Collegiate golfers didn't defect for final Q-School

By Ryan LavnerNovember 14, 2012, 1:47 pm

When the PGA Tour announced widespread changes to its qualifying system – which starting next year will no longer provide a direct route from Q-School to the Big Show – college golf’s elite players were predictably peeved.

“I wasn’t happy,” said Florida senior T.J. Vogel. “I thought it was a bad break, just a bummer.”

“I was pissed,” said Alabama sophomore Justin Thomas (pictured above), the reigning National Player of the Year.

“It was a little discouraging,” said Cal senior Max Homa, “just because it seems like it’s so difficult now. It almost seems like people are trying to create it so you can’t make it.”

A one-year mass exodus from college seemed imminent. The world’s top amateurs had trained most of their adolescent life to play the PGA Tour, and a proposed plan would make that goal more difficult to attain. Of course they would give The Last Q-School a try.

But then a strange thing happened.

They didn’t.

Scores: PGA Tour Q-School second stage

Homa again: “The thing is, I really still believe that if you play well, if you deserve to be out there, if you work really, really hard, that you’ll be out there regardless of how many barriers are in front of you.”

Which may help explain why only seven players – including only one ranked in the top 20 in the country – have attempted to navigate Q-School this year while still enrolled in college. (And only four players – North Florida’s Sean Dale, Missouri’s Jace Long, Stanford’s Andrew Yun and Texas’ Jordan Spieth – are still left, playing this week’s second stage.) The biggest name among that group is Spieth, 19, who has already experienced success at the pro level and was expected to bolt early anyway.

Still, “I’m a little surprised more guys aren’t giving it a shot,” he said recently. “But it’s a financial sacrifice. If you don’t think you’re going to go pro anyways, there’s no reason to do it. The best players will find their way onto the PGA Tour somehow.”

Maybe so, but even TCU sophomore Julien Brun, who won earlier this season on the European Challenge Tour, thereby earning fully exempt status on the 2013 European Tour, has decided to stay in school. Asked why, the Frenchman said, “When you line up the pros and cons, it was not really a tough choice. I came to school to get a degree.”

So why the shift in philosophy? Why did the mass exodus never transpire? In a college landscape rife with early defections, why in college golf is it cool to stay in school?

Well, give Spieth partial credit – attempting Q-School certainly is an expensive endeavor, and the financial factor was cited by each of the dozen players interviewed by last month at the Isleworth Collegiate. After all, the cost for first-stage qualifying at Q-School is $4,500, and after adding expenses for a caddie, hotel, airfare and rental car, the entire experience can cost upwards of $15,000. “That’s a huge investment with no guarantees,” said ’Bama junior Cory Whitsett.

Besides, being a college golfer just might be the sweetest gig in the game. Take Vogel, the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion. This past fall, his Florida Gators played the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Isleworth, Old Overton and Olympia Fields. Two weeks ago, eight lucky teams competed in a two-day event at Cypress Point.

“Who wouldn’t want to stay in school and play these courses and be tested like this?” said Vogel, ranked in the top 15 nationally. “This is pressure-packed, when you’re coming down the stretch on a really hard golf course. It really teaches you how to close.”

Two years ago, Bud Cauley deemed that his college experience had adequately prepared him for the pros. Alabama coach Jay Seawell told him then, and still maintains now, “that these players just have to make sure everything is in order. You don’t turn pro to play mini-tour golf. Things were lined up for Bud. He knew that he wasn’t going to be poor and in some Motel 6 in some redneck town. You know, it’s hard to buy something when you’re losing money.”

That’s the type of advice that can resonate with his new standout player, Thomas, who was at the forefront of the will-they-leave-early? movement. In his first season at Alabama, he won four times, led the Crimson Tide to the NCAA finals and captured the Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Haskins awards. Really, why wouldn’t he leave school after one year?

“I want to win a national championship,” he said. “The PGA Tour isn’t going anywhere. I feel like I might be (ready), but who knows? The main thing is just maturity. I just finished my first year and need to get a little better.”

So whether they chose to stay in school because of the money, or because they actually like college, or because they don’t want to abandon a team with championship aspirations, or because – God forbid – they want to graduate, one thing remains certain: “If you’re good enough this year, then you’ll be good enough in a few years,” Illinois coach Mike Small said.

“If you’re a happy kid, why go?”

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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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.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.