Cauley On Course to Bypass Q-School
By Stephanie Wei under Fall Series

Pffftttt...Q-school, what?!?

Although Briny Baird and Bryce Molder battling it out for their first PGA Tour victory in a six-hole playoff was mildly entertaining, I walked away from the Frys.com Open the most impressed with 21-year-old Bud Cauley. Playing on a sponsor exemption this week, Cauley shot four rounds in the 60s to place solo third, his best finish in seven Tour starts.

By finishing in the top ten, he automatically gets a spot in the field at The McGladrey Classic next week. More important, as a non-member, he has the chance to become only the sixth player in Tour history to bypass Q-school.

After his junior season at the University of Alabama, Cauley turned pro and made his debut in the big leagues at the U.S. Open, where he placed T63. His other Tour finishes include T24 at the Travelers Championship, T4 at the Viking Classic, T13 at the RBC Canadian Open and T52 at the Wyndham Championship. His only missed cut came at the Reno-Tahoe Open (must have been too weak of a field for him!).

With $340,000 in earnings this week, Cauley has now collected $671,150 in non-member earnings this season. To skip the dreaded trip to the Tour Qualifying Tournament, he needs to better the earnings of No. 125 on the 2011 Tour official money list at the end of the season (after the last Fall Series event at Disney). He can also become exempt to Q-School finals if his earnings fall between Nos. 126 and 150 on the money list.

“I’m not sure about the numbers or where this will put me or whatnot, but obviously it’ll help and playing my way into next week also is a big thing, too,” said Cauley in his post-round presser Sunday.  “So I’m going to relax today and tomorrow and just try and go out there and do what I did this week and take advantage of another opportunity.”

Last season No. 125 on the final 2010 money list earned $786,977 and No. 150 raked in $563,729. With two events to go, No. 125 currently has made $602,392.

Chances are Cauley will be exempt for the final stage, but another solid showing at the McGladrey could allow him to take a vacation instead of playing six grueling rounds at Q-School finals. If he plays poorly in Sea Island, I hope he’s already trying to get a sponsor exemption to the Disney. Actually, he should play in that, either way (unless he wins this upcoming week, of course).

(Aside: Apparently on Saturday when Cauley was playing with Ernie Els and Paul Casey, Ernie asked Cauley when he was going to turn pro. I think he was confusing Bud with Patrick Cantlay. That’s so Ernie — love it! “He asked me when I was going to turn pro, and I just had to tell him I already had and when I had,” said Cauley. “So I think by the back 9 he knew I was a professional.”)

Canadian Adam Hadwin is also in Cauley’s unique position, but has a little more work cut out for him. Hadwin captured his second top 10 of the season with a T7, earning a spot in the field next week at The McGladrey. In four starts, he hasn’t missed a cut, with his best finish coming at the RBC Canadian Open, where the hometown favorite tied for fourth. With the $130,312 earned this week, Hadwin now has $432,752 in non-member earnings.

Since 1980, there have only been five players to skip the seemingly endless rigors of Q-School: Gary Hallberg, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore, who was the last in 2005. *Update: Charles Howell III turned professional in 2000 and earned Special Temporary Membership playing in just six events and played 11 events on the year. He did not earn enough money to finish inside the top 125 and decided not to go to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, but instead earned Special Temporary Status again in 2001 playing on sponsor exemptions and later earned full status for the 2002 season by virtue of his non-member earnings.

Let’s go, Cauley and Hadwin!

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)