Final Q-School of its kind yields heroics, heartbreak

By Rex HoggardDecember 4, 2012, 1:08 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Less than 10 minutes removed from a closing birdie on PGA West’s Stadium Course, Mathew Goggin stood with his head digging into the walls of the scoring trailer and his eyes closed tight.

Despite a birdie at his finishing hole the Australian finished the six-round stress test known as Q-School at 16 under par, one stroke outside the top 25 and a return trip to the PGA Tour. With that Goggin darted down the stairs and away from PGA West as fast as his weary legs would take him.

Not long afterward Q-School made a metaphorical dash into the history books.

The final Q-School with direct access to the big leagues didn’t disappoint, which is to say that there was plenty of disappointment, and a dollop of triumph, to send the institution into a fitting retirement as the circuit transitions to a new qualifying system next year and the Fall Classic becomes a feeder event for the secondary Tour.

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“I know you guys (media) enjoy this more than we do,” smiled Jeff Gove, who earned his first trip to the Tour via Q-School in nine starts thanks to a closing 67.

Perspective came easy for Gove, one of 26 players at 17 under or better to earn Tour cards for 2013. For Goggin, who declined interviews after his round, and many like him it will take days, if not weeks, to find that kind of solace.

Players like Edward Loar, who began the marathon with a 65 in June, or at least it felt like it started that long ago, maintained his spot inside the top 25 all week and stepped to the daunting 17th tee at 18 under. His tee shot caromed off a rock guarding the island green, hung in the air for a pregnant pause, ricocheted off another rock and finally dropped into the murky abyss.

Loar made double bogey on the hole and finished at 15 under.

After a week of record low scoring the pressure of Monday’s final turn finally put some teeth back into the Stadium Course, which got the best of some of final stage’s biggest names in Round 6.

Tour winners Camilo Villegas (15 under), Vaughn Taylor (14 under) and Heath Slocum (15 under) all failed to answer the call on Monday.

Slocum’s finish may have been the most gutting. At 16 under on the 18th tee the three-time Tour winner pulled his drive into the water left of the fairway for bogey to finish at 15 under. A day earlier he called a penalty on himself when his ball moved after he’d grounded his putter on the 17th hole of the Nicklaus Course.

“I’d never had anything like that happen in my entire career, so . . . lesson learned,” said Slocum, who closed with a 72. “They say crazy stuff happens at Q-School.”

Patrick Reed knows a thing or two about crazy. “Mr. Monday,” which he has been dubbed this season as a result of his nearly spotless record in Monday qualifiers, began the week 70-75 and was tied for 127th with four rounds to play.

Reed, who plans to marry his caddie/girlfriend on Dec. 21 in Houston, played the rest of the way in 18 under to finish on the number at 17 under and earn his first trip to the Tour.

“Every round was like a Monday and every Monday we try to shoot 6 under. That seems like a good number,” said Reed, whose closing 67 missed that mark by a stroke. “I’m six for eight on Monday (qualifiers). This improves me to seven for nine. It would be great next year if the U.S. Open ended in a playoff and I was in it. The other guy wouldn’t stand a chance.”

Reed, Henrik Norlander and Bobby Gates made the day’s biggest push to get inside the top 25, all three shooting 67 to vault from a tie for 46th to 22nd.

“I had a feeling all week that things were going to get better from playing the eGolf Tour,” Norlander said.

Si Woo Kim also made a solid jump, climbing from a tie for 30th to 20th, not that it realistically improved his fortunes for 2013. Kim became the youngest player to qualify for a Tour card thanks to a closing 68, but because he doesn’t turn 18 until June 28 he will not be allowed to become a member until next year’s abbreviated season is nearly complete.

Although Kim can play on sponsor exemptions and via Monday qualifying before his 18th birthday, and any money or FedEx Cup points earned would carry over after he becomes a member, he will have only about four starts before the start of the playoffs to secure his status for the 2013-14 season.

Fellow Korean D.H. Lee won’t have those issues. Lee closed with a 5-under 67 to take medalist honors at 25 under. Not bad for a player who lost two years of his professional career while serving a mandatory stint in the Korean military.

Lee overtook Steve Bowditch, who began the day with the lead but struggled to a front-nine 39 and weathered an eventful inward loop to finish tied for 10th place.

Joining him on Tour next year will be a pair of former European Ryder Cup players (Ross Fisher and Robert Karlsson); Chez Reavie, who became the second player to participate in Q-School a year after advancing to the Tour Championship, and two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton.

Eclectic? Sure, but that seems about right for the last Q-School. An end of an era highlighted by heartbreak and heroics, an institution that few will miss but many will remember. It’s a reality that made Gove something of a spokesperson for this final PGA Tour Q-School class.

“I’m glad we’re not doing it anymore,” Gove smiled. “And I’m just proud that I did it. If I didn’t make it it would have never happened.”

And it never will again.

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."