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Pressure cooker on tap at PGA Tour Q School
Kevin Currie, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The longest, hardest event on the PGA Tour starts this week. Six days, 108 holes for the right to play on the most lucrative tour in the world.
Officially, it is known as the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. Q School for short.
The stories that emerge from this pressure-packed tournament range from the sublime to the ridiculous. The gut wrenching details of Q School were spelled out in John Feinstein's outstanding book, "Tales from Q School: Inside Golf's Fifth Major."
Some call the Players Championship the fifth major on the PGA Tour, but the pressure at Q School rivals that of the four major championships.
There are all kinds of players that will compete this week on the Panther Lake and Crooked Cat courses at Orange County National. There are former major champions, players trying to make it to and finally stay on the PGA Tour, and of course, the heart-warming tails of the unexpected.
Here are some names at Q School this week that you will recognize - Briny Baird, Jason Gore, Lee Janzen, Jonathan Kaye, Billy Mayfair, Scott McCarron, Will MacKenzie, Joe Ogilvie and Johnson Wagner.
Baird is the PGA Tour's career money leader without a victory. He ranks 86th on the career money list with $11,538,466 in earnings, but has yet to visit the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Gore was one of the top stories in golf five years ago. He crumbled while playing in the final group at the 2005 U.S. Open, but rebounded to win three times on the Nationwide Tour and once on the PGA Tour that same summer. Gore's game has been wildly inconsistent since however.
Janzen owns two U.S. Open Championships. Yet, his title at the '98 Open was his last on the PGA Tour. Kaye has a pair of wins on tour, but played the '09 on a medical extension and didn't earn enough cash to keep his tour card.
Mayfair, McCarron, MacKenzie, Ogilvie and Wagner are all former winners on the PGA Tour, but need to make it through Q School to get their card for 2011. That group has been to the top of the PGA Tour, while these players are trying to get back there.
Jon Mills had four top-25 finishes in 2008, but still couldn't maintain his privileges for 2009. Aaron Watkins missed 12 of 18 cuts in 2009 and was back on the Nationwide Tour in 2010.
They have been there, but one player that had a stellar 2010 season is trying to get his card for the first time. Aaron Goldberg did play in three PGA events this year, but missed the cut twice. However, his season on the Canadian Tour was outstanding.
Goldberg won three times and set the tour's money record. He is hoping to carry that momentum onto the PGA Tour next year.
Then there are the stories about guys everyone can root for.
Erik Compton has made it through to the final stage two years after his second heart transplant. You read that right. A guy on his third heart might be a full-time PGA Tour member next year.
Former teen phenom Ty Tryon made it through all three stages of Q School in 2001 to earn his tour card. He didn't last long at the age of 17. His lone PGA Tour appearance since 2003 came last year when he qualified for the U.S. Open.
Some were surprised to see Brett Waldman at the second stage of Q School since Camilo Villegas, the player he caddies for, was playing in Asia. Waldman wasn't caddying, he was playing. He is one of 10 players competing this week that advanced from pre-qualifying all the way to the final stage of Q School.
The top 25 at Q School will earn their PGA Tour cards for 2011. Their fall back? They have gained conditional status for the Nationwide Tour for next season.
No offense to that tour, but there really is only one place those at Orange County National this week want to be next year, the PGA Tour. Golf Channel will have in depth coverage the final three rounds. Catch all the heartbreak and excitement as players go for broke.
LPGA WRAPS UP 2010 SEASON
As the calendar turns to December, there is still plenty of golf going on around the world. Here in the States, the LPGA Tour will play the final official event of the 2010 season this week.
The three PGA-sanctioned Tours have wrapped up and are into their unofficial events. However, the LPGA Tour Championship is this weekend and there is plenty at stake.
Five of the top six players on the tour's money list have won at least two times. Ai Miyazato tops that group with five victories, but she is nearly $367,000 behind money-leader Na Yeon Choi, who has a eight top-three finishes in 22 starts this year.
The money race is down to two players, Choi and Jiyai Shin. Choi leads that race by $34,790. As close as that seems, the scoring race is nearly a dead- heat. Choi's average of 69.77 is a mere 0.09 strokes better than Cristie Kerr. The winner will take home the Vare Trophy.
Finally, the race for the No. 1 spot in the world remains tight with the top- six players separated by 1.00 average points. Shin tops the rankings, while Suzann Pettersen is second by 0.36 average points. Pettersen has yet to reach the top spot.
The races will be settled at Grand Cypress resort this week.
- Ian Poulter coughed up the Dubai World Championship on Sunday after calling a penalty on himself in a playoff. Fitting end to the year of rules violations that the final European Tour event had one last broken rule to help determine the winner.
- The LPGA has the final official event of the five biggest tours world wide (PGA, European, LPGA, Champions and Nationwide), but the European Tour kicks off the 2011 season next week with the first of two events in South Africa.
- Silly season king Fred Couples retained Michael Jordan as an assistant captain for the 2011 United States Presidents Cup team. International team captain Greg Norman said he might add someone like Jordan as an assistant as well. That will be intriguing.