Qualifying school, which used to be the most grueling test in golf, both for its six-round duration and the pressure to gain PGA Tour playing privileges, has been demoted. By that I mean the significance and drama have been reduced somewhat. This year, players making it through qualifying school will graduate to the Web.com Tour and not the PGA Tour. It still may be grueling, but the payoff at the end is not the same.
Beginning this year, to qualify for the PGA Tour you have to go through the Web.com Tour Finals, which start this weekend. The next four events will determine the winners of all the 50 PGA Tour cards up for grabs. The top 25 during the just concluded Web.com regular season will receive PGA Tour cards, but their rankings can be affected by the next four events. Those not in the top 25 during the regular season can still make it by being in the top 25 in winnings for the four events in the Web.Com Tour Finals. But the competition just got a little stiffer. In addition to the top 75 in Web.com winnings, the Tour Finals field also include the PGA Tour players ranked 126 through 200 in FedEx Cup points. Some of these players are past PGA Tour champions. Look for most of the remaining 25 spots to go to the PGA Tour players.
You could think of the Tour Finals as a 16-round qualifying school to make the PGA Tour. Guess where this quest begins? Right here in Indiana! Sycamore Hills in Fort Wayne is hosting the Hotel Fitness Championship this weekend. The Jack Nicklaus-layout has hosted the Junior PGA from 2010-2012 as well as this year’s U.S. Girls Junior. So if you want to see some good golf this weekend, you know where to go.
FED EX CUP PLAYOFFS
The PGA Tour is also having its playoffs for the Fed Ex Cup and $10 million. The second of four events is this weekend. All eyes will be on Tiger, but as we saw last year, anything can happen in the Tour Championship if the players at the top of the standings don’t play well.
New Zealand’s 16-year-old Lydia Ko captured her fourth LPGA title last weekend with her victory in the women’s Canadian Open. The amateur successfully defended her title there with a super final round of 64 to win by five. The title moved her to No. 7 in the women’s world rankings. This must be the highest an amateur has ever been ranked since the rankings began. The Canadian Open was Ko’s 16th event on tour and she has yet to miss a cut.
Ko plans to go to college and put off turning professional. Expect the pressure to turn professional to increase in the next two years as she becomes eligible to join the LPGA Tour. One thing is for sure — when she does turn professional, she should have more success than Lexi Thompson or Michelle Wie. She already has!
HOWARD CO. WRAPUP
Congratulations to Nick Wooley for capturing his first Howard County title this past weekend. After opening up with a three-stroke lead after the first round at the American Legion, Wooley upped the final margin to five strokes over Ray Poat and Josh Kinney. Kinney shot an even-par round of 72 from the back tees at Wildcat to move up into his tie for second.
The margin could have been even larger. Wooley kept the “pedal to the metal” all the way around. He made a bold breaking 30 footer on hole No. 9 for an eagle. Good thing the ball hit the middle of the hole as it would have gone at least 8 feet past had it missed the hole. At that point Wooley’s lead over Poat was eight strokes and he had five strokes on Ryan Newell. Wooley continued to hit driver and blocked one out-of-bounds on hole No. 13 and put two in the water on hole No. 18. But the back nine was ugly for the entire foursome so his lead was not in danger.
Many would say that Newell is the longest hitter in the county. Wooley can’t be far behind. And his putter was pretty sharp also. Not a bad combination!
Now is the time of year that the local clubs hold their club championships. Enter yours to have some fun and compete for a title. As a side benefit, winners will be recognized here.
Until next time, have more fun playing more golf!