2002: Less pressure on European foursome
La Quinta, Calif.
While some players do not have a place to play in 2003, Germany’s Alex Cejka, England’s John Morgan, and Swedes Carl Pettersson and Richard S. Johnson are among those fortunate golfers who have two choices.
Cejka, a veteran of the European Tour who won the Trophee Lancome this season, had the best Q-School showing of the bunch, finishing tied for second at 15-under 417. Morgan earned his PGA European Tour card earlier this year by finishing eighth on the European Challenge Tour Order of Merit. And Pettersson, who attended North Carolina State and still keeps a home in North Carolina, played the PGA European Tour this season and won the Portuguese Open. He finished 26th on this season’s Order of Merit. Johnson won this year’s ANZ Championship and finished 64th on the Order of Merit.
“I think I had a little bit of an advantage,” said Cejka, 32, who finished 21st on this season’s Order of Merit. “Of course I wanted to make it, but I have a great place to play in Europe, where I can always return. It’s always nice to have two options.”
Morgan, 24, turned pro in April. Despite a final-round 76, Morgan tied for 11th at 12-under 420. Pettersson, 25, started the final round tied for 64th, but rallied with a round of 6-under 66 on PGA West’s Stadium Course to move into a tie for 21st at 10 under.
44Nothing to lose, Part 2: Buy.com Tour graduates Tag Ridings and Patrick Sheehan took in the 108-hole test in an effort to improve their status for next year’s PGA Tour season, though neither was able to do that. Sheehan, No. 12 on Buy.com Tour money list, and Ridings, No. 14, earned 2003 Tour cards last month at the Buy.com Tour Championship by finishing among the top 15 in earnings.
At PGA West, Sheehan finished tied for 123rd, and Ridings, who saved his best for last with a closing 67, was 89th. In the PGA Tour’s pecking order, the top 15 from the Buy.com Tour alternate with the top finishers from Q-School, meaning that Sheehan would be about 24th and Ridings 28th in the lineup.
“It sure takes the pressure off when you know you already have your card,” Ridings said.
44Finally, paydirt: After more near-misses than Dean Wilson would like to count, he finally has made it. In his 11th trip to Q-School, Wilson, who held the lead through two rounds, shot 12-under 420 and earned his 2003 PGA Tour card.
Wilson advanced to the final stage of Q-School for the fourth time but had never finished inside the top 35 until this year. Wilson has spent the better part of the last three years playing the Japan Golf Tour, where he has won six times. He was No. 3 on the circuit’s Order of Merit this year, winning twice.
In 2000, he was named that circuit’s rookie of the year, and he finished second on the Order of Merit after three victories in 2001. “It’s really helped me a lot just because I have had a place to play,” he said. “I’ve been able to put myself in position to win tournaments, and I have won some tournaments there.”
“The last few days have been tough,” he added, “because I wanted this so much.”
44Short shots: Seven players withdrew during the six-round event: Ted Tryba, Emlyn Aubrey, John Riegger, Roland Thatcher, Nolan Henke, John Morse, Emanuele Canonica and Paul Gow. Riegger withdrew prior to the start because of a bad back. Thatcher missed his card a year ago when he made triple bogey on the 108th hole at Bear Lakes in Palm Beach, Fla. . . . Of the 170 players that started, 64 competed in the first two stages of qualifying, 72 in only the second stage, and 34 were exempt into the final stage. In the field were 19 former PGA Tour champions who have collected a total of 51 career victories. In addition, there were 59 players with 85 career titles on the Buy.com Tour. Eighty-eight players were trying to get their PGA Tour card for the first time. . . . James Blair was the oldest player at 47 years, six months and 18 days.
– Ron Balicki and James Achenbach