Gangluff: The quintessential Q-School student

By John FeinsteinOctober 17, 2012, 5:01 pm

If Stephen Gangluff has learned anything after a lifetime of playing golf it is that trying as hard as you can to play the game well is mostly a waste of time.

He can remember telling himself he had to give everything he had no matter how bad things looked back at PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament seven years ago and failing utterly. He can also remember going to Q-School finals a year ago and just, “giving up.” The result was a second-place finish that put him back on Tour for the first time since 2002.

As much as anyone who has teed it up at Q-School since it first began in 1964, Gangluff symbolizes the highs and the lows of the event. In 2001, at age 26, he made it through all three stages to get his PGA Tour card. Four years later he was back at first stage, having wandered through the golfing wilderness after losing his playing privileges. In 2002 he was a full-fledged Tour player. A year later he was on what is now the Tour. By 2004, he was working in the pro shop jockeying carts at a club in Ponte Vedra in return for playing and range privileges. It was a fall from golfing grace that was difficult for him to comprehend.

“The biggest problem you have is coming to grips with where your game is,” he said late Tuesday after playing a practice round prior to the McGladrey Classic. “Every time something goes wrong your first instinct is to think, ‘why do I have to do this? Why am I here? I was a player on the PGA Tour – I can’t possibly be back at first stage. This just isn’t right.’ But it is right. The game’s never unfair to you. The game is the game – it’s you against yourself and if you go out there and beat yourself then you’re going to lose every time.”

In 2005, Gangluff found himself playing a Q-School first stage at TPC Tampa Bay, a golf course that hosts a Champions Tour event every year and is generally considered more difficult than most first stage sites. He was in the hunt to be one of the 19 players who would advance to the second stage when the wheels came off in the third round. Fairways were missed; putts rimmed out. All the bad thoughts he had been fighting to avoid flooded through his mind. Each bad swing brought another bad thought. The golf demons, as he calls them, came back.

By the time he finished he had shot 75 and had fallen out of contention. As if that wasn’t enough, Hurricane Wilma was bearing down on Florida that week, just six weeks after the devastation of Katrina. Many players who were out of contention withdrew after the third round, wanting to get home before the hurricane rolled in the next day.

Dillard Pruitt, who was running the qualifer for the Tour, decided to try to beat the hurricane by sending everyone out to begin the final round an hour after they completed the third round. “That way maybe we can get everyone finished and out of here by noon tomorrow,” he explained. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Most players – those who hadn’t withdrawn – went to the range or the putting green during their break. Gangluff sat in the lobby of the clubhouse, alone with his thoughts, wanting to get as far away from golf as he possibly could, but never once thinking about escaping.

“You sign up for 72 holes, you play 72 holes, that’s the way I was always taught,” he said. “The thought of quitting never crossed my mind. Actually, I remember sitting in that chair and thinking to myself, ‘well, you missed, what do you do next? Where do you go from here?’ Then I looked at the board and thought, ‘well if you shoot 59, you can still make it.’ At least that made me smile. I decided the thing for me to do next was to go out and try as hard as I possibly could to shoot 59. I knew I almost certainly wasn’t going to do it but I figured if I did do it what a story that would be.”

Gangluff shot 67, grinding until the last putt was in the hole. It gave him something to grasp as he drove away that morning to go home and deal with the hurricane.

“It was a mixed blessing to have been on the Tour at that point,” he said. “On the one hand I had to fight all those demons telling me how unfair it was for me to be playing at the first stage. But I also knew – KNEW – I was good enough, that the game was inside me somewhere if I could just find it. That’s what kept me going forward.”

With no status on any PGA Tour level in 2006, Gangluff went back to playing the Canadian Tour. He qualified for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot that year and made the cut – finishing tied for 40th. “That was a real confidence boost,” he said.

He made it back to what was then the Nationwide Tour a year later and again played that tour in 2011. After what he called a “horrible year” in 2011 he decided to give Q-School one more shot.

“By then a buddy of mine who works at Farmington Country Club (outside Charlottesville, Va.) had hired me to work in the pro shop and I loved the place,” he said. “He told me to go try Q-School, play as hard as I could and if it didn’t work out, my job with him would be waiting for me.

“I think that relaxed me. No wondering, ‘what do I do if this doesn’t work.’ By the time I got to finals it was almost as if I wasn’t trying. I never touched a club the week before I went to Palm Desert. I hit exactly one post round-practice shot the whole week – I hit a bad tee shot at 18 one day, walked to the range, hit one ball dead straight to make sure I still had it and went home. I finally figured out how to stop trying. And it worked.”

Six years after he couldn’t come close to getting out of first stage, Gangluff finished second at Q-School finals. He was back on Tour, 10 years after he had first been there.

“The problem’s been I haven’t been able to keep not trying,” he said, laughing. “You get out here you see how hard guys are working and you figure, ‘I need to do that, too.’ You get tight when you have a chance to do something and then you start guiding the ball and that’s no good. If I had this year to do over again, I might never go to the range.”

The year has been a struggle. Gangluff has been going through a divorce. He refuses to use that as an excuse and says he thinks about it more at night after he’s played than when he’s playing. “A bad day at the golf course and you sit around and think about it a lot at night,” he said. “But that’s not why I haven’t played better.”

Gangluff will tee it up at McGladrey having made six cuts in 21 starts with his best finish coming last week at where he tied for 64th place. He shot 70-67 the first two days, 74-74 on the weekend.

If Gangluff finds lightning in a bottle this week or at Disney and vaults into the top 125 on the money list (he’s 218th right now) he’ll know he’s figured out a way to not try. If that doesn’t happen, it’s back to Q-School – one more time.

“The good news is I know I can do it – still,” he said. “I just have to figure out how to bottle what I had last year. Of course if I could do that, I’d never have to play Q-School again.”

If only golf were that simple.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)