on his putting turnaround at Bay Hill, where he led the field in strokes gained: putting, picking up 10 shots for the week, and rolled in 49 feet of putts over his last five holes to end a victory drought that had stretched back to the 2016 Tour Championship.
“Just playing around with it. Seeing balls go in in the front edge, trying to hit them in the left edge, the right edge, hit them off the back of the cup,” he said on Thursday. “Just trying to get a little bit more feel into it and a little more flow.”
If that doesn’t exactly sound like an exact science, welcome to the Faxon way. In recent years, he’s become something of F which is no huge surprise considering his status as one of the game’s best on the greens.
Between 1991, the year he won the first of eight Tour titles, through 2005, the year he won his last, Faxon ranked outside the top 20 in putting average just four times, and he led the circuit in that category three of those years. But in recent years he’s come into his own as a putting guru.
“The first clinic I attended that a Tour player gave, it was Hale Irwin, and he talked about rhythm and tempo, I was disappointed because I wanted to hear more than that,” Faxon explained. “I thought there would be more technical stuff. I thought it was the default phrase to take pressure off the player, but the more I’ve learned about teaching the best players in the world don’t have many complicated thoughts.”
Faxon’s career has been nothing short of impressive, his eight Tour titles spanning two decades; but it’s his work with players like McIlroy and Gary Woodland that has inspired him in recent years.
A man who has spent his life studying the nuances of the golf swing and putting stroke has created a teaching philosophy as simple, or complicated depending on the player, as rhythm and tempo.
“He teaches me, which is a good thing. He doesn’t have a philosophy,” Woodland said. “I was around him a lot in 2011, 2010, it’s unbelievable how well he can relay it now. He has video of a million guys putting and he’s one of the best to do it, but he can show you that you don’t have to do it one certain way and that was good for me.”
For Woodland, Faxon keyed in on his background as a college basketball player and compared the putting stroke to how he shoots free-throws. For McIlroy, it was a different sport but the concept remained the same.
“We were talking about other sports where you have to create your own motion, a free-throw shooter, a baseball pitcher, but what related to him was a free-kicker in soccer, he mentioned Wayne Rooney,” Faxon said. “You have to have something to kick start your motion, maybe it’s a trigger, some might use a forward press, or tapping the putter like Steve Stricker, sometimes it’s finding the trigger like that for a player.”
Faxon spent “a good two hours” with McIlroy last weekend at The Bear’s Club, not talking technique or method, but instead tapping into the intuitive nature of what makes someone a good putter. Midway through that session Faxon said he didn’t need to say another word.
The duo ended the session with a putting contest. Putting 30-footers to different holes, the goal was to make five “aces.” Leading the contest 4-2, Faxon couldn’t resist.
“Hey Rory, after you win Bay Hill this week you’ll have to tell the world you lost to Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” Faxon joked.
McIlroy proceeded to hole three of his next four attempts to win the contest. “I’m going to tell everyone I beat Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” McIlroy laughed.
Maybe it’s the way he’s able to so easily simplify an exceedingly complicated game, maybe it’s a resume filled with more clutch putts than one could count. Whatever it is, Faxon is good at teaching. More importantly, he’s having fun and doing something he loves.
“I have a hard time being called a teacher or a coach, it was more of a conversation with Rory, being able to work with someone like Rory is as excited as I’ve ever been in my career,” Faxon said. “It meant much more to me than it did Rory.”
Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field
AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.
Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.
“I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”
Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.
“We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.