Q-School memories: Shanking in front of Jack

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 26, 2012, 4:50 pm

Editor's note: This edition of Q-School Memories is submitted by Golf Channel analyst Tripp Isenhour.

Ahhhh, the wonderful memories of having to attend the Fall Classic (a.k.a. Q-School) make me want to return to those times when I was in a constant state of fear and nausea! Yes, it does have that effect on most participants in the grueling series of tournaments to determine who has the right stuff to play on the PGA Tour.

I first learned that these tournaments are like no other in my first-ever first stage of the qualifying tournament in 1991. After the first round I was putting my stuff back into my car when my friend John Maginnes pulled up in his cart (yes, we used carts back then). I asked how his day went. He let out some choice four-letter words and said he had shot 74.

Attempting to emphasize his anger by stomping one of his cart’s tires with the bottom of his metal-spiked golf shoe, he realized in mid-stomp that the tire would likely pop. So he adjusted his aim upward, only to see his shoe get stuck between the tire and the fender. It took several efforts to free the offending footwear.

Full coverage: PGA Tour Q-School final stage

Funny in retrospect, this story illustrates the pressure players face during every single shot of each tournament. It was an eye-opener for me.

That pressure is agonizingly drawn out, too. The finals are 108 holes, with rounds that commonly last six hours or more. Each shot is so important that players, trying to play mistake-free golf, take forever over them. In hindsight it’s obvious that a more casual, even light-hearted approach could be more effective, but that is easier said than done.

While I agree that the best barometer for success is your play judged over the course of a year or over a four-tournament series, Q-School has long served as one of the best tournaments to watch. Not to play in, mind you, but to watch. You will see guys hit some amazing shots and putts. You will also see guys hit awful shots and self-destruct right before your eyes. I have long said that the casual golf fan should tune in and watch.

Without question my own most embarrassing and intimidating moment came at PGA West. I was in the middle of the fairway on a par 4 and had an easy 8-iron approach, which I dead-cold shanked. The ball went straight right, up over a small hill. When I got to it, there was Jack Nicklaus (he was following his son Gary) standing next to my ball. Now, the hardest shot in golf is the next one after a shank. Throw in the fact that the best golfer of all time is watching me and that pressure is intensified just a wee bit! I somehow hit it on the green, but would go on to fail to qualify once again.

As an analyst for Golf Channel, I’m going to miss all that goes into the circus that is the Fall Classic. As a player … not so much!

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.