I can also be found at Rotoworld.com and on Twitter @RyanGolfBlogger.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Q School Round 3

The third round of Q School was much like the two prior. Plenty of low scores with the number to gain PGA TOUR status surging forward instead of inching. After three rounds, Meen Whee Kim continues to hold the lead and his 5-under 67 extends his 54-hole total to 18-under 198. Robert Karlsson is hot on the chase at 17-under, with Edward Loar a stroke higher than that.

At the half-way point, here's what we think we know:
  • The number to earn a PGA TOUR card was 4-under through one round, 7-under after two and now sits at 10-under. While I don't believe that it will take 20-under to nab a card, it is becoming increasingly likely that the number will be around 15-under. That takes into account that the lead group still has two rounds at the more intimidating Stadium Course.
  • For all players, it is now time to re-evaluate the goals for the week. Simply put, if you are over par, about the best you can hope for is a strong Web.com Tour number. The current number for "full status" on the Web.com Tour is 5-under. All that really guarantees is unlimited starts before the first reshuffle.
  • At the time of this post, nobody new has withdrawn; leaving D.J. Trahan as the lone W/D. It's probably time for Scott Brown to do the same, given his conditional status.
  • The cream is rising. I mentioned Karlsson as currently occupying second place, but others are looking great for a TOUR card. Among them, Billy Horschel and Vaughn Taylor are T4, Kyle Reifers and Kris Blanks are T7, Heath Slocum, Ross Fisher and Camilo Villegas are T9. There are others of note inside the top 25, but it's hard to imagine the scenario where any of these guys drop out of the picture given their starts and pedigree.
  • 8-under earned a card last year. It is currently T44 with 54 holes to go.
  • Worth watching, the bottom of the field plays the traditionally easier Nicklaus Course tomorrow. Keep an eye out for a few of those guys posting deep numbers to at least get into the picture. Perhaps the most important thing about tomorrow is making sure you end up on the course rotation with the lead group to allow yourself the opportunity to play the same course at the same time as those in the lead. It always seems like there's one guy who earns a card from the opposite course on the final day; but never more than that.
Here's to a great fourth round!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Q School - Round 2

Yesterday we harped on the point that the "true" Q School leaderboard would be revealed after the second round, when the players had each played both courses. Well, Meen Whee Kim got it to 13-under with his 9-under 63 on the Stadium Course. He is one clear of veteran Vaughn Taylor. First-round leader Steve LeBrun is tied for third at 11-under after a solid 3-under 69.

Here's what we know (or at least think we know) through 36 holes:
  • While we don't know who will earn any of the cards yet, we know one man who won't. D.J. Trahan became the first to withdraw after finishing 36 holes at 4-over. In our Monday preview we mentioned that certain players would be likely to withdraw if things don't go well early. Trahan fits the profile, as he holds past champion status and finished in the 126-150 category on the 2012 money list. The only other player I see as a possible W/D candidate at the present time is Scott Brown at 10-over. He also has 126-150 status.
  • The current PGA TOUR cut line is a deep 7-under. That means any player not currently under par has plenty of ground to make up. A player over par with no PGA TOUR status for 2013 should consider paying closer attention to being in the group of the next 50 immediately following the TOUR grads for plenty of Web.com Tour starts. That number is dangling around 2 to 3-under.
  • Of the 30 players inside the top 25, many are not surprises. Among them, Vaughn Taylor (2), Richard H. Lee (T3), Edward Loar (T5) and Alexadre Rocha (T23) were 2012 grads. Other notables include Morgan Hoffmann (T5), Robert Karlsson (T5), Daniel Chopra (T5), Kris Blanks (T10), Billy Horschel (T10), Joseph Bramlett (T14), Mathew Goggin (T14), Heath Slocum (T14), Kyle Reifers (T23), Camilo Villegas (T23) and Erik Compton (T23). Arjun Atwal, Ross Fisher and Chez Reavie are all a stroke outside.
  • Everyone inside the top 58 posted a score under par today.
  • The lead group is playing the Nicklaus Tournament Course in the third round, with the trailing group playing the Stadium Course.
We will now wait to see how the third and fourth rounds play out to give us the next true check on how the field is holding up.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Q School Round 1

Steve LeBrun took the lead in the first round of the Final Stage of PGA TOUR Q School with an 8-under-par 64 on the Stadium Course at PGA West - sort of.

In truth, I always look at the first two rounds of the Final Stage as one, 36-hole round. Players are split between two courses, so it's hard to say exactly what the leaderboard truly looks like until each player has played both courses. Here are a few things that stood out:
  • Several of the successful qualifiers from 2011 are performing well out the gates. Alexandre Rocha (T2/65), Richard H. Lee (T6/66), Vaughn Taylor (T20/68) are all inside the number to advance.
  • The phrase "beware the wounded golfer" has never applied more than it does this week with Kris Blanks. Nursing multiple injuries, Blanks fired a 7-under 65 and is tied for second. Imagine if he had the flu to go with it. He probably would have been on 59 watch!
  • 4-under is the current PGA TOUR cut line. It's a tad surprising it's that low, considering 8-under was good enough to nab a card last year. I'd imagine that pace will slow as the pressure ramps up when the holes tick away a little more.
  • 135 players (of 172) shot par or better. All of those 135 players accomplished goal #1 of not shooting themselves out of the tournament on the first day; if that's even possible in a 108-hole tournament.
  • Of those over par, perhaps Patrick Cantlay at 1-over may be the most surprising. He also took his time getting it going in the Second Stage before taking care of business, so even he has no reason to panic with 90 holes remaining.
Check back tomorrow and we'll take a look at what the "real" leaderboard looks like.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Q School Primer - Part 2

When we left off yesterday, we had identified the types of players in the Final Stage of Q School as well as a handful of guys who stand an excellent chance at earning one of the roughly 25 PGA TOUR cards up for grabs. Today we will highlight more players who stand a better than average chance of furthering their career at the game's highest level, as well as a few dark horses that aren't familiar to mainstream golfing fans.

Once again in no particular order, I like:
  • Brendon Todd - He was last year's medalist at this venue. He didn't have a great 2012, but is known for a putter that can be streaky-good.
  • Rod Pampling - He's been on TOUR since graduating via the Web.com Tour in 2001, but is here due to his 127th spot on the money list. He made six of his last seven cuts to finish the season, but has never advanced to the TOUR via Q School.
  • Gary Christian - It took him longer than most to earn a TOUR card, and his 2012 rookie season was a moderate success (130th on the money list). He also made eight of his last nine cuts. That said, he's had many attempts to conquer the final stage of Q School in his career and has never been successful.
  • Tom Pernice - Beware the cagy veteran.
  • Alex Cejka - A veteran of 267 PGA TOUR events and owning two runner-ups, the German last advanced to the TOUR via Q School in 2006. He made seven (of 12) cuts this season including his last two.
  • Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano - One of several European Tour stars taking aim at 2013 status in the States, GFC spent most of 2012 inside the European Ryder Cup automatic zone before falling out late. That said, his limited starts in the U.S. produced less than desirable results.
  • Alexandre Rocha - Slipped through Q School with a T24 last year and made 11 of 21 cuts. He was feast-or-famine, as he owned two top-four finishes but nothing else better than a T49 in his other 19 starts. If he's hot, he is as dangerous as anyone.
  • Kelly Kraft - A promising young star and the 2011 U.S. Amateur champion.
  • Danny Lee - Another former U.S. Am champ, he had a disappointing rookie year on TOUR, but did manage top 30s in two of his last three starts.
  • Kris Blanks - Injuries are a huge question mark, but he blitzed the Second Stage after not having competed since mid-July. He told PGA TOUR Radio on Monday that the first time he had hit a driver since his injury was four days prior to the Second Stage, and he will need to pick his spots in the 108-hole finale.
  • Nick O'Hern - He's a world-class Aussie who finished 2012 making four of his last six cuts to sneak inside the top 150. This is his first Q School finale.
  • Bill Lunde - Went three for four in the Fall Series including a 5th at the JT Shriners to finish 133 in the money. He's been fully exempt since graduating from the Web.com in 2008.
  • Robert Karlsson - Another world-class European, but he did not play all that well in the U.S. this season and fell to the Second Stage.
  • Ben Martin - A TOUR rookie in 2011, he finished third in the final full-field Web.com event to crack the top 60. He was a Q School grad in his first try in 2010.
  • Alexander Noren - I'm a broken record, but another Euro staple.
  • Nicholas Thompson - Already earned a card via Web.com Tour, but trying to improve his number. Tied for 63rd here last December.
  • Jim Herman - Missed out by a shot here last year, and earned his 2012 card already via a 25th-place finish on the Web.com Tour money list. He lives on the bubble, but anything is better than  his current number.
  • Rafeal Cabrera Bello - It's not often the 53rd-ranked player in the world is in Q School, but here he is after making the trip from Dubai.
  • Derek Fathauer - He's done well in past Q Schools, including a runner-up in 2008 and a T30 last year at this venue.
  • Adam Hadwin - Was 30th on Web.com Tour money list and has made some noise in his few TOUR starts to date.
  • Matt Jones - He was 38th last year and has a knack for teasing us with promise in events like this only to fall short of expectations during the season.
  • Scott Brown - He was 148th on the money list in his rookie year of 2012, but performed very well in opposite field events. His Q School record isn't all that impressive, but you can't deny his success against weak fields.
  • Vaughn Taylor - Tied for fifth in last year's final stage at PGA West, but hasn't had a top 40 since June.
  • Kevin Kisner - Mad some noise a time or two on TOUR, and he was T11 here last year.
Here are a few dark horses. While I don't know everyone in the field, here are a few I'm familiar with that are trending well that you may not know:
  • Stephen Poole - He was a Web.com Tour regular in 2010, but didn't make much noise. He birdies his final hole in the First Stage of Q School to advance on the number and repeated the feat on the 72nd hole of stage two to stay two clear of the number.
  • Bryden MacPherson - The 2011 British Amateur winner is a University of Georgia Produce, and we know how Harris English and Brian Harman did in 2012.
  • Joey Snyder - He's been trying to return to form on a medical extension and missed his first seven cuts of 2012 before finishing a surprising T9 at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic to finish the year.
  • William Murchison III - A PGA pro who earned a spot in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, he's advanced through the first two stages and has his sights set on the ultimate prize.
  • Phillip Mollica - Turned in top 25s in his last four Egolf Tour starts including a runner-up at the Northstone Open in October.
  • Kevin Tway - Bob's son was two of four on the Web.com Tour including a T5 and a T51 in the last two full-field events.
  • Matt Hill - Had a promising amateur career that hasn't panned out yet, but the talent is there.
A few other facts to know:
  • Last year's place to be was tied for 13th. Every member of that group retained their card and included Roberto Castro, William McGirt, Charlie Beljan, Harris English and Jeff Maggert.
  • The cut line was 8-under for the PGA TOUR and 2-under for full exemption on the Web.com Tour before the first reshuffle.
  • Many of the guys who finished in the 126-150 category on the PGA TOUR ended the year strong, and will not limp into Q School.
Best of luck to all!

Monday, November 26, 2012

2012 Q School Primer

In what is my favorite tournament of the year, other than the majors, the 108-hole marathon for the final 25 PGA TOUR cards begins for the last time on Wednesday at the PGA West Complex. They will utilize the Nicklaus Tournament Course and TPC Stadium Courses, which are the same two as played in 2011. Normally, the venue rotates between California and Florida, but no such switch this time.
It’s hard to predict Q School because there are so many agendas. Last year 8-under earned a card, which means a player could have gone the whole week without breaking 70 and still made it through. Because of that, steady veterans with Q School battle scars are always in play. (See Marco Dawson last year.) There are also tons of young bucks that have never played on the PGA TOUR and have little or no Web.com Tour experience that are happy just to have a seat at the table. These guys would be ecstatic to leave California with full Web.com status, and that’s probably what’s best for them.
Here’s a breakdown of the categories of players you will see, along with what their goals likely are:
  • Established PGA TOUR players – Guys like Heath Slocum, D.J. Trahan and Rod Pampling have won tournaments on the big stage and made plenty of money, but find themselves back in Q School for the first time in years. Typically this goes one of two ways. They either wake up and blitz the field like Billy Mayfair did in 2010 when he won the thing, or they have a bad few rounds and rely on past champion or 126-150 status along with sponsor’s exemptions. They almost never miss by a little bit. Anything other than a top 25 finish means nothing to them and expect them to W/D if they don’t have a chance at any point.
  • Less established guys coming off the 2012 TOUR – Some of these guys finished inside the top 150 and have a safety net similar to those in the category above. That also provides them with full Web.com Tour status. For those 151 or worse that aren’t past champions, they are back to fighting for their professional lives. These pros would find some solace in finishing in the next 50 after the top 25, giving them plenty of Web.com Tour starts. Don’t expect any W/D’s from this crew like you might see from others with some status.
  • Journeymen – You would recognize their names from cups of coffee on the PGA TOUR and plenty of starts on the Web.com Tour over the years. Some are old and some have yet to crack 30, but they always seem to bounce anywhere from the mini tours to the PGA TOUR. A great example of this is a guy like Danny Ellis. Not much is going to rattle this group because they’ve been in both better and worse predicaments than they are currently facing.  Most of these guys would take a top-75 finish and know that they have a home on the Web.com Tour, but don’t be surprised to see a few from this group sneak up the leaderboard early and hang on late.
  • Amateur stars– Some of these guys have a few battle scars and others have none. Generally these guys play pretty fearless golf and do well. Ben Martin did it in 2010. Billy Horschel is another good example in 2009 and 2010. This year’s group will include guys like Patrick Cantlay and Kevin Tway. A guy like Cantlay can’t fathom the scenario where he doesn’t finish inside the top 25 because he’s never failed at anything. While they don’t think anything less than a top 25 is good, it could be in their best interest to learn how to win on the junior circuit.
  • International stars – It seems like this group grows every year. Seung-yul Noh was one of last year’s. This year we see Ross Fisher, Raphael Carbello Bello and Alexander Noren among others. They generally aren’t intimidated by the field, but sometimes don’t adjust well to the U.S. These guys aren’t interested in a year on the Web.com Tour.
  • Web.com grads – Another growing trend is guys who have already graduated from the Web.com Tour coming back to try and improve their number to start the year. This year, that’s incredibly important since the schedule will be compressed. I think this is a smart move for anyone outside the top 15. Chances are they will end up in Q School again. This is a chance to practice for that in a stress-free environment. Who knows, they may even improve their number.
  • Rookies and other unheralded pros – These guys are chasing the dream, and all of a sudden it has caught some traction. At worst, they will get a couple of starts on the Web.com Tour in 2013 with preferred Monday qualifier options. Heck, that’s better than most of this group has ever seen. But what if one of them actually busts through and snatches a card? It happens to someone every year. John Huh and Charlie Beljan anyone?
While nobody is ever a cinch to navigate the final stage, I’ve identified 13 guys that have an excellent chance. I didn’t start with 13 as a goal. That’s just what it ended up being. In no particular order:
  1. Billy Mayfair – I mentioned above that the past champion and veteran of the TOUR went out and won Q School in 2010. Add to that, he made his last six cuts on the PGA TOUR in 2012 before stumbling at Disney in the final week. He finished the year 128th on the money list to narrowly miss getting to skip this little cocktail party.
  2. Heath Slocum – He won The Barclays a few years back, yet finds himself in Q School. This is his first time here since 2000, when he tied for 56th and then aced the 2001 Web.com Tour with three wins and a battlefield promotion. Ended the season making seven of his last nine cuts and was 142nd on the money list.
  3. D.J. Trahan – Back to Q School for the first time since finishing T11 in ’04 to earn a card. He was 132nd on the money list, finishing the year by making his last three cuts and finishing tied for fourth in the penultimate event at Sea Island. Confidant guy with above-average ball-striking ability and a putter that fails him often, he’ll need to avoid big numbers but should make enough birdies to move on.
  4. Patrick Cantlay – Q School is mostly mental, and he’s confident he will advance and likely will. The only hesitation is that he played TOUR events much more successfully as an amateur than he has as a pro. The pressure of earning a living could be wearing on him a bit.
  5. Bobby Gates – Finished 126th on the 2011 money list and promptly jumped out of the conditional category with a T3 at Q School. He’s back again thanks to a 137th money list rank and missing his last three cuts, but I’ll trust that he responds similarly this time around PGA West.
  6. Billy Horschel – He’s two for three in Q School’s, with the lone miss last year. He’s been consistent in 2012 and that’s all you need in the six-round final stage. Making 15 of 17 cuts, and his last 11, I like his chances to throw up some 69s and 70s early and coast the rest of the way.
  7. Chez Reavie – He didn’t graduate in his last trip to Q School in 2006, but did enough to reach the Web.com Tour and earn a card that way in 2007. Since then, he’s won on TOUR and played in the TOUR Championship in 2011 before falling on rough times to start 2012. He finished strong, making eight of his last 10 cuts, and can fall back on 126-150 status at 129th on the money list.
  8. Patrick Reed – He qualified for a ton of TOUR events this year in Monday Qualifiers, so why not go ahead and knock out all of 2013 this week? This may be my most risky pick, because his success has been in 18-hole sprints and he’s about to try and tackle a 106-hole marathon. Still, a couple of 65s will more than erase a few 74s if it comes down to it, and it just wouldn’t seem right for him not to make it through.
  9. Richard H. Lee – I loved this guy late in 2012. His stats were off the charts and he cashed checks in six of his last seven starts to end up 138th on the money list after a dismal start. He also advanced (albeit barely) from this site last year to earn a card. I see him as a threat to win the tournament.
  10. Ross Fisher – Recent European Ryder Cupper who easily skated through second stage, may be the class of the entire field. He has the length to shorten par 5s considerably and likely won’t feel all that much stress this week.
  11. Morgan Hoffmann – He’s one of those guys that graduated from the Web.com Tour and looks to improve his number. The game came easy to him this year, and he will have a chance to freewheel.
  12. Russell Knox – All he did down the stretch of his rookie year was make his last eight cuts, including finishing 13th or better in three of his final four events. Bottom line, he stepped up when it mattered to gain conditional status at 143rd and his fourth top 13 in five events would mean full status for 2013.
  13. Camilo Villegas – He struggled all year but found a spark late, notching each of his last five cuts and scratching out a 144th finish on the money list.

Tomorrow I’ll check back with some other guys I like, as well as a few dark horses to keep an eye on.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012 PGA TOUR Recap - Part 5

In our final edition of the recap of the 2012 PGA TOUR season, we will pick up with the second tournament of the FedExCup Playoffs at the Deutsche Bank, and ride the wave all the way to Disney. Without wasting any time, here we go:

Deutsche Bank Championship - Rory McIlroy (20-under) continued his summer to remember by backing up his PGA Championship win with a victory on TPC Boston just three weeks later. He bested Louis Oosthuizen by a stroke and Tiger Woods by two. Tied for fourth were Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. Think length off the tee is important here? Me too.

BMW Championship - The TOUR returned to Crooked Stick, site of John Daly's improbably PGA Championship win, and something a little more probable happened this time around. Rory McIlroy went back-to-back. At 20-under, he was two clear of Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson, while Tiger Woods and Robert Garrigus shared fourth. As if John Daly's name on a trophy already contested here didn't give it away already, length off the tee was a big factor. In fact, that was the case in each of the first three FedExCup Playoff tournaments. The venues rotate, so that won't always be the case. Interesting is that McIlroy, Woods and Mickelson were all in the top four in each of the last two weeks.

TOUR Championship - With the points reset, it wasn't a lock that Rory McIlroy would win the FedExCup even though he was the best golfer on the planet (and TOUR) in 2012. As fate would have it, a smooth-putting Brandt Snedeker (10-under) stole the Cup and the tournament at East Lake. Justin Rose was a distant second at 7-under. Snedeker's solid play down the stretch earned him a captain's pick on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Ryder Cup - I'm going to largely dodge the Ryder Cup, since it has little future value for the 2013 season. The highlights include Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley going 3-0-0 in team competitions, but choosing to sit out the last stanza while Ian Poulter was his typical Yankee-killing self at Medinah. The U.S. blew a huge lead by losing the first four matches of Sunday Singles and Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk did not pull their weight.

JT Shriners Hospital for Children Open - It's a Vegas tournament and a Vegas guy won it. Ryan Moore entered the final round tied for the lead with Brendon de Jonge, but his 5-under bested de Jonge by one to finish at 24-under, earning him his second TOUR win. Jonas Blixt was third, giving us a healthy hint at things to come for him. Perhaps the most important take away from this was de Jonge's ability to play a solid weekend. He's long been known as a guy that is in the hunt through 36 holes only to fade on weekends without fail. It will be worth watching de Jonge early in 2013 to see if he's broken that trend.

Frys.com Open - Jonas Blixt spun a 3-under final round to finish the week at 16-under, holding off a hard-charging Tim Petrovic and Jason Kokrak by a stroke to secure his first win in his rookie year. Blixt has proven to be an able putter even as a rookie, and should be a dangerous player on several tracks in 2013. Not surprising, the Swede led the field in Strokes Gained-Putting.

The McGladrey Classic - Tommy Gainey came out of nowhere with a final-round 60 to steal The McGladrey Classic at 16-under. He finished one clear of David Toms and two clear of 54-hole leader Jim Furyk. Surprise. Furyk once again couldn't hold a 54-hole lead. Gainey began the final round in a tie for 29th before going nuts, with 7-under on his last 10 holes including an eagle on the par-5 15th. The 2013 lesson from this is to always consider Gainey when a tournament seems to suit a streaky player. While we won't cover it in any more detail than this, Gainey also won the Calloway Pebble Beach Invitational just before Thanksgiving, and might be the hottest player on the globe not named McIlroy.

Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic - The year came to an end at Disney with Charlie Beljan overcoming a severe panic attack during his second round to end his rookie year with a win at 16-under. It was so bad that Beljan said he would have withdrawn if not for his desperate spot outside the top 125 on the money list to start the week. Matt Every and Robert Garrigus shared second at 14-under. Garrigus is a past winner here and should always be considered dangerous. Beljan also played well at The Greenbrier and The McGladrey in what are both tournaments known for streaky players getting hot. Those are three tournaments to keep an eye on him for in 2013, although the last two will be the beginning of the 2013-2014 wrap-around season.

It is my hope that this review has provided a fun trip down memory lane, but also a basis for which to start your research for 2013 tournaments. Remembering how a guy won (or dramatically failed to close the deal) may prove useful in identifying next year's winners.

Best of luck to all!

Let's talk the Final Stage of Q School soon!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Golf Aficionado Turns One!

One year ago today I stepped out on what has become an adventure I never imagined. With this post http://thegolfaficionado.blogspot.com/2011/11/welcome-to-golf-aficionado.html I became a golf blogger. Not in my wildest dreams did I expect the next 12 months would play out as they have.

This is my 479th post, and as I am typing this I am overwhelmed to say there have been 65,446 visits to this blog. While I didn't necessarily set out to write a blog that appealed to fantasy gamers or punters across the globe, that's what it has become and I couldn't be happier.

For those of you who have conversed with me via email or Twitter, thanks and keep writing! To those who have helped promote me and this site on Twitter with RTs or otherwise, I offer my sincere gratitude.

Besides my wife, who puts up with the many hours I devote to this passion but will never read this post, my biggest thanks goes out to my Rotoworld colleagues. I have no doubt that this blog wouldn't be where it is without that platform and the support of Mike, Ned, Johnny Mac and Brett.

Oh yeah, and Rob Bolton. After exchanging a few emails with Rob in the very early days of this blog, we found ourselves to be somewhat kindred spirits. I vividly remember where I was when I read an email from him on my phone, asking if I would be interested in talking about an opportunity with Rotoworld. The ensuing conversation didn't even seem real. As I've gotten to know him much better over the last nine months, I can say without a doubt that anyone would be hard pressed to find a person who understands and researches fantasy golf more diligently than Rob. I'm not sure that I've stumped him with anything relevant yet, although he does owe me a beer from a bet at the Wells Fargo should we ever meet in person! His editing ability is also the major reason why my Rotoworld blurbs and articles are much cleaner than those on this blog.

All that to say, thanks for reading and we'll try and do better this year!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

2012 PGA TOUR Recap - Part 4

With the summer in full force and the peak of the 2012 season ready to usher in the season's third and fourth majors, it's time to take a look at the action in July and August.

The Greenbrier Classic - Ted Potter Jr. put a stamp on his rookie season with a playoff victory over fellow rookie Troy Kelly. Potter was a mini tour legend and Web.com Tour grad with a penchant for going low. Entering the week, he had missed his last five cuts, but closing with back-to-back 64s was just enough to pull off perhaps the most unlikely and unexpected win of the season. Greenbrier just wrapped up its third year on the schedule, with Stuart Appleby and Scott Stallings the other victors. This is turning into a tournament that rewards streaky players who can go low, rather than identifying the best player in the field.

John Deere Classic - This tournament has long been Zach Johnson's "fifth major," and after several close calls he was able to raise the trophy. Also known as the Steve Stricker Invitational, TPC Deere Run regularly gives up deep numbers. Johnson's win came in a playoff over Troy Matteson (both 20-under), with both looking shaky at times after regulation was complete. Scott Piercy came in third, which was a preview of things to come.

The Open Championship - This tournament is becoming almost as well known for its close calls as it is for the winners. This year, it was Adam Scott squaring bogeys on his final four holes to hand the Claret Jug to Ernie Els. Graeme McDowell once again was in the mix on the final day, but faded. Tiger Woods never really contended, but finished in a share of third with 36-hole leader Brandt Snedeker. In the end it was The Big Easy, with a history of fine play at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, celebrating what will likely be his final major triumph.

True South Classic - After fighting injuries for most of the early part of 2012, Scott Stallings fired a 24-under to best Jason Bohn by two. Billy Horschel finished third after limping in with a final-round 1-under, while Bud Cauley proved to be a course horse with his fourth-place finish. William McGirt finished in a tie for fifth, just a week before his biggest PGA TOUR tournament. The takeaway from this, is look for a guy who can take it low in this event, and always consider Bud Cauley here.

RBC Canadian Open - I mentioned above that Scott Piercy's third at the John Deere was a preview of things to come, and he captured this event by one over Robert Garrigus and William McGirt. Like the U.S. Open, the venues rotate for this event. This was one of many of Garrigus' runner-ups and the best finish of McGirt's career. Other than that, there isn't much to take away from this tournament that has bearing on 2013.

Reno-Tahoe Open - The Modified Stableford scoring system added a fresh touch to an otherwise struggling opposite-field event, and J.J. Henry returned to the winner's circle after a lengthy layoff. He topped Alexandre Rocha by a point. The other story this week was John Daly. Long John tied for fifth with Justin Leonard and put himself in the hunt for a spot in the top 125 on the money list. He would eventually fall short.

WGC- Bridgestone Invitational - Jim Furyk collapse; take three. Keegan Bradley was as shocked as everyone else that Furyk stepped onto the 18th tee with a one-stroke lead and made a messy double-bogey after a 14 handicap took over his body for two short-game shots. After falling apart on the 70th hole of the U.S. Open, he made it all the way to the 72nd this time around. In what would turn out to be the worst thing to happen for the U.S. Ryder cup team, Furyk shared second with Steve Stricker to essentially cement both of their standings as captain's picks for Davis Love III.

PGA Championship - Rory McIlroy's coming out party was the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, but his anointing as the heir to the Tiger Woods throne came on the South Carolina coast at Pete Dye's Ocean Course. He more than doubled up the field, with his 13-under eight strokes clear of David Lynn. There is nothing else to write, other than McIlroy dominated this tournament.

Wyndham Championship - Sergio Garcia found his way to the winner's circle when he claimed this event in a Monday finish. His ball striking was surgical down the stretch, keeping any and all pressure off of his questionable putter. The Spaniard was on the Ryder Cup bubble headed into this week, but sealed the deal with his win. Tim Clark was runner-up deep in the heart of ACC country and near his college stomping grounds of NC State.

The Barclays - After a flat season, Nick Watney tamed the Black Course at Bethpage State Park with a 10-under-par effort to win the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs. He was three clear of Brandt Snedeker, with Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia sharing third. Watney thrust himself into the mix for a Ryder Cup captain's pick, but would eventually join Rickie Fowler and Hutner Mahan as close calls that were left out.

In our fifth and final update, we will wrap up the FedExCup Playoffs and run through the Fall Series all the way to Disney.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 PGA TOUR Recap - Part 3

After four months of golf, the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, NC ushered in May. That brings us to the fifth and six months of our 2012 wrap-up.
Wells Fargo Championship – The long-awaited triumph of Rickie Fowler took place at Quail Hollow, with Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points having front-row seats in a playoff. A stroke behind them was Webb Simpson, who entered the final round in the lead but settled for a final-round 1-over-par to finish the week at 13-under. This would be the second of four consecutive top 10s for Fowler, who would finish runner-up to Matt Kuchar at THE PLAYERS the next week. When that run ended, Fowler would fail to crack a top 20 the rest of the year. McIlroy’s year would only get better.
THE PLAYERS Championship – Kevin Na entered the final round in the lead, despite yips with the driver, but Matt Kuchar would come from a stroke behind, firing a 2-under 70 to win by a stroke over Rickie Fowler, Martin Laird, Zach Johnson and Ben Curtis at 13-under. Kuchar’s win was the biggest of his career, but the lasting memory of that week was the unfortunate battle of mental demons Kevin Na fought. You probably remember how long he stood over each of his drives, especially Saturday, sometimes taking a “practice swing” over the ball after he stood over it. It was an admittedly embarrassing situation for Na, but he took it the best he possibly could.
HP Byron Nelson Championship – Jason Dufner happened again. Just when it looked like Dicky Pride could earn his second TOUR win, and first since 1994, Dufner dropped a bomb from 25’5” on the final hole for birdie to bump Pride (already in the clubhouse) from a playoff.  It was a big week for Dufner, in that he quickly backed up his first win, but a bigger week for Pride who earned enough cash to fully-exempt himself for 2013.  
Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial – To no one’s surprise, Zach Johnson claimed the trophy by one stroke over man-of-the-month Jason Dufner. Johnson won the event in 2010 and was fourth in 2011; so always consider him for a play in this event. It wasn’t actually as close as the margin indicated, but Johnson failed to replace his mark on the final green. Rather than making a 4’7” putt for what he thought was par; it was actually for a double bogey after the penalty.
The Memorial Tournament – After winning Arnie’s tourney in April, Tiger Woods captured Jack’s by two strokes over Rory Sabbatini and Andres Romero. The shot of the tournament came in the final round when he holed an impossible chip for birdie on the par-3 16th. Everything was running away from him towards the water and he was looking at a likely bogey, but he would sink that for birdie and add another at 18 to lock-up the tournament.
FedEx St. Jude Classic – After an absence from the PGA TOUR due to a freak injury, Dustin Johnson added this event to his schedule to better prepare himself for the U.S. Open. As fate would have it, he won. Maybe the second most notable event of this week was Luke Guthrie’s tie for 19th. He had just turned pro and would wind up eventually winning twice on the Web.com Tour to secure a 2013 TOUR card by virtue of a second-place finish on that money list.
U.S. Open – The beginning of Jim Furyk’s nightmare summer. Webb Simpson captured his first major at Olympic Club, but the story would just as equally be Furyk’s collapse down the stretch, highlighted by a snap-hook drive on the par-5 16th. Simpson went out three groups ahead of the leaders, but posted a 2-under 68 and sat by as the Furyk and Graeme McDowell melted away. For a while, it looked like Michael Thompson’s 3-under 67 would steal the tournament at 2-over, but Simpson played a bogey-free back nine to secure the win. Thompson went out two hours ahead of the leaders.
Travelers Championship – After one of the sternest tests of golf, the TOUR heads to at TPC River Highlands. Marc Leishman would hold off Bubba Watson and Charley Hoffman to win by one at 14-under. For gamers and punters, the story is that Watson is always a prudent play at this venue. It took a final-round 62 to Leishman to hold him off.
AT&T National – He may as well win his own tournament after winning Arnie and Jack’s. And that is just what Tiger Woods did, with his 8-under holding off Bo Van Pelt by two. What we learned at this point of the season, is that Woods is a threat on any course where his past history is solid. Congressional is no exception. The other surprise is that Bo “Mr. 7th place” Van Pelt finished second and not in the 7-10 range that he occupied almost every other week of the season.
In our next go-round, we will cover Ernie Els’ British and Rory McIlroy’s PGA triumphs.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Q School - Second Stage in the books

The Second Stage of PGA TOUR Q School is in the books and a fresh crop of players have assured themselves of at least partial Web.com Tour status for 2013, while some familiar names now face a career crossroads.

Here are some notable hits and misses from each site:
  • Plantation Preserve (FL) - Rob Oppenheim was the medalist at 21-under, and notable names like Kris Blanks, Ross Fisher and Oliver Fisher also advanced. The Fishers are Euro Tour regulars with Ross having played in the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. Those failing to earn a spot in the field at PGA West are Carlos Franco, Jamie Lovemark, Brad Adamonis, Won Joon Lee (opened with a 64) and Notah Begay. Of that list, perhaps Lovemark is the most surprising. He came out of college at the same time as Rickie Fowler with a future equally bright, eventually dominating the then Nationwide Tour, but he's failed to enjoy consistency in his few years as a pro.
  • TPC Craig Ranch (TX) - In a loaded field, Scott Gutschewski topped the field at 20-under. He was joined by PGA TOUR veterans Scott Dunlap, Steven Bowditch, Peter Tomasulo, Matt Jones, James Nitties, Kyle Reifers, Tag Ridings, Jeff Klauk (brain surgery), Alex Prugh, Brenden Pappas, Todd Hamilton and Bob Tway's son Kevin. Also advancing was Henrik Norlander. Hard to believe all those guys are even in Second Stage. Failing to advance were Bio Kim, Wes Short, Jordan Spieth, Matt Weibring, Woody Austin, Nathan Green, Wil Collins, Rich Barcelo, Martin Piller, J.J. Killeen and Roger Tambellini. That doesn't even include mid-tournament W/D from Matt Bettencourt, Tommy Biershenk and Michael Sim.
  • Redstone GC (TX) - Franklin Corpening and Patrick Reed shared medalist honors at 14-under. Reed's success should surprise no one given his propensity to Monday qualify for TOUR events this year with zero status. Other notables moving on are Kevin Kisner, Kelly Kraft, Mark Anderson, Alexander Noren and Shaun Micheel. Missint out were Mathias Gronberg, Chris Smith, Joe Durant, Chris Riley, Roland Thatcher, Cameron Beckman, Doug Barron, Parker McLachlin, Brad Elder, Michael Connell, Miguel Carballo and Kent Jones. Rich Beem W/D after 2 rounds, but was curiously 2-under.
  • Southern Hills Plantation (FL) - Robert Karlsson was the biggest name in the field, and he won the event at 18-under. Others advancing of note are Derek Fathauer, Billy Hurley, Michael Letzig, Arjun Atwal, Matt Hill, Daniel Chopra, Patrick Sheehan, Ben Martin, Derek Lamely and blast-from-the-past Danny Ellis. Failing to punch a ticket to the finals were Robert Damron, Frank Lickliter, Lee Janzen, Bubba Dickerson, Marco Dawson, Sam Saunders, Ryan Armour, Jon Mills, Stephen Gangluff with mid-tournament W/Ds from Ryuji Imada, Garrett Willis, Fran Quinn, Jerod Turner and Robert Gamez with Eric Axley being DQd. Whew.
  • Hombre GC (FL) - Matt Fast won it at 13-under with Scott Sterling, Shane Bertsch, Chad Collins, Erik Compton, Len Mattiace, Glen Day and Gavin Coles also advancing. Missing was Marc Turnesa, Todd Fischer, Craig Bowden, Josh Broadaway, Brett Wetterich, Omar Uresti, Kevin Johnson and Brent Delahoussaye. W/D's included Kyle Thompson and Carl Paulson.
  • Bear Creek (CA) - Si Kim won it at 19-under, but some bigger (and longer) names also advanced including Danny Lee, Dean Wilson, Tom Pernice, Patrick Cantlay, Steve Allan, Jeff Gove, Zach Miller and Luke Hickmott. Failing to advance were Duffy Waldorf, Steven Alker, Troy Merritt, Bob May and Jason Gore.
Several things struck me about Second Stage:
  • There were some very recent Web.com Tour stars who were "can't miss" prospects that failed to get out of this year's Second Stage. Jamie Lovemark, J.J. Killeen and Michael Sim all jump to mind. Without going back and looking, I believe all three of those guys led the money list and I know Sim had a battlefield promotion. That doesn't bode well for Casey Wittenberg.
  • I was very interested in how several of the younger guys performed; Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth especially. Reed moved on easily, Cantlay kept it close for 70 holes, but birdied his final two to pull away, but Spieth failed to advance. That likely means Spieth will retain his amateur status and return to Texas for the rest of the school year. It will be a few years before we know if these guys fall into the Rickie Fowler or Jamie Lovemark category.
  • I can't believe how many incredibly gifted and accomplished golfers are in second stage. I mean, come on. Ross Fisher? Robert Karlsson? Tom Pernice? How does this happen? How fine the line is in golf.
I can't wait until the final stage!

Friday, November 16, 2012

2012 PGA TOUR Recap - Part 2

After Tuesday’s look at January and February, we now turn our attention to the happening of March and April, when the TOUR left the West Coast for the confines of sunny Florida and we watched a guy named Bubba slip on a green jacket.
The Honda Classic – Rory McIlroy jumped into the fray for what would be the first of many times in claiming The Honda on Jack’s Bear Trap. At the time, the golf world was much more abuzz with Tiger Woods’ final-round 62 to claim a share of second than it was with the man who would soon put a stranglehold on the top spot in the world golf rankings. The field also began to establish The Honda as something more than a rank-in-file event, and should continue to draw stronger fields.
Puerto Rico Open – George McNeill quietly claimed his second TOUR win on Trump International opposite the WGC-Cadillac. He birdied his last three holes to stop a surging Ryo Ishikawa, who birdied three of his final four, himself. Boo Weekley tied for third in what would be the start of a comeback that would end with a spot in the top 125.
World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championships – Justin Rose continued his argument for being one of the game’s elite with his WGC win. He’s at the point in his career where he’s done just about everything but win a major. More interesting, Bubba Watson was runner-up and Rory McIlroy was solo third. Add to that, Charl Schwartzel and Peter Hanson tied for fourth. Doral was filled with the same four guys (after Rose) at the top of the leaderboard that were prominently featured in the 2011 and 2012 Masters, with Schwartzel and Watson having won them after McIlroy and Hanson surrendered final-round leads.
Transitions Championship – Luke Donald answered the bell and took down the field on the Copperhead Course. He won in a playoff over Jim Furyk, Sang-moon Bae and Robert Garrigus. Furyk and Garrigus would go on to be the bridesmaid in multiple tournaments, none more famous for his late collapses in 2012 as Furyk. In fact, his later gaffes would be so grand that this runner up is largely forgotten despite playing the closing seven holes in 1-over. Ernie Els bogeyed his last two holes to finish a stroke out of the playoff, eventually failing to earn a Masters berth. He felt the pressure.
Arnold Palmer Invitational – It was Tiger being Tiger. Woods won by five over Graeme McDowell and was seven clear of third-place Ian Poulter. (Too bad he couldn’t replicate that dominance in the Ryder Cup.) It broke a two-year TOUR drought for Woods, and answered what now feel like the ridiculous question of “can he win again.”
Shell Houston Open – Hunter Mahan hoisted his second trophy of the year a week before the year’s first major. Looking destined for a huge year, he would eventually lose his game and miss out on the Ryder Cup after looking like a lock at this point. Ironic is that his nearest challenger was Carl Pettersson, a stroke back, who would win in two weeks at Harbour Town. In third alone was Louis Oosthuizen who lost in a playoff the very next week at the Masters.
Masters Tournament – For three-and-a-half hours, it appeared the defining shot of the 2012 Masters would be Louis Oosthuizen’s albatross at the par-5 second. That was until Bubba happened on the second playoff hole. After yanking his drive on the second playoff hole (par-4 10th), Watson hit the shot of the year from Augusta National’s pine straw. A sweeping hook that only a lefty could try landed in the middle of the green and released to about 15 feet. When it was time for him to hit his birdie putt, he already knew a par would be good enough. He rolled it to gimmie range and tapped in for par and a tear-filled celebration ensued. For the next 30 years or so, Bubba will be at Augusta.
RBC Heritage – Carl Pettersson ran away with his fifth victory by five over Zach Johnson. With the event held on the South Carolina coast, wind was a larger-than-normal factor; especially on Thursday. Other than this being the start of a huge year for Johnson, not much else noteworthy happened.
Valero Texas Open – Playing with limited status, Ben Curtis jumped out and won the event by two over John Huh and Matt Every. The week really solidified each of those three players. It gave Curtis his first win in years, followed up Huh’s opposite-field win with a full-field runner-up, and was one of many nice weeks for Every. Brendan Steele was the defending champ and tied for fourth (hello one-and-doners), and noted putters Brian Gay and Charlie Wi had top 10s.
Zurich Classic of New Orleans – The last week of April saw the birth of Jason Dufner as a PGA TOUR star. Ernie Els was the hard-luck loser in a playoff, but as we all know his season worked out just fine as well. When you scan the top 10 in this event, you see names like Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler to go along with Els. This win came after Duf had top 10d the event in his last three trips to the Bayou. Another one-and-done option.
When we check back, we’ll be in Charlotte, NC for the Wells Fargo Championship. We will also see Webb Simpson crowned U.S. Open winner in June.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012 PGA TOUR Recap - Part 1

With the PGA TOUR season over, I thought it would be fun to look back at the tournament winners for each tournament in 2012, and briefly comment on what those wins meant. There could be a little value in this for gamers, but it’s mainly just for fun.
We will start with January and February today:
Hyundai Tournament of Champions – Steve Stricker ran away with this by three over Martin Laird and was four up over last year’s champ Jonathan Byrd and Webb Simpson. This followed a trend where Stricker was T10 in 2010 and T4 in 2011. Being able to convert mid-range putts is a big key to this tournament. He may not have been selected for the U.S. Ryder Cup team without this win. Like the John Deere Classic, you have to consider Stricker in this event going forward.
Sony Open – There may have been nobody hotter in the month of January than Johnson Wagner, as he picked up his third-career win in the year’s second event. He tied for ninth at the Tournament of Champions, and would tie for second the next week before largely fading out of the picture for the remainder of the year. Of his four top 10s in 2012, three were in his first three events. He was tied for 10th in GIR and third in strokes gained-putting for the week, also playing the two par 5s in 9-under for the week (including two eagles on the 18th). He was two clear of a solid group of runner-ups that included Sean O’Hair, Charles Howell III, Harrison Frazar and Carl Pettersson.
Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation – Mark Wilson fired a 24-under to win the annual go-low by two over Johnson Wagner, Robert Garrigus and John Mallinger. He was tied for third in GIR and fourth in strokes gained-putting. His record leading up to this win in this event was not all that good, so this was a little bit out of nowhere. He also didn’t do all that much the rest of the year, with the exception of a third-place finish in the WGC Match Play in February. In recent years, he has jumped out to nice starts and never sustained them.
Farmers Insurance Open – This might be the first tournament that really mattered in 2012. I bet most golf fans remember Kyle Stanley stepping on the 18th tee with a three-stroke lead and makes an eight on the par 5 to wind up in a playoff that he would eventually lose to Brandt Snedeker. I’m not sure Snedeker is on the Ryder Cup without this gift-wrapped win. In fact, Stanley may have been on the Ryder Cup team if he wins this one and also pulls out the Waste Management Phoenix Open like he did. Of course, it’s highly unlikely Stanley would have actually gone back-to-back.
Waste Management Phoenix Open – Kyle Stanley extracts his revenge from the week before at the expense of Spencer Levin.  It was almost a carbon copy of the week before. At this point in the season, Stanley looks like a sure-fire star with a Ryder Cup berth all but locked up. We later realize this to be his last top 10 of the year, and he went through a ton of changes during the season. Brett Waldman caddied for him in each of the last two weeks, but he isn’t on the bag anymore. He also parted ways with numerous other members of his inner circle, moving his home base from South Carolina to Arizona. We are now hearing that Stanley, Rory McIlroy and Nick Watney are going to join the Nike group. If you have Stanley stock, now would be a good time to sell until he shows that he’s adjusted to all this change. Name me a Nike staffer other than Tiger Woods that had anything close to a solid season. In 2009, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, K.J. Choi and Trevor Immelman were all carrying the banner. Since then, Immelman switched to Calloway and the other three did nothing in 2012. Different conversation, but I don’t trust Nike’s equipment and think the trio’s switch to Nike is a mistake from a purely golfing standpoint.
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am – The highlight of Phil Mickelson’s season came early, as he blitzed Pebble Beach for an 8-under-par 64 in the final round to win. To put it in perspective, he started the round in the penultimate group with Tiger Woods, whom he trailed by two. At the end of the day, Phil held the trophy and Tiger slouched to a 3-over and a T15. It would be Mickelson’s only win of the year.
Northern Trust Open – Bill Haas’ playoff win over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley was one of the most entertaining of the year. You had two major winners and a FedExCup Champion firing haymakers down the stretch. Haas looked to have won the tournament, but Mickelson and Bradley each poured in birdies on the difficult 18th to force a three-way playoff. Haas then buried a bomb on the par-4 10th hole in the playoff to end it. Haas didn’t do much after that, but this was a star-studded leaderboard in the shadow of Tinsel Town.
World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play – Hunter Mahan hands Rory McIlroy one of the few losses he would experience in 2012, and in a surprising turn of events doesn’t make the Ryder Cup team. Hindsight being 20/20, arguably Davis Love III’s biggest mistake as a Ryder Cup captain was overlooking Mahan’s accomplishment in this event. As Ian Poulter would later prove at Medinah, match play history and reputation are paramount in that event.
Mayakoba Golf Classic – John Huh (or Johnny Question Mark) bested Robert Allenby in the playoff that would never end at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. It’s a shame this tournament isn’t on the schedule for 2013 because it actually identified some trends. Huh had a huge year. Dickey Pride did too, and it started with his T5 here. Matt Every tied for third and was a factor in numerous events as well. I hate that these third-tier events are having trouble, because they are invaluable for rookies, and other guys in the reshuffle.

We will pick up with March and April soon.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Q School - Second Stage

If any of you watch the Golf Channel's Big Break series, the "real thing" continues tomorrow. The second stage of PGA TOUR Q School gets underway at three venues on Tuesday, with the other three beginning on Wednesday.

I'm always amazed by the names I read in the second stage. Recent European Ryder Cup player Oliver Fisher is among them. Add to that, there are probably a dozen past PGA TOUR winners fighting to rescue their careers this week, and that may be on the low side.

Of essentially four stages of Q School (Pre Qualification, First Stage, Second Stage and Final Stage), I would argue without much resistance that the Second Stage, beginning this week, is the most important. Here's what's on the line:
  • If you make it out of the Second Stage, as logic would dictate, you earn a spot in the Finals. Every player in the Final Stage is guaranteed at worst, partial status on the Web.com Tour.
  • If you can't successfully navigate the Second Stage, you get nothing. It's back to the mini tours, or for the lucky few that have some sort of Web.com Tour or PGA TOUR status from past successes, it's back to whatever limited status they have.
That's how brutal this week is. There will be a guy in every one of the six sites that makes a bogey or worse on his final hole that costs him a spot in the finals, relegating himself to another year with zero status. Similarly, someone will make a late birdie that moves a "cut line" one stroke deeper and knocks a handful of guys out.

If you failed to earn a spot out of the Pre Qualification Stage, you never really were all that close to earning anything. If you don't make it out of First Stage it stings, but you still had a whole other hurdle to clear just to make it to the Finals. If you miss out on a PGA TOUR card by a stroke in the Final Stage, you have the Web.com Tour to fall back on. You miss out on Second Stage; you've got nightmares.

I'm glad for my friends playing this week that the Golf Channel hasn't figured out a way to televise this, but I guarantee I'd watch or record every minute if they did.

I'd encourage you to go to the PGA TOUR's page http://www.pgatour.com/qschool/# and scroll through the names in the Second Stage, as well as follow along as the scores post at round's end.

I mean it when I say, best of luck to all!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Season Over!

What a way to send the 2012 PGA TOUR season into the history books! Charlie Beljan held onto the lead to claim his first victory, and joined Tim Herron as the only two players outside the top 125 on the money list to earn their way in during the last tournament.

The unlucky two that dropped out were veterans Rod Pampling and Billy Mayfair. Pampling has $13.6 million in career earnings and Mayfair has just over $20 million, so while it's a shame they are off to Q School; they have each made their mark on TOUR.

Over the coming weeks, expect content to be somewhat sporadic. Topics that I would like to cover include:
  • Q School - Second and Final stages.
  • Recap of how some 2012 predictions made before the season panned out.
  • Recap of 2012 in general.
  • Beginning to look ahead at 2013.
  • Anything else relevant that may pop up.
If you have any topics you would specifically like to have covered, please let me know and I will consider doing so.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Children's MIracle Network Hospitals Classic - Final Round Preview

I've been fairly quiet the past few weeks once the various tournaments have started, but there is too much going on ahead of the final round of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic to ignore. Here is a viewing guide, if you will, for things to keep an eye on in the final round.

I'm going to largely skip over the obvious Charlie Beljan story, because I assume you are aware of what's going on there. The only thing I will point out, is he can't afford a big slip in the final round if he expects to finish in the top 125. Entering the week 139, he needs a top 10 at worst, and probably something like a top five.

  • There are a bunch of moving parts to the top 125. As projected now, Vaughn Taylor is in 125th, but he's also tied for fifth in the tournament. Because there is a large gap between where he is projected now in 125th and where D.J. Trahan is projected in 126th, the ball is largely in Taylor's court to hold his position. A top five and Taylor is fine. A lower top 10, and he brings not only Trahan, but also Rod Pampling back into the picture. Pampling missed the cut.
  • A couple of shots either way could loom large for Camilo Villegas. He is currently tied for fifth and projected 132nd. That tells me that anything better than a tie for fifth makes him very dangerous, but if he retreats at all; it's off to the final stage of Q School.
  • As for the aforementioned Trahan, don't forget that his birdie putt from 22 feet on his 72nd hole (the 9th) last year bumped Bobby Gates to 126th and gave Trahan the final card. Projected at 126th, the Clemson product seems destined to take it down to the wire this year as well.
  • I mentioned on Twitter that Josh Teater is a man to watch in the finale. He's 10-under in his two rounds on the Magnolia Golf Course, which is where the final round will be played, versus 1-under on the Palm Course. He's also 56th in final round scoring average.
  • There are a bunch of guys fighting to get inside the top 150, or trying to maintain a spot inside that number, in order to avoid the second stage of Q School next week. Scott Brown (146 projected), Brendon Todd (148) and Billy Hurley III (149) are all projected inside the number, but have missed the cut. Chris DiMarco (151), Kyle Reifers (153), J.J. Killeen (156), Billy Horschel (147) and Russell Knox (155) are among those hoping to sneak inside the top 150. Stewart Cink is currently 150th (projected), but his status is secure due to the 2009 British Open win.
  • For many of those guys I mentioned above, finishing inside the top 150 is a huge deal. It guarentees them not only a spot in the final stage of Q School, but also some PGA TOUR starts and full status on the 2013 Web.com Tour. For the Scott Brown's of the world, that's a big deal.
Something crazy will happen tomorrow. It could involve Beljan nabbing his first win, or blowing it in Kyle Stanley-like fashion. It could be that someone further down the list shoots a 64 to steal a card from someone. There could be someone well outside the top 150 (like a Scott Dunlap) firing a really low round to come out of nowhere to end up inside the top 150.

Either way, tomorrow is much more dramatic than any episode of The Big Break ever hopes to be.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic - Power Rankings

When breaking down the field at the CMNHC, there are few options that jump off the page. I assume that should be expected given the world's best are either on a long vacation or playing in the Far East. This week isn't about the elite, rather those that are fighting for playing status in 2013. In that light, here is the best of the rest, in this week's Dandy Dozen.
  1. Brendon de Jonge - I have a hard time believing I'm leading off with the Virginia Tech product, but given he's finished 2/T4/T4 in his last three starts it seems he's overcome the plague of falling down the leaderboard on the weekend. He's eighth in GIR, 26th in scoring average and has nine tournaments where he's posted scores of 10-under or better. This tournament will require low scores.
  2. Robert Garrigus - All the guy does is finish second; so why not slot him in here. He posted a runner-up at the CIMB to go with four others in 2012. He won here in 2010 despite not being the best of putters.
  3. Jonas Blixt - His trend is fading fast, with a 3/1/T84 in his last three starts. To be fair, the T84 came very quickly after his win, allowing him little time to celebrate. He leads the TOUR in SGP and is 28th in scoring average. I expect him to have cleared his head after the win and be ready for a big week.
  4. Chris Kirk - You could argue that nobody on TOUR has been as consistent over the last few months; at least not that is in this field. He's cashed in his last 11 events with a T4 at The McGladrey Classic his last. Seven different weeks he's taken it 10-under or deeper, but his 124th SGP ranking is concerning.
  5. Davis Love III - DL3 had a chance to win at The McGladrey Classic, and now returns to the site of his most recent win. He claimed his 20th victory in 2008 at Disney, and looks to recapture the magic once again. Why not?
  6. Tommy Gainey - It's not an accident that I slid Two Gloves in a slot behind DL3, as Gainey was the runner-up in 2008. He is coming off his first TOUR win and, though his stats are record aren't great this year, he can get hot with the putter and roll off some lower number. After all, we saw that in Sea Island.
  7. Jeff Overton - He's been a cut-making machine with a T16 at the CIMB and an eighth at the Frys.com on the recent resume. He notched a T6 in 2007 in what stands as his best of many decent finishes at Magnolia GC.
  8. Justin Leonard - His stats suck this year, but he's finished runner-up in this event in two of the last three years, giving hope that he could finish high enough to crack the top 125 on the money list. He enters the week 138th in cash.
  9. Nick O'Hern - Keeping with the theme of guys with poor stats but great history, the Aussie finished T6 in 2011 and T4 in 2009. Historically, he plays some of his best TOUR golf in the fall, ahead of his return to Australia for the major events in that country.
  10. John Rollins - He's got a decent history in this event, including a T6 last year. He's always dangerous due to his streaky nature, but in the 10th slot he's probably a steal.
  11. Billy Horschel - He's made 14/16 cuts, including 10 consecutive. He posted 20-under to finish third at the True South Classic. He's too good to be struggling to earn a card this far into his professional career. He came out with the same star-power as guys like Webb Simpson.
  12. Charles Howell III - You never know about Three Sticks, as his putter is prone to disappear at any time. That said, he's finished T11 and T7 in his last two events and has twice tied for ninth in Disney. He leads the TOUR with 16 eagles, which could be a factor in a go-low like this.
Next 5: Ryan Palmer, Rory Sabbatini, Chad Campbell, Brian Harman and Harris English.

Check back tomorrow for notes on various games!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic - Preview

After what feels like an eternity, I'm glad to be back to preview the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic (CMNHC). As I mentioned in an earlier post, I find the last two tournaments in Asia interesting from a bystander's standpoint, but I don't have enough stats or knowledge on the courses to do anything more than waste all of our times with "insight" on the events. Heck, I'm not even sure I can say I've watched enough live coverage of the events to have faked it.

The CMNHC is such a hard tournament to handicap. Virtually all the players in the field have been out of competition since at least The McGladrey Classic, so good luck guessing current form. This week is all about status. Some players would give anything to just crack the top 150. Others the top 125. Still others are playing for top 70 status for the invitationals or a certain goal to reach a compensation tier from an equipment sponsor. That said, here are some trends to keep an eye on:
  • There is always someone that comes out of nowhere to earn a PGA TOUR card or make a dramatic jump inside the top 150. Tommy Gainey, who broke through in our last full-filed event, finished runner-up to Davis Love III in 2008 at the end of an otherwise horrible rookie year to at least gain conditional status in the 126-150 category. Sung Kang and Tom Pernice Jr.  both tied for third last year to move inside the top 125 in the 120 and 121 spots respectively. Good luck at figuring out who, but someone who is not on anyone's radar will catch lightening in a bottle.
  • The cream usually rises. Since 2003, the winners are Vijay Singh, Ryan Palmer, Lucas Glover, Joe Durant, Stephen Ames (twice), DL3, Robert Garrigus and Luke Donald. Anyone who's stumbled upon this blog knows that these are all legit players. If you look further back, you'll see Tiger Woods' name on the trophy.
  • When in doubt, look for solid putters and guys who aren't afraid to go low. At least lately, the trend has been less about length and more about solid putting. Yes, I realize Garrigus is a bomber, but he's also streaky. I maintain that this is a tournament to find a streaky player with a penchant for low scores and ride him. Actually, Gainey is a good example. In retrospect, he fits that formula and his success in 2008 isn't a surprise knowing what we know now.
I'll have a power ranking ready to go Monday. In the mean time; feel free to shoot me questions (thegolfaficionado@gmail.com) if you have them.

Web.com Tour Grads 2013 Projections

Last December I published on this blog my projections for how the 2011 Web.com Tour (Nationwide Tour at the time) grads would perform on the 2012 PGA TOUR. I will not be doing that on this space this season, but I have done the same thing in more detail for Rotoworld.

That article can be found here http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/gol/41798/345/2012-webcom-tour-graduates.

I'll warn you ahead of time that it's rather lengthy, but the feedback I've received is that serious gamers are saving it for late-round drafts and punters like it for long-odds bets.

Hope you find it entertaining and/or useful.