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: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

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

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry