Thirteen pre-qualifier tournaments, thirteen first-stage events and six second-stage events later, the pool of thousands of golfers hoping to re(earn) their place on the PGA Tour in 2012 has been dwindled down to 173 players, ranging from recent college grads, mini-tour grinders, journeymen, has-beens, major champs, former Tour winners, past Ryder Cup members and guys who had a tough season. All of whom will kick off the grueling six-round, 108-hole marathon at PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament and Stadium courses this morning. At the finish line, the top 25 (and ties) will collect their cards.
David Duval, former world No. 1 and ’01 British Open champ, had to put aside his ego and go through second stage for the first time since forever to reach finals this year. As you know, Duval has been struggling for…well, the last decade. Good news is he has fond memories at PGA West’s Palmer Private course, where he shot a final-round 59 in the ’99 Bob Hope Classic.
Other “big” names that have been thrown around leading into the week include: Tommy Armour III (oldest guy in field at 52, two-time PGA Tour winner, now plays on the Champions Tour where he has full status in ’12); Rich Beem (2002 PGA Championship); Lee Janzen 1993, 1998 U.S. Open); Shaun Micheel (2003 PGA Championship); Jeff Maggert, Daniel Chopra, Guy Boros, Steve Flesch, Bob Estes, Robert Gamez, Jason Gore, Bob May, Scott McCarron, Carlos Franco, Nathan Green, Len Mattiace, Tim Petrovic, Dicky Pride, Andre Stolz, Vaughn Taylor, Marc Turnesa, Boo Weekley, Brett Wetterich and Dean Wilson are all past PGA Tour winners — let me know if I missed anyone.
And then there’s an even longer list of players with decent resumes or names you recognize if you’re a golf geek — like Doug Barron, the journeyman with a long history of heath problems, was the first player suspended under the Tour’s drug testing policy after he tested positive for beta-blocker and testosterone, which were prescribed by doctors for well-documented diagnoses of medical conditions. How did that turn out? For whom? Well, I think Barron got a nice little settlement when it was brought to court. Nice to see him at finals, though, after having his name dragged through the mud…
Arnold Palmer’s grandson Sam Saunders advanced to finals for the first time.
As always, there’s Ty Tryon, the teen phenom, earned his card at age 17 and then lost it after his first full season on Tour — and ever since he’s back every year trying to get it back. *Yawn*
Okay, here are guys that I’ll be watching this week (*explanations to come later today, sorry for delay…):
*Seung-Yul Noh: Possibly the best player in the field.
*Tommy Armour III: Because he’s Tommy Armour.
*Adam Hadwin: Read this story I wrote earlier today.
*Richard S. Johnson
*Chris Wilson: Well, for purposes of full disclosure, because he’s my friend, (so is his caddie and BFF, Blake). I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’ll use his words: “I’m much more experienced right now than I was at Q-school in ’09 and on the PGA Tour in ’10 — way, way, way more experienced. With experience, brings a certain level of comfort because you’ve been in these situations before and succeeded in them, so you know you can do it. I’m a lot better golfer than I was two years ago…
“I didn’t really know if I was good enough two years ago when I made it to finals. I think until you succeed, until you play at the highest level and until you qualify for it, probably every player has a certain level of doubt — maybe it’s very small. But until you’ve proven it to yourself, you don’t know if you’re good enough. That’s what I did in 2009. I got through qualifying through all 3 stages and I proved to myself I had enough game to qualify for the Tour.
“It was a big learning experience out there in ’10, going through those things I went through. Those experiences have helped me since then, and I’ve worked hard to get back here to finals. I’m going to pull for those experiences and go out there and play golf.”