Mills Hoping to Skip Q School
Belleville's Jon Mills would also prefer skipping school, but in his case, we're not talking homework and teachers' dirty looks. The long grind of various stages of PGA TOUR qualifying school with the next step in his career riding on the outcome is what Mills would like to blow off.
In order to do that, Mills has to maintain the pace that has him 24th on the Nationwide Tour money list, a position that would automatically move him ahead to the next grade of competition. With the top 25 on the money list getting their PGA TOUR cards, Mills is on the bubble and isn't taking anything for granted.
'You can't not think about it because it's coming to that point where you have to at least schedule it and send in your forms for Q-school, just in case,' said Mills, who enjoyed the Labor Day weekend off, along with the rest of the Nationwide Tour.
Mills has been successful in skipping school in the past. Two years ago, he won the now-dormant Canadian PGA Championship at Whistle Bear Golf Club in Cambridge, Ont., a title that all but clinched his PGA TOUR card before he made it official by finishing fifth on the money list that year.
Making just six cuts, as Mills did in '06, generally gets a guy put back from golf's highest level, but his disappointment at returning to the Nationwide Tour this year apparently isn't standing in the way of his efforts to return to the PGA TOUR.
'I feel like my game's really consistent right now,' he said. 'I'm hitting a ton of greens -- it's pretty tough to make a lot of mistakes if you're hitting about every green.'
Mills hasn't been as spectacular as when he won the Canadian PGA in 2005, but he has been grinding it out admirably with five top-10s finishes. He had a particularly hot hand in June and July, forcing him to make a difficult decision. There were some raised eyebrows when Mills wasn't in the field at the Canadian Open.
The way he figured though, it was best to try and improve his position on the Nationwide Tour by playing in the Cox Classic at Champion Run in Omaha, Neb., where he tied for 17th while the Open was going on at Angus Glen.
'Being there, I could have stayed with my parents. I felt like I needed to play Omaha though. It's one that I've done well at and I really enjoy the golf course and play well there,' he said.
'It was tough. I love playing (the Open). I love being around home and, obviously, that's one of the biggest events of the year for me. Looking back now, I played well in Omaha and it definitely helped me move up on the money list, so I think I made the right right decision.'
It was a wise decision for the long term. It would be sweet returning to the next year's Open at Glen Abbey as a full-fledged member of the PGA TOUR, but to do that, he now has to focus on the next two months.
There are eight tournaments left on the Nationwide Tour schedule, beginning with this week's Utah EnergySolutions Championship and ending with the Tour Championship, Nov. 1-4 in California.
While Mills is in the best position among Canadians on the Nationwide Tour, he knows from his own experience how quickly things can change with a win or a high finish, so Brantford's David Hearn, sitting back in 44th place, is capable of a quick jump up the money list, according to Mills.
'He's at the point where, one good week, he passes me and he passes a bunch of guys. He's in a good position,' said Mills. 'He's throwing up some numbers early in tournaments. If he keeps that up, he's going to win. From his standpoint, he might be a little discouraged, but you keep doing that, it's going to pay off.'
The stats back up that observation. Hearn shot an impressive 65 in the first round of the Canadian Open, but finished with a trio of 73s. Back on the Nationwide Tour the following week, he shot rounds of 68-65-67, with a third round 70 getting in the way. If he somehow strings four together, victory may be at hand.
A lot can happen over the next two months for Mills, Hearn and Aurora's David Morland, who is in 48th place on the money list. Their report cards are showing potential, but their final grades are not in yet.
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Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun and senior writer for Pro Shop Magazine, a Canadian golf trade publication, and Canadian Golfer Magazine. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x