Schools Out -- Five Exemptions

By Mercer BaggsDecember 2, 2003, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)This year, someone will finish 31st at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. Or maybe a group will tie for 32nd or even for 35th place.
However it plays out, at least five people will have a gripe.
Because this year, this is certain: Anyone finishing outside the top 30 will not receive a passing grade at Q-School.
This is different from the last six years, when the top 35 finishers and ties from the final stage of the Qualifying Tournament were granted their PGA Tour cards for the following season.
At one time, starting in 1982, the top 50 finishers and ties from Q-School were extended an offer to play the primary circuit. As many as 59, in 1989, qualified from a single class.
Then came the institution of the Ben Hogan Tour ' a proving ground for up-and-coming golfers, as well as a place for PGA Tour veterans to hone their skills, according to the tours media guide.
And so started the declination of importance placed upon the Qualifying Tournament.
The PGA Tour reduced its Q-School exemptions to the low 45 finishers and ties in 1990; two years later it was down to 40. It decreased to the low 35 and ties in 1997. This year it has dropped to 30.
Meanwhile, there has been higher regard given to what is now called the Nationwide Tour.
The secondary circuit graduated to the PGA Tour the top five players on the season-ending money list each of its first two seasons. It increased to 10 in 1992; moved to 15 in 97; and this year, the top 20 players on the money list do not have to go back in 04.
Thats 20 exemptions, over 14 years, taken away from the Qualifying Tournament and given to the tours minor league.
The logic in doing so? It is a reflection of the growing recognition of the quality of play on the Nationwide Tour, said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.
To support his decision to levy more weight on Nationwide Tour performance, Finchem looks to the numbers.
Over the years, based on percentages, recently graduated Nationwide Tour players have fared better on the PGA Tour the following season, in terms of keeping their cards, than have Q-School graduates.
And 2003 was no exception.
Six of the 15 players who qualified via the 2002 Nationwide Tour retained their cards ' finished in the top 125 on the money list ' for next season, while 10 of 38 Q-School grads did the same.
Thats a 40-percent success rate for the full-seasoners, and 26 percent for the six-to-14-rounders.
There is almost a consensus among those who have Nationwide Tour experience: A full season should count more than a couple ' maybe even just one ' good weeks.
Not that Q-School isnt difficult, but its a microcosm of a full season; whereas, youre tested week in, week out on the Nationwide Tour, said Arron Oberholser, who finished second on last years Nationwide Tour money list.
Plus, youre gaining valuable experience playing four-round tournaments against quality competition.
Cliff Kresge has used both routes to qualify for the PGA Tour. He agreed with Oberholser, saying, I think (the Nationwide Tour) is also a good stepping stone to come to the (PGA) tour, because its very similar to the conditions and people are more prepared that come off that tour.
Even those with little or no Nationwide experience put more exemption emphasis on the tour.
Its proven that the guys who came off the Nationwide Tour have been very successful (on the PGA Tour), said Ben Curtis, who was a rookie on the 2003 PGA Tour courtesy his tie for 26th in last years Qualifying Tournament.
I think that kind of weighs the tours decisionbased on three (stages) compared to a whole 25 events on the Nationwide Tour. I think its a little more fair judgment to give more (exemptions) to the Nationwide.
Thats not to say the Qualifying Tournament is without merit.
Were it not for Q-School, Curtis never would have had the opportunity to win this year's British Open. He would have spent the entire year just trying to play his way into the major league.
For those languishing on mini-tours, like Chad Campbell, who spent four years on the Hooters Tour, and for those playing overseas, like Swedens Richard S. Johnson, who played the European Tour in 2002, Q-School is the quickest vehicle to the PGA Tour.
I think the Q-School is very important, said Johnson, who finished 120th on the money list in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. For a foreigner to take a year off from Europe to go play on the Nationwide Tour and try and get on the (PGA) tour, I dont think thats really the correct way.
And, yes, Q-School produces its share of Boo Weekleys. But it also generates major champions.
In fact, all four of this years major champions have had to pass through Q-School on their ways to fortune and fame.
Youll find every year there will be a few guys that get through tour school that had a hot week. But by and large, the players that get through are pretty good, said 2002 Q-School medalist Jeff Brehaut, who finished 98th on this years PGA Tour money list.
All in all, most players appear to be Nationwide Tour proponents. Many are pleased with the increasing number of exemptions, and think that eventually the tour will match the school in number ' and perhaps soon surpass it.
I think the higher number on the Nationwide Tour is a good way to go, because youve got guys out there playing 30 weeks a year, proving they can play, versus a guy that comes out from tour school for six rounds, said Marco Dawson, who has four times successfully made it through Q-School and was fifth in earnings last year on the Nationwide Tour.
Its a no-brainer.
I disagree a little bit, argued Cameron Beckman, who graduated from Q-School in 1998, 99 and 2000, because I think the six rounds is pressure packed. (On the Nationwide Tour) you get a full year to relax and play a bunch of tournaments. I kind of like the intense pressure of the six days.
For now, it stands 30-20 in favor of the old school. But, using history as a barometer for the future, it wont stay that way for long.
The Nationwide Tour will continue to grow and grow and grow, as former graduate Stuart Appleby says. And the Qualifying Tournament will keep on losing cards, as Kresge believes.
Its just a matter of by how many.
I think they are probably going to do about half and half before too long, said Kresge. Ive even heard that they might not have any cards out of Q-School anymore and they might have everybody play that tour and spend a year down there to come up to here.
I think 25 (for each) would be a good number.
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Watch: Rory finds trouble, and more trouble, and more ...

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

Rory McIlroy was in a must-win situation against Brian Harman in order to have a chance to advance to the one-and-done portion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

And, as you can see, McIlroy did not get off to an ideal start on Friday.

McIlroy lost the third, fifth and ninth holes at Austin Country Club. Harman led, 3 up, at the turn.

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Watch: Stefani makes hole-in-one, has no clue

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 3:18 pm

Shawn Stefani made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in the second round of the Corales Puntacana Resorts and Club Championship.

However, he never saw it go in.

Stefani knew he hit a great shot, and this isn't shown in the video below, but he just questioned everyone around him if they saw the ball go into the hole.

A Golf Channel cameraman finally gave him the news and Stefani responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.