There is no pressure like Q-School pressure

By Brandel ChambleeDecember 3, 2012, 2:00 pm

PGA Tour Q-School is the most frightening event in golf. Yes, majors carry far more weight, but only a few players at each major feel the pressure of potentially undergoing a life-changing experience. And other tours around the world have their own Q-Schools, but it is no secret that every player who plays for money dreams of playing on the PGA Tour, where the money and the courses are the best in the world.

Professional golfers get rich on the PGA Tour; lots of them, so rich that they don’t need to worry about money the rest of their lives and, in many cases, neither do their children. Every shot by every player at PGA Tour Q-School is hit with this knowledge – and the corresponding knowledge that the alternative to success may well be oblivion.

I first attempted Q-School in 1985. Fresh out of college, I made it to finals. At that time there was a 72-hole cut in the 108-hole event. I made that cut, and for the next two nights had to go to mandatory classes to learn the business of the PGA of America as well as the PGA Tour. Playing at the time for one of only 50 cards, I missed out and had to wait a year to try again. I tried and failed again in 1986. So in 1987 I decided to take a different approach.

The Last Q-School: Articles, videos and photos

After playing obscure mini-tours all over the world in 1985 and '86, I decided I would test myself against the best players in the world by playing in Monday qualifying for Tour events. These events, known as four-spotters because they typically offer four spots into that week’s event from a field of more than 100, seemed an unlikely way to try to support myself, but I was searching for a frame of mind. I also decided to try to qualify for the U.S. and British Opens, so I would spend the year in my own way playing at the highest level without a Tour card. I made the four-spotters at Phoenix, Hawaii and Las Vegas and qualified for both the U.S. and British Opens. Even though I didn’t make as much money as I had the previous two years playing in state opens, I felt like I had seen the best in the world. Now Q-School didn’t seem as daunting.

I entered the Fall Classic, as Q-School is known, determined not just to qualify, but to win. That attitude and the experience I had gained in 1987, competing against the best players in the world, proved comforting. I led Q-School after 36 holes and qualified with ease. My traveling companion, however, had a far more stressful week than I did.

Mark Brooks, my teammate at the University of Texas, a former first-team All-American, had played the Tour from 1984-87 without success and he arrived at the Fall Classic in financial distress and without an ounce of confidence. He was staying next door to me in the hotel and every night I could hear him on the phone to his loved ones, saying he didn’t know what he was going to do the next year should he fail at Q-School. He was well outside the number for the top 50 and as we made the 30-minute drive for the final round, neither of us spoke until we were pulling in to the course.

Mark had a dozen golf balls in his hands. Out of the heavy silence he started screaming at them.

'Whichever one of you is afraid of the dark, say so now and there are no hard feelings, I just won’t put you in,' he yelled. 'C’mon, you gutless balls, speak up!'

I looked at him, he smiled and we both started laughing. 

He began the day five shots outside the top 50. I didn't know how his final round went until I spotted him as I was playing the last hole, walking to the green. He had a beer in each hand and sunglasses on. I didn’t know if the beers were being consumed in celebration or despondency, but I suspected the latter. I pointed at him as if to say, what did you shoot? He cradled one beer under his arm and held up five fingers, then pointed them downward, indicating he had shot 5-under-par 67. It was the lowest round of the day. 

He got his Tour card, and that night at dinner we sat in a glow of achievement that felt better than any moment I had known in golf. Mark said to me, 'Qualifying for the Tour was a lot easier than succeeding on the Tour.'

Mark would go on to win seven times on the PGA Tour, including the 1996 PGA Championship. He missed the John Daly-Costantino Rocca playoff for the British Open by one shot in 1995 and would lose the U.S. Open in a playoff in 2001. His life and his career changed all because of that last round at Q-School in 1987.

As for me, well, my career on Tour was nowhere near as successful as Mark’s, but my life changed drastically in the fall of 1987 and I still look back at that week as one of the turning points of my life.

Every year, every player at Q-School knows that every shot means the difference between living a dream and enduring a nightmare. That's why there is no event that comes remotely close to the pressures of Q-School.

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”