Former collegians to watch for at Q-School

By Ryan LavnerNovember 29, 2012, 4:21 pm

Earlier this season, when it was announced this would be the final year that Q-School provides a direct route to the PGA Tour, there was an expectation that several elite college players would make the leap to the pro ranks.

That didn’t come to fruition, of course, for a variety of reasons.

In fact, only seven current college players attempted qualifying school. And, more telling, none advanced to final stage.

But as the last Q-School got under way Wednesday, there was no shortage of talented 20somethings who were looking to piece together six good rounds and find their way – or improve their status – on the 2013 PGA Tour.

Here are 10 former collegians to watch this week at PGA West:

The Last Q-School: Articles, videos and photos

Patrick Cantlay: A two-time All-American at UCLA, the 20-year-old decided this summer to forgo his final two seasons and turn pro. As an amateur, he was ranked as the No. 1 player in the world and twice earned low-amateur honors in a major, at the 2012 Masters and 2011 U.S. Open. In 2011, he played in five PGA Tour events and finished inside the top 25 in four of them, including a tie for ninth at the RBC Open. (He also shot 60 at the Travelers Championship and held the 36-hole lead.) This season, he made the cut in eight of 10 PGA Tour starts, but was even more successful in limited action on the Tour, posting a pair of top-5 finishes and earning enough cash to gain status on that circuit for next season.

Patrick Reed: One of the more remarkable stories of 2012, as the former Augusta State standout Monday-qualified for six PGA Tour events on his way to making 12 starts (the most allowed to a non-member) and earning nearly $303,000. He appeared to save his best golf for last month, when he tied for 22nd and 11th in back-to-back Fall Series events. That red-hot play has continued in Q-School, as he was medalist at first stage and then shared top honors during Stage 2.

Morgan Hoffmann: The former Oklahoma State standout has already secured playing privileges on the PGA Tour for 2013, and he did so the hard way. He began this past season with no status on the Tour but took advantage of sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifiers and earned enough money to finish 19th on the money list – enough to be promoted to the Big Show. Once the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, the 23-year-old also qualified for this year’s U.S. Open, where he tied for 29th.

Romain Wattel: A name perhaps unfamiliar to those in the States, but the Frenchman has been a fixture overseas for a few years. In 2010, he became only the fifth amateur to win an event on the European Challenge Tour, Europe’s equivalent of the circuit. (He turned pro afterward.) Only 21, Wattel played a full schedule on the 2012 European Tour, with four top 10s and a T-2 at the Omega European Masters. He tied for 21st at last week’s European Tour season finale, the DP World Tour Championship.

Hudson Swafford: One of three uber-talented Georgia players from the Class of 2011, along with Tour graduate Russell Henley and budding Tour star Harris English. Swafford, 25, authored one of the most improbable moments of 2012, when at the Tour’s Stadion Classic – contested on the Bulldogs’ home course – he holed out from a bunker on 18 en route to a closing, course-record 62 and the win. Unfortunately, he closed the season with eight missed cuts in his final 14 starts and finished 27th on the money list, narrowly missing a promotion to the PGA Tour.

Kelly Kraft: This is a huge opportunity for the 23-year-old Texan, who rose to prominence during a spectacular run at the 2011 U.S. Amateur, where he defeated Cantlay in the 36-hole final at Erin Hills. With the victory, Kraft earned exemptions into the first three majors of the year, but decided to play in only The Masters (62nd), believing he could qualify on his own for the other two majors. (He did not.) Upon turning pro, the SMU star made the cut in only two of his eight PGA Tour starts, with his best finish a T-57.

Matt Hill: The Canadian is best known for his decorated college career. In 2009, he won the NCAA Championship and also captured six other titles, which equaled Tiger Woods’ record for most college victories in a season. He turned pro the following year, and the 24-year-old has bounced around many of the mini-tours, most recently finding a home this season on the Canadian Tour, where he won once and earned nearly $50,000.

Scott Langley: The left-hander may be best known for his sterling run in June 2010, when as a senior at Illinois he captured the individual title at the NCAA Championship and, two weeks later, tied for 16th at the U.S. Open. Since then, the 24-year-old has toiled on the mini-tours and tried to cash in on limited starts on the PGA and tours. This season, he played in a combined seven events on those circuits, and his best finish was a T-29 at the U.S. Open.

Bryden Macpherson: In 2011, he became only the second Australian to win the British Amateur. He left the University of Georgia golf team this past February, midway through his junior season, to focus on his game in Australia, and at the time said he had no regrets about his decision. The 22-year-old turned pro immediately after the Masters, where he missed the cut, and was unable to play the weekend in any of his other three PGA Tour starts, the last of which came in June.

Kevin Tway: The son of former PGA champion Bob Tway, the 24-year-old turned pro in 2011 and has struggled to stick on either the PGA or tours, making the cut in only two of six starts. He did, however, finish T-5 in a late-season event on the Tour, but it did little other than to boost his earnings to nearly $25,000. The Oklahoman made enough starts on the Adams Golf Pro Tour to finish 12th on that money list.

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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.

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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."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."