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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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.