Q-School Pressure Relieved
The pressure of the final round of the PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament is second to none in terms of the pressure it imparts on so many contestants. Combine the pressure of fighting for your professional life with the almost fictional-looking PGA West Stadium Course, and it would be understandable if officials checked ID's at the gate. PG-13 would be too mild.
One player admitted to playing in a group that 'might have exceeded 1,000 expletives amongst us.' The final blow came when a player cursed his luck over a perceived bad break by uttering the same offensive word repeatedly, then looked up to unexpectedly see the nearby face of the lovely middle-aged lady who had volunteered her time to be the walking scorer. An immediate attempt to grovel and beg for forgiveness ensued before he was interrupted by a kind and understanding soul. 'I play this (blanking) game, too,' his scorekeeper uttered, and all was instantly forgiven.
It's unfortunate that the superlatives often used in trying to describe the action at many important sporting events are the same words used in describing true life-or-death realities, such as our men and women in the military putting their lives on the line in the defense of our national values and liberties. A game, or sport of any magnitude obviously isn't remotely comparable; however, when your lifelong dreams are on the line and when you're trying to perform under the most grueling pressure you've ever faced in a game that can be maddening even at the best of times, the fact is that the internal battle within a player's soul might have a hard time discerning the difference. Even a golf-addicted, middle-aged lady volunteer could instantly relate.
In the end, a 31-year-old part time mini-tour player, part time assistant pro, claimed medalist honors with a remarkable five-shot victory. And although it may seem like it came out of nowhere, George McNeill's five-shot victory was simply business as usual for the three-stage qualifying process where he set himself apart from the competition at every level.
McNeill's 23-under-par, six-round Q-school finals score brought his 2006 cumulative total to 58 under par for all three stages that totaled 14 rounds of golf. He was medalist at his first stage site by six strokes, followed by a third-place finish at his second stage site, and just after sunset Monday, he added his name to the history books and sent a message to his new group of contemporaries. Anybody can have one lucky week at finals, but his play over the last five weeks should serve notice that although they may not have heard of him in the past, they just might hear a lot about him next year. Not bad for a guy who's lived with the nickname 'Fly' for most of his adult life. Fly's not the worst nickname around, but when you consider that it was based on the 'Back to the Future' character 'McFly,' the air-headed father of Michael J. Fox's character, one could assume that George is use to being underestimated. And in the life imitating art department, just like the movie's sequels portrayed, McFly eventually got the last word.
There were 40 graduates from Q-school this year, each with a feel-good story of his own. Matt Hendrix was one of seven players in the last eight groups to find the water at the island green 17th hole nicknamed Alcatraz. Then he was faced with a must-make putt at the last to get his PGA TOUR card, and he calmly drained it. Michael Bradley, Kyle Reifers, Jaco Van Zyl, and Brian Bateman each made clutch putts on their last hole to make it on the number. Van Zyl's was a double-breaking birdie putt for a final-round 64 that included three birdies on his last four holes. And in the end, the heartbreaking finishes we're accustomed to seeing when the Q-school visits the 'Dyeabolical' Stadium Course, well, they were outnumbered by the players who summoned the ability to perform when it mattered most.
Now comes the tough part. Sixty-one players this year (combined Nationwide Tour and Q-school) were added to the PGA TOUR roster in a system that was designed to handle 50. Combine that with the uncertainty that surrounds the number of playing opportunities for new card holders due to the new FedEx Cup system, and the pressure that Q-school brought for six days will be expanded to an entire season next year. Three-time Nationwide Tour graduate Gavin Coles said it best, 'I got a ticket on the bus, but no seat.' TOUR officials on site at Q-school were already concerned over the 'big cut'. Twelve players tied for the last card and 40 were given out when the plans were for 30.
Monday night in La Quinta, Calif., wasn't a time for concerns over the uphill battle next year could bring. Rather, it was a time for celebration. It was a time to gather with family and friends, take a swig of that long-awaited beverage, sigh to the heavens and thank their lucky stars. Monday night was the reward for a life's passion and for the 17 rookies of this year's class, it's safe to say that they've never felt anything like it.
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Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.
With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.
Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.
The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.
In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.