Final Exam Over

By Rex HoggardDecember 8, 2009, 4:11 am
PGA Tour (75x100)WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The final day of PGA Tour Q-School is the matriarch of multiple-choice exams, with a lineup that includes winners, losers and others.

On Monday at Bear Lakes Country Club the former is a group that includes a wedding-day special: something old (Tour veteran Jeff Maggert), something new (freshman phenom Rickie Fowler), something barrowed (hard charging David Lutterus) and something blue (Boise State products Troy Merritt and Graham Delaet).

The losers cover the competitive spectrum, starting at Josh Broadaway – who started the final turn well within the safety of the top 25, signed for a 78 and has a seat reserved at Nationwide Tour orientation later this week – to Andrew McLardy, who secured a Tour card on the number at 9 under but cost himself valuable early-season starts with a closing 77. Truth is there is no scale capable of measuring the biggest loser at Bear Lakes.
Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler hangs his head, but he was one of the survivors Monday. (Getty Images)
But then Q-School is all about the ambiguous middle ground between black and white. Not since the BCS started deciding national championships has the line between victory and defeat been so blurred depending on player and perspective.

Merritt took medalist honors at 22 under to further boost a stock that has been slow to match the talent. Virtually unnoticed by Division I schools, Merritt walked on at Boise State and hasn’t stopped high-stepping since.

“All he’s ever done is win,” said one long-time observer late Monday afternoon. Twenty-one victories in college, to be exact, followed by a steady climb through the mini-tours and Nationwide Tour.

A clubhouse away, slumped on a bench with a cup of coffee in one hand and a busy cell phone in the other was Julien Trudeau. Trudeau had just signed for a closing 70 which he knew was not going to be enough to push him from obscurity and occasional insolvency to the PGA Tour, yet the smile on his face made it impossible to distinguish between his fate and the fate of Merritt.

“I can’t believe I’m even here,” said Trudeau, making his first finals appearance. “I’ve got David Duval over there and (Tim) Herron showing me how to hit that little butter fade. I finally feel like I can do it.  I finally feel like I belong.”

Forgive Trudeau if his glass is a tad too full. He’d come up short at second stage three times, twice as a player and once as a caddie, so perspective comes easy. He’s also flirted with more financial margins this year than the AIG.

Which begs the delicate question, Did he ever think about quiting?

“Which month of the year are you talking about?” he deadpans.

So he finished at 8 under, one shot outside the Tour bubble and is bound for a year on the Nationwide Tour. Life goes on. Life is good.

“I was talking to Spencer (Levin) and he asked, ‘What is it going to feel like next week to play golf with your buddies?’” Trudeau laughs. “We’ve got a game next week at my club and I’m going let my caddie play. I’ll carry the bag. Hope he doesn’t make me carry the staff bag.”

Not far from Trudeau’s perch was Tom Pernice Jr., foot propped up on a bench in the locker room and completely at ease, at least externally, with the type of late-round collapse that often defines this week. Pernice, you see, was inside the number through 107 holes, pulled his tee shot into the pond where Tour dreams go to die on the 18th hole on the Lakes Course and double bogeyed his way out of card.

Yet if Pernice was dying inside, you couldn’t tell.

“I didn’t come here to not make it so you’re disappointed,” said Pernice, whose safety blanket includes limited veteran status on Tour next year and a Champions Tour card. “Sill, I had a chance I just didn’t get the job done today.”

Maybe a career of solid performances, combined with the golden parachute of the over-50 circuit, helped soften the blow. Maybe Pernice hides his disappointment well. Either way, neither Pernice nor Trudeau had the look of men ready to hurl themselves off Bear Lakes’ post-modern clubhouse.

The same could not be said for Jay Williamson, at least not when he teed off Monday afternoon closer to Nationwide oblivion than the annuity that has become the modern Tour. Williamson is a 42-year-old father of two with a meat-and-potatoes game and a mind that moves too fast for his own good sometimes.

“Hardest week of my life,” sighed Williamson, who ran his Q-School record to 7-for-8 with his 11th-place finish. “I wish I could say I wasn’t nervous, but I haven’t had a good enough career.”

Williamson’s reward was a card with his name and picture on it. No trophy and a check not large enough to cover his expenses for a week, but he embraced his metaphorical chalice with all the zeal of an Open champion hoisting the Claret Jug.

That’s the way it goes when you’ve etched out a career on the fringes of the biggest Tour in the world. That’s the way it goes when you’re a self-described “part-time player” who struggles with nerves and expectations, not high fades and 6-footers.

“This is one of my greatest achievements,” Williamson said. “The problem is I know how hard this is.”

It would be unfair to say Fowler, the up-and-coming star who never looked as if he was more than a single shot away from securing his first Tour card, doesn’t understand the gravity of his accomplishment. But to fully grasp Monday’s happenings one needed a perspective litmus test.

It is the beauty of Q-School, win, lose or other.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm