A Cluttered Mind


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – We’ve played 90 holes, more or less, and accomplished nothing save for one alarming thought – if the final stage of PGA Tour Q-School was a Little League game, experience would be a slaughter rule victim to youthful indifference.

If true knowledge is a desire to learn what you don’t know, then many among the crop closing on 2010 Tour cards are dumb as a flagstick, at least as it applies to the Fall Classic.

“I can’t handle the nerves,” sighed Jay Williamson following his fourth round early Sunday.

For the record, Williamson was tied for second place at the time and riding one of the most impressive Q-School streaks (having successfully advanced out of final stage six times in seven trips) since Michael Allen stopped making his annual Q-School annuity. Yet no amount of upside could quiet Williamson’s racing mind.

At Q-School, knowing too much is nowhere you want to be.

David Duval and Shaun Micheel may have been the established headliners at Bear Lakes Country Club when the mini-series started on Wednesday, but the stage has been overtaken by the young at heart and, with all due respect, empty of head.

Check the board, Troy Merritt and Graham Delaet shared the lead for much of a windswept day on their way to the Tour doormat via Boise State, of all places. Who knew the blue field was also home to the game’s Birdie U?

Of course, Rickie Fowler is the king of indifference, quietly self-confident and fearless regardless of circumstance. If the mop-headed phenom is nervous few, if any, can tell.

“No one would know,” said Fowler’s mother, Lynn, who added she has seen her prodigy nervous on the golf course once three years ago at the Walker Cup. Sounds about right.

Fowler is not alone on that indifferent island – Merritt and Delaet, first and second, respectively, when officials blew the whistle late Sunday due to darkness, seemed more interested in their Broncos’ BCS plight following the morning round than a leaderboard – while Billy Horschel and Nathan Smith had the look of players who knew something the rest of the field was missing.

This next wave of Tour pro is athletic and lacking a fear of failure that is born from a half dozen or so trips to Q-School. Fowler raced motocross growing up, while Smith was a talented pitcher. They react to changing conditions almost instinctively and without a hint of doubt.

Fowler plays golf as it should be played, with the mind of a hunter-gatherer and a sprinter’s heart. If, as he appears likely to do, Fowler earns a Tour card he could put the Snail Tour back 20 years with his rapid-fire game.

Perhaps even more importantly this week, players must have short, or in many cases, no memories.

Rule 1 of Q-School: check your baggage at the door. Rule 2 of Q-School: leave the calendar there as well.

The year’s longest week has been made into an even more mind-numbing marathon thanks to a storm on Saturday that sent the schedule sideways and an unfavorable forecast for Monday’s big finish.

According to the weatherman there will be a din to match the mood for the vast majority of players on Monday. This many hearts haven’t been broken in south Florida since the Miami Hurricanes stopped recruiting criminals.

Just don’t expect Fowler and the fellow Q-School knuckleheads to be among the jilted, proving once and for all that Q-School is no place for a cluttered mind.