Oldies and goodies, wannabes and daydream believers, they are all duking it out for 25 PGA Tour cards this week at PGA West, during the six-round culmination of Q-School. GolfChannel.com senior writers Jason Sobel, Randall Mell and Rex Hoggard offer up who they think would make for the best story to earn full playing privileges in 2012.
By JASON SOBEL
This isn’t supposed to be how it works for former No. 1-ranked players.
No, this small group of elite players over the past quarter-century are meant to remain at the top of their profession for years. When their games fade, they are granted unlimited special exemptions until the time they are ushered into the Hall of Fame, forever bronzed as one of the all-time greats.
David Duval has taken a much different career path, to say the least. A former No. 1, his game has taken a precipitous downturn in the past decade. Yes, there have been exemptions – season-long passes for top-25 on career money list, top-50 on career money list and even one for “family crisis” – but those have dried up.
Other than his status as past champion of 13 sanctioned events, Duval no longer has any position on the PGA Tour after finishing 152nd on the 2011 money list. Soon after the season ended, he was unsure about heading to Q-School, but eventually decided to compete in second stage, where he finished second.
And so now the former No. 1 will be battling a field filled with journeymen, up-and-comers and dreamers, each hoping to reach the level he once achieved.
It will be a terrific story if Duval retains his card through Q-School this week – and an even better one if he parlays that into more success down the road.
By RANDALL MELL
Ty Tryon must be the oldest 27-year-old in golf today.
Ten tough years have passed since he left Q-School at Bear Lakes in West Palm Beach, Fla., as the youngest player ever to win a PGA Tour card.
Once the game’s golden boy, Tryon is now identified as one of its cautionary tales. He’s pointed to as an example of what can happen when too much is heaped upon a player who’s too young to carry the weight of grand expectations.
There’s a problem with that depiction, though. Tryon is not yet 30. He’s still writing chapters to his tale, chapters that could give his story an uplifting finish. That’s why if Tryon emerges with his card come Monday at PGA West, he’s the best story there. If he earns his way back onto the PGA Tour, he keeps alive the hope that all his dreams can still be resurrected. He fuels hope that perseverance and hard work still leads to professional fulfillment.
Tryon’s all grown up now. He’s a husband and father to a 5-year-old. He plays for different reasons than he played for 10 years ago. He plays with a different purpose. He plays with the possibility of a happy ending.
By REX HOGGARD
There is no shortage of feel-good tales to cheer as this year’s final stage of Q-School gets underway on Wednesday in the California desert, but based on pure cosmic justice Doug Barron represents a unique rooting interest.
Two years ago the fortysomething journeyman played a single PGA Tour event, was selected for a “random” performance-enhancing drug test and will forever be the answer to an obscure trivia question as the first, and to date only, Tour player to test positive for PEDs.
Barron – who has a lengthy history of health problems including low testosterone – had requested various “therapeutic-use exemptions” prior to 2009 and had been denied.
That he became the face of “doping” in golf was proof that not all testing programs are created equal. That he now finds himself on the doorstep to regain Tour membership is nothing short of an administrative miracle.
Barron tried to trust the system and it landed him a one-year suspension. He now trusts his attorneys, has been granted a TUE to take testosterone and has the energy, and game, to endure the six-day Q-School marathon.
Doug Barron may not be the sexiest story at this year’s Q-School, but for those with a fondness for cosmic make-goods he’s worth a cheer or two.
Catch live coverage of PGA Tour Q-School finals on Golf Channel: Saturday and Sunday - 4PM ET; Monday - 3:30PM ET