The final stage of Q-School begins this Thursday. While the PGA Tour's move to a wraparound schedule has removed much of the drama from one of golf's most grueling events, there's still plenty on the line for the field gathered at PGA West.
For many, simply making it to the final stage was a victory in and of itself, as each player teeing it up this week is assured of at least conditional status on the Web.com Tour for 2014. The subsequent 108-hole event, though, will determine just how many playing opportunities each will receive next year on the developmental circuit.
The winner of this week's event receives the top prize: fully-exempt status for the entire 2014 season. After that, the remaining players in the top 10 will be exempt until the third re-shuffle, while players from Nos. 11-45 will be exempt until the second re-shuffle. All players finishing in a tie for 46th or below will receive conditional status, the equivalent of finishing Nos. 76-100 on the 2013 Web.com Tour regular season money list.
While the dream of playing directly onto the PGA Tour with six rounds of great golf is no longer an option, an eclectic mix of names both young and old have gathered in California to battle it out:
- Walker Cup veterans: Michael Kim, Max Homa and Justin Thomas all helped the U.S. to victory at the Walker Cup in September and now are looking to take their games to the next level in 2014. Still enrolled at Cal where he was NCAA Player of the Year in 2013, Kim will compete this week as an amateur, while Homa, his former Golden Bear teammate, has already turned pro and logged a top-10 finish at the Frys.com Open in October. Thomas, meanwhile, turned pro this fall after leading Alabama to a national championship in June.
- Major winners: The field this week is not comprised entirely by the up-and-coming crowd. Among those looking to improve their status for 2014 are Todd Hamilton and Olin Browne; Hamilton, 48, won the British Open in 2004, while Brown, now 54, took home the U.S. Senior Open title in 2011.
- Bloodlines: The names may be familiar, even if the players themselves are not well-known. Tyler McCumber, whose dad Mark won the Players Championship in 1988, is among those gathered this week at PGA West, as is Jamie Sindelar, whose father Joey won seven times on the PGA Tour. Manuel Villegas may have gotten some advice from brother Camilo, who won the Tour Championship in 2008, while Sam Saunders can rely on tips from his somewhat famous grandfather, Arnold Palmer.
- USGA champions: 2012 U.S. Amateur winner Steven Fox is still looking to get his game back on track, having missed the cut in each of his nine starts after turning pro earlier this year. He'll be joined in the field by Colt Knost, who took home both the U.S. Amateur and Public Links titles in 2007 and has been a full-time participant on the PGA Tour for each of the last three seasons, and T.J. Vogel, who claimed the Public Links trophy in 2012.
- Storylines: More often than not, compelling stories are abundant at Q-School and this year is no exception. Blayne Barber looks to rebound form his disqualification at the first stage of Q-School in 2012. Johnny DelPrete hopes to make a name for himself among the professional ranks, though at this point he may be better known as the man who stepped in to carry the bag when his girlfriend, Jessica Korda, fired her caddie in the middle of a round at the 2013 U.S. Women's Open. Jeff Klauk continues his comeback efforts after brain surgery in 2012 to combat seizures.