The newest winner on the PGA Tour needed to shoot 63 in the final round of the Web.com Tour season just to punch his ticket to the big leagues. A few weeks later, Nick Taylor is a PGA Tour winner, the culmination of a circuitous journey for the former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world.
There are no guarantees in pro golf, of course, a fact reinforced by the notable names in this week’s second stage of Web.com Tour Q-School. (Hello, David Gossett and Jeff Quinney!) Before he secured his playing privileges through the 2016-17 season, Taylor, 26, toiled on mini-tours, begged for sponsor exemptions and made the most of his opportunities on the Canadian circuit.
Five years ago, the route to stardom seemed much more direct. After all, he was an All-Everything at Washington, a two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, a NCAA runner-up, a McCormack Medal winner as the top-ranked amateur in the world. In May 2010, he was named the winner of the Ben Hogan Award, the prestigious honor given to the top performer in college and amateur events over a 12-month span.
Consider: With Taylor’s victory at the Sanderson Farms, every Hogan Award winner from 2004-2010 has now won at least once on the big tour: Bill Haas, Ryan Moore, Matt Every, Chris Kirk, Rickie Fowler and Kyle Stanley. Some experienced success right away. Others were late bloomers.
The question now is whether the four most recent winners (2011-2014) of the award will follow suit and break through on the PGA Tour. History suggests they will ... eventually.
Here’s a look:
Peter Uihlein (2011): Conveniently, he finished T-4 in Mississippi for his career-best result on Tour. At the tail end of last season, he missed his last four cuts on Tour and earned only one top 25 in his maximum seven starts allowed. Rather than leaving school to earn his card the conventional route via the Web.com circuit, Uihlein blazed a trail to Europe that saw him win a Euro Tour event and rise as high as No. 60 in the world. Still just 25, he remains immensely talented, but an awful summer (13 missed cuts in 14 starts) has tempered expectations for now.
Patrick Cantlay (2012): This week marks his 2014-15 debut. He’s playing on a medical extension and has 11 starts to earn more than $630,000 and get promoted to the top medical category. When healthy, the 22-year-old is among the game’s brightest up-and-comers. A back injury, though, essentially cost him all of 2014 and jeopardizes his immediate playing future.
Chris Williams (2013): The 23-year-old notched four top 10s this past season in Canada (worth $28,565), but he’ll need to apprentice for at least one more year before he’s ready to join the big boys. He’s entered in this week’s second stage of Web.com Q-School.
Patrick Rodgers (2014): Rodgers, 21, authored one of the best college careers in recent memory, his 11 wins tying Tiger Woods’ career mark at Stanford. But success hasn’t been as easy to come by in the pro ranks, mostly because of an oblique injury that robbed him of a chance to earn his card through spot starts. Now, he’s scrapping for sponsor invites while turning his attention to the 2015 Web.com season.