Q-School second stage puts real pressure on players

By Rex HoggardNovember 14, 2012, 9:43 pm

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. – There will be no shortage of hard-luck, tear-jerk, bottomed-out, end-of-the-line tales of woe at the PGA Tour’s final Q-School in two weeks; but if the end of an institution will also be the end of the line for some, the mathematical reality of the circuit’s layered qualifying process is that this week’s second stage is a much more concerning cliff, both fiscal and otherwise, for many a play-for-play type.

“Second stage is always harder to get through,” said Patrick Sheehan following a first-round 70 at the second stage site Southern Hills Plantation. “It is always the most pressure. If you miss here you’re going to the Hooters (Tour) or wherever. But if you get through here you have a card on one of the major tours, and that’s where you want to be.”

Those who advance out this week’s six second stage sites to the finale later this month in the California desert, do so secure in the knowledge that they have a job next year, whether it is playing for millions on the PGA Tour or thousands on the Web.com Tour.

The 500 or so players who set out this week in second stage largely have no such assurances. In simplest terms an exemption system that is riddled with loopholes is mercilessly simplified by the Draconian reality of second stage.

Consider Frank Lickliter, the 2007 Q-School medalist and two-time Tour winner, who played just nine events in the Big Leagues in 2012 and finished 201st on the money list. Unless Lickliter advances to final stage, an option that took a body blow when he opened with a 71 on Wednesday, he will have limited status in 2013 on either the PGA or Web.com tours.

It’s why Billy Hurley III spent the weekend gazing at a computer screen after missing the cut at the Tour’s season finale at Walt Disney World. The former Navy officer began the week at Disney 146th on the money list, missed the cut with rounds of 74-76 and finished the season 151st in earnings, $165 outside the top 150 which would have exempted him into the final stage of Q-School and given him partial Tour status in 2013.

“I was surprised I dropped out (of the top 150),” said Hurley, who opened with a 67 at Southern Hills Plantation and is two strokes behind front-runner Brian Duncan. “On Friday I was 152nd, but I figured some guys would cool off. On Saturday I was 149th for most of the day and waking up Sunday morning I thought I would be at 150.”

Instead, Hurley found himself on the wrong end of a $165 pencil whipping. For the price of a bad driver, or a good round of golf, Hurley is playing with precious little by way of a safety net this week in west Florida.

Although his finish on the Tour money list would give him some status in 2013 on the Web.com Tour enduring another sleepless second stage wasn’t the ending he envisioned to his rookie campaign.

“It’s a big deal to get through second stage,” Hurley said. “I did it in 2010 and it’s huge. You feel like you have something.”

How big? Just ask Letzig who ran himself into the ground trying to make sure he had something, anything really, to cling to next season.

Following a lackluster few years Letzig began 2012 re-energized thanks to his work with a sports psychologist and a better attitude, but that didn’t translate into better play.

After missing more weekends than he made through the first six months of the year on the Web.com Tour, Letzig found himself perched at “fifty-something” on the secondary circuit’s money list. If he finished outside the top 60 he would have no status, anywhere, in 2013.

“I was just battling to stay inside the top 60 and I was just a zombie,” said Letzig, who played seven consecutive weeks to close the season. “I really don’t remember the year. I hate to complain when you play golf for a living, but it was too much golf.”

Letzig finished the year 58th in Web.com earnings and stormed out to the clubhouse lead early Wednesday at Southern Hills Plantation thanks, at least in part, to the occupational solace his season-ending money marathon delivered.

“It’s different this year not playing for a job. Second stage is so hard to get through. There is a lot of pressure if you come here without a job,” Letzig said following his round at Southern Hills Plantation, an idyllic Pete Dye design located roughly halfway between lost and the middle of nowhere.

The rolling layout is so remote one feels like they must have taken a wrong turn on the journey out, much like many of the careers that were on display on Wednesday. It was impossible, for example, to ignore the dichotomy of Daniel Chopra’s spotless Lamborghini in the players’ parking lot on Wednesday.

During a brief two-month span in 2007-08 Chopra was arguably the hottest player on the planet, winning the ’07 Ginn sur Mer Classic in October and following that triumph eight weeks later with his second Tour tilt at the season-opener in Kapalua.

Since then, however, Chopra hasn’t finished in the top 3 at a Tour event and he missed 15 of 21 cuts in 2012 to finish 188th in earnings. It’s a similar story for Robert Karlsson, Lee Janzen and Arjun Atwal, who all are playing for a job this week at an event that defies conventional wisdom.

The final stage of Q-School may be the final arbiter of job security on Tour, but it is the subtle sting of second stage that keeps players up at night.

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.


Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''