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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Q School Day 1

Day One of Q School is in the books.  As I said in yesterday's blog, due to this being a six day and two course tournament one shouldn't over analyze results on the first day, but rather after two rounds when everyone has played both courses.  That said, here are some first round thoughts.

  • While the pairings are reminiscent of the U.S. Open, the course set up certainly wasn't.  106 of the 172 golfers are under par and the lead is -8.
  • Both courses could be had today, but it looks like (not surprisingly) the Nicklaus course (NT) played a little easier than the Stadium Course (SC).
  • At a very casual glance, -4 on the NT course or -2 on the SC would put anyone in good shape.  The PGA Tour cut after day one is -4 (T26 because several people above that number are qualified via Nationwide Tour and trying to improve their status).
  • While no one is "out of the tournament" at this point, anyone over par is going to have to fight the urge to press to make up ground. 
  • A very early guess would be the Top 25 cut off coming somewhere between -16 and -20 with my best guess being -17.
Here are how some of The Golf Aficionado's (TGA) early pics fared.

Q School Dandy Dozen (3 most likely to advance are starred * and 3 most likely to WD or finish outside the top 130 are marked #).  With one exception, pretty good pics to start.
  1. Vaughn Taylor * (-7) T3 NT
  2. Jeff Maggert * (-6) T7 SC
  3. Shaun Micheel (-5) T10 NT
  4. Dickey Pride # (oops) (-5) T10 SC
  5. Dean Wilson (-5) T10 NT
  6. Daniel Chopra (-2) T61 NT
  7. David Duval * (E) T107 SC
  8. Rich Beem (E) T107 SC
  9. Jason Gore (+1) T126 SC
  10. Len Mattiace #  (+1) T126 SC
  11. Boo Weekly (+2) T146 NT
  12. Carlos Franco # (+4) T163 SC
PGA / Nationwide Tour Veterans (* means 3 most likely to advance pre tournament)
  1. Will McGirt * (-7) T3 NT
  2. Matt Jones (-5) T10 NT
  3. Roland Thatcher * (-4) T26 NT
  4. Jarrod Lyle (-4) T26 NT
  5. Colt Knost (-3) T43 NT
  6. James Nitties (-2) T61 SC
  7. Bob May (-2) T61 NT
  8. Tommy Biershenk * (-2) T61 SC
  9. Paul Claxton (+1) T126 SC
  10. Nathan Green (+2) T146 NT
Minitour / Journeymen / Rookie (* pre tournament most likely to advance) Can you say "nailed it!"
  1. Harris English * (-4) T26 SC
  2. Sam Saunders * (-4) T26 NT
  3. Matt Davidson * (-4) T26 SC
  4. Doug Barron (-3) T43 NT
  5. Jeff Corr (-1) T87 NT
  6. Anthony Rodriguez (-1) T87 NT
  7. Jimmy Brandt (+1) T126 SC
  8. Benoit Beisser (+2) T146 NT
  9. Ty Tryon (+6) T171 SC
  10. Brian Duncan (+6) T171 SC
More to come tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Final Thoughts the Night Before the First Tee Goes in the Ground

Here are a few random thoughts the night before the first tee goes into the ground in the final round of Q School

  • The leaderboard at the end of the first day isn't really that important since rounds are played on split courses.  The leaderboard at the end of the second at fourth days should tell the story going into the last two rounds.  That gives everyone an equal number of rounds on both courses.
  • You can't advance after the first couple of rounds of Q School, but you can shoot yourself out of contention.
  • Slow and steady wins this race.  Last year no one had 6 rounds in the sixties.  Billy Mayfair (medalist) was closest with 5 rounds in the 60's and a final round 70, with a low round of only 67.  Keep an eye on they guys that shoot something like 68 / 69 in the first two rounds even more so than a guy who shoots a 64 / 72.  The ability to put up something under par on whichever course plays harder for any given player is important.
First impressions of pairings:
  • I thought it was interesting that Vaughn Taylor was the first name on the leaderboard.  Is that some kind of prediction?
  • I also thought it was funny that Roberto Castro, Martin Flores, and Billy Hurley III are the last group to go off since they are ironically the 23rd thru 25th finishers on the Nationwide Tour money list (last to advance).  Or is that the PGA Tour's way of subtly telling players to be happy with their already earned status and stay out of the way of others who aren't as fortunate?  Due to the importance of early season starts, I can't say I blame the players.
  • Hudson Swofford and Harris English are paired together.....UGA teammates and former college roommates....makes me wonder if the U.S. Open is in charge of the pairings.  If so, hopefully they aren't in charge of course set up.  The pressure's hard enough without that.
  • The third member of the Swofford / English paring is Travis Wadkins......Lanny's son.  The tournament missed the chance to pair Wadkins with Sam Saunders in the legacy pairing.
  • Gator Todd and David Duval paired together.  Highest ranked name with former highest ranked player.
That's enough for tonight.  Butterflies won't be off the charts tomorrow, but should at least be interesting to see what happens early.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nationwide Tour Graduate Projections

PGATour.com Columnist Rob Bolton does an annual prediction of where the Nationwide Tour and Q School graduates will finish the following PGA Tour season.  This years Nationwide Tour Graduate Projection  by Bolton can be found at http://www.pgatour.com/2011/r/11/28/nwt-graduate-fantasy-projections/index.html .  He places the 25 players in three categories based on where he thinks they will finish on the PGA Tour Money List.  Top 125 (retaining their card), 126-150 (partially exempt), and 151+.  Last year Bolton was 9 for 25 with his biggest miss being Keegan Bradley (projected 151+, but won 2 tournaments including the PGA Championship).  Nine of last years class acheived the top 125, but this years class doesn't appear to be as strong.

I will list this year's 25 graduates along with Bolton's predictions and then my predictions.  I highly encourage you to check out Bolton's article and explanations as to why he's made the predictions he's made.  He and I weigh many of the variables to success similarly.  When I make my pics I will factor in a number of things.  Here are some of the things I look for.

  • Consistant play through the year, and not just a couple of hot weeks
  • Experience on the PGA Tour and how it trended
  • Tournament winners and the tournaments they won including the past champions at those venues and how they faired on the PGA Tour
  • Ranking in terms of West Coast starts.....its a disadvantage to be 20-25 on this list because it means less starts before the re-shuffle.
  • Ball striking, inparticular Greens in Regulation......putting and short game can save you more on the Nationwide Tour than it can on the PGA Tour.  There's a lot more trouble both off the tee and around the greens that make scrambling harder on the PGA Tour.
  • Pedigree
  • Intangibles

Here are the players in order of 2011 Money List finish
  1. JJ Killeen - Bolton - Top 125 / TGA - 126-150....He will get a lot of starts, which might save him, but it took him several years on the Nationwide Tour to make a leap forward.  I think 2013 will be his year after a respectable 2012.
  2. Ted Potter Jr - Bolton 126-150 / TGA Top 125.....This is a very tough one to pick....Potter's won a ton on the Hooters Tour and this year on the Nationwide Tour but did not play well at all his first few cycles on the Nationwide Tour.  He could get off to a slow start and lose is confidence or he could win twice next year.  He's also got a little Tommy Gainey feel to him.
  3. Matthew Goggin - Bolton Top 125 / TGA Top 125.....Veteran player...had a nice year on the Nationwide Tour.  Normally 7 to 10 players from the Nationwide Tour will stick any given year and he's as good a pick as any.
  4. Jason Kokrak - Bolton 126-150 / TGA Top 125....Very similar to Potter in his mini tour success and converting that into wins on the Nationwide Tour.  Bomber with nice GIR numbers too.  Gary Woodland?
  5. Jonas Blixt - Bolton Top 125 / TGA 151+.....Stats don't back my prediction up, but it's just a gut feeling.  Not too many guys that rely that heavily on the putter have an easy go of it. 
  6. Danny Lee - Bolton Top 125 / TGA Top 125.....This is a slam dunk pick.  From a pedigree and pure talent standpoint easily the top of this class.  Think Jason Day a couple of years ago.
  7. Ken Duke - Bolton 126-150 / TGA 151+.....Bolton's pick is more fact based than mine, but I have a hard time putting someone making a PGA Tour return in their 40's in a higher category.  This may be one of those picks I kick myself on in 10 months (or sooner).
  8. Scott Brown - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+.....Bolton's analysis is dead on.  I have a hard time buying into a guy that probably got to where he was on the money list by making every possible start.  Couple that with no PGA Tour experience and I don't see it as a good combination.
  9. Gary Christian - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+......Nothing to add to what Bolton says really.  A 40 year old PGA rookie who has been a steady, but not spectacular career Nationwider.  Nothing jumps off the page to make you think he will do anything noteworthy.
  10. Miguel Carballo - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+.....Been fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour for 5 years, but the three years prior to 2011 only had 1 top 10 total.  Not consistant enough unless he has a week where he catches lighting in a bottle; and he better convert that week to a top 3, not just a top 10.
  11. Troy Kelly - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+.....I just don't trust him after a bad PGA Tour stint a few years ago and some pretty nice circumstances helping his money total in 2011.
  12. Russell Knox - Bolton 151 + / TGA 126 to 150....I like him a lot more than Bolton seems to.  He's a very consistent player who has played well on the Hooters Tour and seized the opportunity in California on a tougher golf course when it presented itself.  Also won in a birdie fest later in the year.  I think he will play tougher golf courses a little better than many of the other graduates, but Bolton may be right about inexpereince catching up with him.
  13. Erik Compton - Bolton 126 to 150 / TGA 151+.....All I can say is I hope I'm wrong.  If you don't know his story, Compton is a former college star as well as a two time heart transplant recipient.  One of several feel good stories for next year.
  14. John Mallinger - Bolton Top 125 / TGA 151+......Bolton really likes him, but I'm not convinced.  His best finish is at a defunct tournament that used to play opposite of The Open Championship and I think Bolton is placing too much emphasis on his Nationwide Tour record this year and not enough on his PGA Tour performances the last 2 years.
  15. Kyle Thompson - Bolton 126 to 150 / TGA Top 125.....This pick makes no sense, but there's always a couple of surprises.  Plays out of the same club in Greenville, SC as Bill Haas and Lucas Glover amoung others, so maybe some of that will rub off.
  16. Kyle Reifers - Bolton 151+ / TGA 126 to 150......For some reason TGA always expects Reifers to be a little better than he's turned out, so maybe this will be the year some of that cashes in.  He could be a guy 3 years down the road where everyone says "where did he come from?"
  17. Gavin Coles - Bolton 151 + / TGA 151+......Bolton nailed it.  Too few courses he can be relevant on due to length.
  18. Matt Every - Bolton Top 125 / TGA Top 125....he's got the pedigree and he's bounced around,  but he (along with Lee and Kokrak) probably has the potential to be a guy 10 years down the road with 4 to 6 wins and a very successful career.
  19. Daniel Chopra - Bolton 151+ / TGA 126 to 150.....I don't know how you figure Chopra out.  If it wasn't for his putter he would have won about 3 more times than he did in the mid to late 2000's but now he's kind of a wild card.  I wouldn't be surprised if he finished 19th with 2 wins or 205th, so I'll take a shot in the dark somewhere in the middle.
  20. Steve Wheatcroft - Bolton 151+ / TGA 126 to 150....Improved from 206th to 166th on the money list from his first to second season.  Trend suggests he may move that up a little more this time.  It's starting to get to the point to where you have to be a little worried about his number and how many early events he'll get into.
  21. Garth Mulroy - Bolton 126-150 / TGA Top 125....I'm basing this heavily off of one factor.  People who play well at the BMW Pro AM historically do well on the PGA Tour.  Maybe it has something to do with all the different courses in the rotation.
  22. Mark Anderson - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+.....Tough number coming out and no PGA Tour experience.  Will probably make some cuts and earn a nice living but not good enough to hang on to status.
  23. Roberto Castro - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+......see Mark Anderson
  24. Martin Flores - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+....past PGA Tour experience and a bad number doesn't give me much confidence.
  25. Billy Hurley III - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+....If memory serves, the Naval Academy grad received one of his PGA Tour starts from The King at Bay Hill and played Admirably (pun intended).  Unlike most people in his spot on the money list, I think Bolton's right about sponsors exemptions.  He might eek into the 126 to 150 category and that would be fine with me.
Total Stats: Bolton - Top 125 (6) / 126 to 150 (6) / 151+ (13)
                  TGA - Top 125 (7) / 126 to 150 (5) / 151+ (13)

Final thoughts:  For some reason, this group doesn't look like one of the stronger ones to come off the Nationwide Tour.  I only see 3 potential long term stars in Danny Lee, (Top 10 in the world potential / multiple wins and possible Major Champion), Jason Kokrak (in a Bubba Watson / J.B Holmes / Gary Woodland way) and Matt Every (a few wins over a 10 year span).  Maybe one day Ted Potter.


What's at Stake for Everyone in the Final Stage

There are several "prizes" to be won at the final stage of Q School.  The Grand Prize comes to those that finish in the Top 25 and ties in the form of fully exempt status on the 2012 PGA Tour, but there are a number of other scenarios that can play out for this week's competitors.

  • Top 25 & Ties - Fully Exempt PGA Tour status, but it's a bit more complicated than that.  Players are ranked based on their Q School finish and the higher they finish within the Top 25, the more tournaments they are able to get in.  For example, someone finished T24th may get in 18 tournaments in 2012, whereas someone finishing T3 may get in 25 tournaments.  That's 7 more chances to cash a check and avoid next year's Q School.  There are also multiple re-shuffles of the order of entry throughout the year, so it's very important to get some early starts and make some early cuts to maintain or improve one's original number.
  • Next 50 and ties after Top 25 and ties -   Receive fully exempt Nationwide Tour status, but once again it's a bit more complicated than that.  About 10 events into the Nationwide season, there is a re-shuffle there as well so it will be important for people in this classification to make some early cuts to maintain their status.
  • All other finishers - Receive conditional Nationwide status based on their order of finish in Q School.  It is extremely important that players in this classification take advantage of all events they get in; especially early, because they could benefit from the re-shuffle or end up lost for the season before it even really gets started. 
For each player, the goal of the week will be a little different.  Some will not be happy with anything less than a T25 or better, whereas others will have a career kick start in the Next 50 and ties.  No matter where  people end up coming out of Q School, equally important (if not more important) is how they perform either on the PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour before the first re-shuffle.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mini Tour players / Journeymen / Rookies in Q School

Up until today, the players profiled have been players that have had successful runs in professional golf, but just didn't get quite as much out of 2011 as they needed to to avoid Q School.  Today's featured players are players with more to gain and lose than many of the other competitors.  For many of these guys, finishing in the next 50 after the top 25 and ties and earning full time Nationwide status before the first re rank would be quite an acceptable tournament.  Finishing in the top 25 and earning a PGA Tour card would be great, but it could be a blessing in disguise to be in that next group down.

Doug Barron - Barron falls into the "journeyman" category and has spent times playing all levels of golf.  He is also the golfer that failed a drug test on tour for using Performance Enhancing Drugs.  It proved to be a little bit of a sad story because he was legitimately on a medication for a condition he suffers from and the general consensus among his fellow competitors was that he was not doing anything to gain an advantage.  Doug's been on the biggest stage, but could probably benefit from a year on the Nationwide Tour getting his game back into form.

Benoit Beisser - An entertaining contestant on the Big Break series, Beisser has finally broken through to the Final Stage of Q school.  The Golf Aficionado (TGA) is pulling for Beisser to at least get full Nationwide status because he's nothing if not entertaining.  He's also a qualified golfer having played at the storied Arizona State program and even Monday qualifying for a PGA Tour even while in college (and rumored to have been hung over).

Jimmy Brandt - Brandt caught TGA's radar last year as a Nationwide Tour member through his blog for http://www.pgatour.com/.  As TGA followed Brandt, it was noticed that he went all year without making a cut.  The former Auburn walk on never crashed and burned on the Nationwide Tour as he never shot higher than 76, but never shot lower than 70.  His worst tournament was +6 and his best was -2, but his consistent effort just wasn't quite good enough to make any cuts.  He has figured out the formula for Q School to this point having made it through all 4 stages last year and he's in the finals again this year.  An encore performance of full status on the Nationwide Tour should be his goal and should also result in a better year in 2012.

Jeff Corr - Corr was the Hooters Tour Player of the Year in 2011, and the Hooters Tour has consistently been a mini tour breeding ground for success.  Ted Potter is another Hooters Tour legend and broke through with a huge year on the Nationwide Tour in 2011.  If Corr could have a good enough week to get full Nationwide status he could have a really big 2012.  If he breaks into the top 25, it could work out or it could be a little more than he's ready for.

Matt Davidson - Matt's bounced around from the PGA Tour to the mini tours and then to the Nationwide Tour with a successful year on the Nationwide Tour under his belt.  He may be a prime example of someone who made it to the PGA Tour before he was ready.  If he can get through this time around he's got a chance to stick.

Brian Duncan - Former Clemson stand out has basically spent his professional years on the mini tours.  He's made it to the Final Stage twice before, but never finished all that high and his limited Nationwide Status earned didn't get him into many tournaments.  Those he got in to didn't result an any made cuts.  The best thing for Duncan would probably be a full year on the Nationwide Tour if he could finish in or around that top 75 number.

Harris English - Won as a amateur at the Nationwide Tour Children's Hospital Invitational.  It would seem like this is a recipe for immediate success, but Daniel Summerhays did the same thing and it took him a little longer than expected to establish himself as a professional.  English is talented enough to get through and have success on the PGA Tour, but it wouldn't be the end of the world for him to hone his skills for a full year on the Nationwide Tour.

Anthony Rodriguez - Another Big Break veteran, Rodriguez didn't come off quite as well as Beisser on camera.  He's another example of someone who had early success by making it to the PGA Tour but couldn't sustain it and eventually retired from golf until coming back.  TGA is one for forgiving people who act like jerks on T.V, so it would be interesting to see how "A-Rod" (or "A-god" as some of his competitors less than affectionately called him) handled a year on the Nationwide Tour.

Sam Saunders - The King's grandson is making his first appearance in the Q School Finals.  He's received numerous sponsors exemptions on both the Nationwide and PGA Tours as a result Arnie and he's actually done pretty well with them.  He's played well in the Honda and the Bay Hill on the PGA and he's made some cuts on the Nationwide Tour as well.  TGA is mildly excited to see how he does in the finals and see if Sam can begin to stake his own path without the need of his famous grandfather. 

Ty Tryon - The once teenage phenom is now about a decade in as a pro and he keeps fighting.  He made it through to the Final Stage last year but didn't have a very good Nationwide Tour season.  Here's hoping for a nice season.

3 most likely to make it to the PGA Tour - Davidson, English, Saunders

Omega Misson Hills World Cup

Congrats to Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland for winning the Omega Mission Hills World Cup for the United States!  They defeated England (Justin Rose and Ian Poulter) and Germany (Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka) by 2 strokes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

PGA Tour / Nationwide Tour veterans back in Q School

There are a number of players in Q School that have some PGA Tour experience and successful Nationwide Tour resumes, but just can't seem to get over the hump of long time PGA Tour success.  While probably half of the final stage of Q School falls into this category, I've picked a handful of players to preview and follow this year.

Tommy Biershenk - The older brother of The Big Break's "Shank", Tommy had a very successful year on the Nationwide Tour after a number of successful years on the mini tour circuit.  Tommy also had some success on the Nationwide Tour about a decade ago, but his all around game seems to be in much better shape.  As evidence, he finished 31st on the Nationwide Tour Money List, 15th in Total Driving (TD), 46th in Greens in Regulation (GIR), 33rd in Putts Per Round (PPR), 11th in Putting Average (PA), and 11th in All Around (AA).  He narrowly missed getting through Q School last year and but for a brief cold spell on the Nationwide Tour in an other wise consistent year; he wouldn't need to be here.  If he putt's, he'll get through.

Paul Claxton - The "Georgia Peach" had another nice year on the Nationwide Tour finishing in or around the top 50 in all major statistical categories.  He should come into Q School with a great deal of confidence. 

Nathan Green - He actually could have gone in yesterday's category, as he has a win in 2009 (Canadian Open).  Made 14 of 26 PGA cuts this year, but statiscally was not very good (178th TD, 168 AR, 166 GIR).  He's got to strike the ball better than that this week or the Pete Dye course will eat him up.

Matt Jones - He's always passed the eye test, but even though he finished 133rd on the PGA Money List he only made 10 of 25 cuts.  With the exception of putting (92nd), didn't finish in the top 150 in any significant statistical category. He will have 126th to 150th status no matter what, so he has a solid fall back plan that could free him up to play well, but he will have to have an above average ball striking week.

Colt Knost - Burst on the scene in the U.S. Amateur several years back, he's always played well on the Nationwide Tour and never quite gotten it to work on the PGA Tour.  On the positive, he was 42nd in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour and 55th in putting, but 183 in AR and 171 in GIR.  Putting it in the fairway and making some putts could help him avoid some big numbers and maybe get through.

Jarrod Lyle - I always like a good story and his childhood fights with leukemia (I believe) have always had me pulling for him.  He looks like a carbon copy of Colt Knost on the course physically, but unfortunately for him he also looks like Knost in the GIR (172) and AR (174) category as well.  He did best Colt by 7 spots on the money list last year coming in at 167. 

Bob May - Really didn't play much this past year, but how can you leave him off after almost taking down Tiger in a 4 hole playoff in the PGA a decade ago?

William McGirt - Came in 141st on the PGA Tour Money List and made 19 of 32 cuts.  He was 105th AR, 71st in Putting, 146th in TD and 25th in GIR.  So how did he not finish in the top 125?  32nd in scoring average before the cut, but 128th in final round scoring average.  He couldn't make the good starts hold up.  Learning how to make a cut is a big half of the battle that he figured out.  If he's on the bubble going into the final round it will be interesting to see how his nerves hold up on the Monday back 9. 

James Nitties - Came onto the scene after several years on the mini tours through The Big Break and backed it up by several years on the PGA Tour followed by a win this year on the Nationwide Tour and the unenviable 26th place on the Money List.  A little streaky, but Aussie cool and has the reputation of someone that could drink off a bad day early in the week and move on.  Probably not a bad trait in Q School.

Roland Thatcher - It seems like Roland is always 125th on the PGA Tour money list, but this year came in at 127th after a wacky final day on the leaderboards of the Disney Tournament. Pretty strong all around player with no noticable weaknesses and 126th to 150th status should make for a pretty good combination for the nerves this week.        

3 Most likely to advance - Tommy Biershenk, Roland Thatcher, Will McGirt (with James Nitties and Matt Jones barely missing)

How did I forget these two yesterday?

Somehow I manged to leave off Lee Janzen and Steve Flesch from yesteday's list. 

Janzen has 8 career victories including 2 U.S. Open's and has played in both the President's cup and Ryder Cup.  He also made 11 cuts on the PGA Tour last year.  He is a very viable candidate to advance this year.

Flesch is a left handed ball striking machine and has been seen multiple times on the Sunday leaderboard at Augusta.  He had a decent year this past year on the PGA Tour finishing 134th on the money list. 

Janzen and Flesch both stand a very good chance at advancing this year.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Q School's Dandy Dozen

Rich Beem, Daniel Chopra, David Duval, Carlos Franco, Jason Gore, Jeff Maggert, Len Mattiace, Shaun Micheel, Dickey Pride, Vaughn Taylor, Boo Weekley and Dean Wilson are all guys that, at one point in time, thought they would never find themselves back in Q School.  They have combined for 2 PGA Championships, 1 Open Championship and 32 other wins in PGA Tour sanctioned events.  They have a collective 347 top 10’s, 2,039 cuts made and 3,712 tournaments entered.  Oh yeah, and they’ve made $113.1 million dollars between them.  Duval, Taylor and Weekley have also been on USA teams in the not too distant past.  Anybody remember Boo Weekly doing the “Happy Gilmore” down the first fairway in the Sunday Singles in the Ryder Cup 3 years ago?

Because they have all won on the PGA Tour, they all enjoy something called “Past Champion Status.”  This alone will get them into a handful of lower tier PGA Tour events every year.  Because they have some status, they also are allowed an unlimited number of Sponsor’s Exemptions.  Going into the final state of Q School, these guys have the least to gain and lose.  Because of that, expect to see just as many of these guys withdraw after 4 rounds, as advance after 6 rounds.  Finishing 128th and getting partial Nationwide status is of no value to any of these guys.

Here’s a sentence or two on each of the Dandy Dozen, as well as a few predictions.
Rich Beem – Major Champion who stared down Tiger in the PGA Championship.  He’s likeable guy who played well in Second Stage.  I’d expect him to be a factor. 
Daniel Chopra – Streaky player but did win on the Nationwide Tour this season.  He’s good enough to get through, but I don’t have the feeling that he will.
David Duval – Former World #1 didn’t belong in Second Stage and played like it easily advancing.  Duval is good on tough courses having almost won the U.S. Open in 2009 at Bethpage (T2) and good with a chip on his shoulder.  Pete Dye courses aren’t easy and he’s playing with purpose.  He will either get into contention at the half way point and glide through or he will be one of your WD’s…no in between.
Carlos Franco – Solid player for years, but I’m not sure this course rotation suits him and his past few years have not been his best.  I wouldn’t expect him to make it through.
Jason Gore – The darling of Pinehurst who later that year caught lightning in a bottle for 3 Nationwide Tour wins and his lone PGA Tour win at the now defunct 84 Lumber tournament.  I’d love to see him make it through, but I just don’t see it happening given his recent form.
Jeff Maggert – Maggert has more cuts made (335) and more top 10’s (87) than anyone else in the field.  2011 was a dismal year for him, but the years before that included some nice performances.  He could be one of the guys that follows my no double bogeys and no bogeys on par 5’s performance to a steady week.  Only a couple of years from the Champions Tour, he might fight his way through one more time.
Len Mattiace – Easy to forget he battled Mike Weir for the Masters title in a playoff, but since then his career has been on a steady decline.  He’s only made 1 cut in the last 2 years and 6 in the last 5.  He won’t make it through. 
Shaun Micheel – If you take away his PGA Championship he’s got zero top 3’s and only 19 top 10’s in his other 362 PGA Tour starts.  He’s a streaky player that streaks down far too often.  Never say never, but probably more likely to WD than T25.
Dickey Pride – Very similar to Micheel and Gore.  Nice guy that you want to pull for; plus he has an excellent name, but don’t see it happening for him.
Vaughn Taylor – Tough one to call.  He’s a great putter and a former Ryder cupper who has been a steady Tour player for about a decade.  He’s won twice, but both times at the same opposite field event (Reno Taho).  If his ball striking is average and his putting is to his standards, he’s the kind of guy that can avoid the big mistakes and get through.  If either of those waver, especially the putter, he doesn’t have much of a chance.
Boo Weekley – Boo has said more than once that his goal is to make enough money in golf to be able to hunt and fish for the rest of his life.  At $7.4 million dollars, he’s probably covered on that front.  Known as an excellent ball striker and a not so excellent putter to be nice, Boo’s pretty tough to call in this one.  He can’t afford to be less than perfect in his ball striking, and that’s exactly what he’s been this year.  Sorry Boo.
Dean Wilson – Like Taylor, steady Tour player for about a decade, but his lone win is a little suspect.  I believe it came at the now defunct International that boasted a Modified Stableford scoring system in the high altitude in Colorado.  I don’t know that I see the Stack and Tilt poster boy making it through.

3 Most likely to Advance – Duval, Maggert, Taylor
3 Most likely to WD or finish outside of the top 130 – Franco, Mattiace, Pride  (I wanted to say Duval in this category too, but I don’t think it’s fair to hedge like that)

Silly Season Golf

When the last putt dropped on October 23rd at the Children's Miracle Network Classic in Disney the upper echelon of professional golf (at least American pro golf) entered what is known as the Silly Season.  The Silly Season ends with the first tee shot at Kapalua in January.  It's considered the Silly Season because most of these tournaments are partial field events where everyone is making money and the outcome has no bearing on PGA Tour status.  It's basically a cash grab for the more well known players on Tour.  In some cases the bigger names in golf are also paid appearance fees for playing in foreign tournaments.  If you ever wonder why Phil might skip a tournament an hour from his home but travel half way around the world in the Silly Season to play golf, it's safe to assume the reason included at least one comma and five or six zero's behind it.

This week, the Silly Season takes golf to the Omega Misson Hills World Cup in China.  Basically every country that has a professional golfer ranked above a certain cut off in the World Golf Rankings gains entry into this tournament and the highest ranking person from that country picks his partner for the tournament.  We don't hear much about this in the United States because most of our highest ranked players sit it out.  This year the American's have Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland competing and are a respectable 3 shots back through 2 rounds.  Not surprisingly, tied for the lead are the Irish team of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.  Just behind them are a strong Spanish team of Miguel Angel Jimenez and Alvaro Quiros and a little further down the leaderboard are the Italian Molinari brothers.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

PGA Tour Q School Preview

Here's hoping you had a Happy Thanksgiving!  For the 173 golfers competing in the final stage of PGA Tour Q School, that was the "Last Supper" before a very stressful week and a half.

From November 30th through December 5th, those 173 golfers will experience one of the most grueling tests of golf to be conducted over two courses and 108 holes to determine the final members of the 2012 PGA Tour.  The golfers competing in this tournament got to this point from any number of different ways, and what will be viewed as a successful Q School will be different for each golfer. 

The number one theme of Q School's final stage for all golfers no matter how they measure their success is survival.  Because it is 6 rounds and 108 holes it has to be treated as a marathon, not a sprint.  Bogey's can't be looked at as a bad thing (except on par 5's), but as something that is bound to happen.  The final stage of Q School is just as much about eliminating the big mistakes and damage control as it is about making birdies or eagles.  I have a theory that I am going to test this year on that subject.  I believe that if a golfer goes the entire 108 holes without a double bogey (or worse) and without a bogey (or worse) on a Par 5, they will finish the week inside the Top 25 and ties and gain PGA Tour membership.  In a 72 hole tournament I would also throw in a third criteria of zero 3 putts for the week, but I'm not sure anyone in the field will go 108 holes without a 3 putt.     

Here is schedule for the blog leading up to the November 30th start of Q School:
- Friday November25th - PGA Tour past winners back in Q School
- Saturday November 26th - PGA Tour / Nationwide Tour veterans back in Q School
- Sunday November 27th - Mini Tour Players / Journeymen / Rookies in Q School
- Monday November 28th - What's at stake for everyone in the final stage of Q School
- Tuesday November 29th - Final thoughts including pairings and course breakdown leading up to the first tee shot.

There is a lot of information on Q School at www.pgatour.com/qschool.  The field is already posted as well as the results from the previous stages leading up to the final stage.

Until tomorrow......

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Welcome to the Golf Aficionado

Like many people, I began watching golf during the major championships, but over time it has developed into much more of a passion.  This blog is an extension of that passion. 

Merriam-Webster defines "Aficionado" as "a person who likes, knows about, and appreciates a usually fervently pursued interest or activity."

After having followed golf  "fervently" for at least the better part of the last 5 years, my palate for enjoyable golf entertainment has become much more diverse.  Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy all 4 Major Championships.  I've skipped Easter dinner to watch the Angel Cabrerra playoff victory at Augusta, announced that my only fathers day request is to watch the final round of the U.S. Open uninterrupted for all future father's days, awaken every morning of the Open Championship as early as ESPN or TNT will allow me, and somewhat anticlimactically followed "Glory's Last Shot" until the bitter end.

What I have found that I enjoy just as much, if not sometimes more, is the journey that golfers take to reach the ultimate heights of the golf profession.  For every Major Champion golfer, there is a unique story and path taken to reach that pinnacle.  I intend to spend the majority of my time focusing on the journey; whether it be the PGA Tour Qualifying School (Q School), the Nationwide Tour or even lesser known tours such as the NGA Hooters Tour and the EGolf Tour. 

If you are reading this and don't know the difference between finishing 125th or 126th on the PGA Tour Money list, or 150th and 151st, then hopefully you will stick around long enough to expand your golfing palate to something more than just the casual fan.  If you are the type of fan that knows what finishing 25th/60th/100th on the Nationwide Tour means and understands the importance of being in the next 50 after the top 25 and ties of the final stage of Q School, then you are most likely a kindred spirit and hopefully will find this entertaining.

Either Way....Thanks for visiting and come back often!