Q-School a PGA pipeline for Koreans
LA QUINTA, Calif.
That’s a wrap. Q-School as we know it is finished. This final edition featured the standard storylines that this unique event has built its reputation on. Here are Five Things you need to know from Monday’s play at PGA West:
1. Top notch
Dong-Hwan Lee walked away with the $50,000 winner’s check. His countryman, Si Woo Kim, also earned a PGA Tour card. This is the third consecutive year multiple Koreans have graduated Q-School; no country, other than the United States, has accomplished that. Lee shot 67 Monday to finish at 25-under 407, one shot ahead of 2010 European Ryder Cup team member Ross Fisher and Web.com Tour player Steve LeBrun.
Lee’s victory will give him good status on the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing. Kim, who tied for 20th, won’t be able to take advantage of his status for several months, until he turns 18 on June 28. That will leave him just seven weeks, and a handful of events, to try to retain his card.
Lee, 25, is a two-time Japan Tour winner. He served in the Korean military in 2009 and 2010, though his duties included mopping floors and giving golf lessons.
“It definitely helped me because I like golf so much. I took for granted how precious it was,” Lee said. “To be forced to miss something you love, I had the strong urge to come back and play.”
2. Heartbreak hole
Q-School is known for creating drama, and it didn’t disappoint this year. Edward Loar, a PGA Tour rookie in 2012, was this year’s biggest victim. Loar started the final day in third place, but shot a final-round 78 to miss his Tour card by two shots. He hit his approach shots into the water on the final two holes, finishing with a double-bogey and bogey. He hit 9-iron into the water on the island-green, par-3 17th and needed a birdie at 18 to retain his card. His approach to the final green bounced off the rocks and into the lake left of the green.
“We all know how cruel this game is,” Loar said.
He wasn’t the only one to lose a card after finding water on the final hole. Mark Anderson and Heath Slocum both soaked their tee shots at 18 and missed their cards by two shots. Tom Pernice, 53, shot a final-round 79 to fall from T-17 to T-87.
Slocum, a three-time PGA Tour winner, said, “You forget how hard Q-School is.” Slocum also called a one-shot penalty on himself on his 17th hole of the fifth round after his ball moved after he addressed it. He said it was the first time he'd had to call such a penalty on himself.
"They say crazy stuff happens at Q-School," Slocum said, "and it does."
He wasn’t the only three-time Tour winner to miss his card. Camilo Villegas also failed to regain his status this week.
3. Manic Monday
Patrick Reed will have something extra to celebrate at his Dec. 21 wedding. Reed earned his first PGA Tour card. His fiancee, Justine Karain, was on his bag this week, as she has been all year. Reed’s final-round 67 put him at 17 under, allowing him to earn his card without a shot to spare. He made headlines this year for his success in Monday qualifiers. He earned more than $300,000 in 2012 after Monday qualifying for six PGA Tour events.
“I didn’t even think about it as trying to get your card,” Reed said. “I was just trying to get a low number. I had 18 holes to do it. We play every day like it’s Monday.”
The Reeds’ honeymoon cruise is scheduled from Dec. 28-Jan. 5, concluding the week before the season’s first full-field event, the Sony Open in Hawaii. Reed has asked the cruise company if he’d be allowed to hit balls off the ship in order to stay fresh.
Reed’s former Augusta State teammate, Henrik Norlander, also finished at 17 under and earned his first PGA Tour card. He holed a 6-foot par putt at the last hole.
“I made it. Somehow," he said. That's all that matters.
Donald Constable, Bobby Gates and Chez Reavie also earned their PGA Tour cards without a shot to spare.
4. Good move
Ross Fisher skipped last week’s European Tour finale in Dubai in order to stay fresh for Q-School. He passed on guaranteed money in Dubai, but the move paid off with a PGA Tour card. Fisher finished at 24 under and in a tie for second. Five players commuted from the Middle East to the California desert this week. Four of them were in the world’s top 60, but none earned a PGA Tour card. Jet lag was likely part of the problem. Most of them flew 16 hours from Dubai to Los Angeles on Nov. 26, two days before Q-School began.
"I wanted to give it my all," Fisher said. "That's why I didn't play Dubai."
Fisher, No. 93 in the Official World Golf Ranking, played the 2010 Ryder Cup and has won on the European Tour, but even he felt pressure at Q-School. “It’s different,” Fisher said of Q-School. “It’s tough.”
5. Short shots
Four players advanced through four stages of Q-School to earn PGA Tour cards: Derek Ernst, Si Woo Kim, Donald Constable and Henrik Norlander. That feat required 17 rounds. Ernst celebrated his PGA Tour card by flying to Thailand on Monday evening for the Thailand Golf Championship, which begins Thursday. He was scheduled to arrive on the tournament’s eve. Ernst is playing the following week in Malaysia. Ernst and Constable both turned pro after this year’s U.S. Amateur. ... Scott Langley, the 2010 NCAA champ, shot a final-round 68 to finish 17th. Langley chipped in for birdie on the par-3 sixth hole. ... Erik Compton, a PGA Tour rookie in 2012, regained his card by finishing T-7. “It’s hell week,” Compton said of Q-School. ... Billy Horschel finished fourth to earn a PGA Tour card for the third time in four Q-School tries. ... Ross Fisher wasn’t the only recent European Ryder Cup player to earn a PGA Tour card. Robert Karlsson, who played on the 2006 and 2008 teams, tied for 14th. ... The players who missed a PGA Tour card by a stroke: Oliver Fisher, Danny Lee, Vince Covello, Mathew Goggin and Kevin Kisner. Covello holed out from 90 yards for eagle on the par-4 seventh hole.