Gates' Q-School odyssey takes lucrative detour
SHANGHAI, China - Bobby Gates' presence in the 78-man field at this week's WGC-HSBC Champions might surprise most observers. For Gates, it has been more than a year in the making.
Last year, Gates traveled to Australia and New Zealand, trying to finish high enough on the PGA Tour Australasia Order of Merit to receive exemptions into World Golf Championship events.
Two weeks ago at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, the final event of the PGA Tour season, Gates narrowly missed keeping his Tour card. He found himself at No. 126 on the season money list, a mere $1,431 behind D.J. Trahan, who birdied the final hole at Disney to edge Gates for the final spot for 2012.
“Its golf; it happens,” Gates said at Sheshan International Golf Club in preparation for this week's event. “It depends how you look at it. If you feel sorry for yourself, it can be a long year, but I’m just excited about the opportunity to go and earn my way back. Still got Q-School. Still got this week, and 126 isn’t the worst place to be. You're still going to get a few spots, get some sponsors' invites and some Monday qualifiers, so you never know. It could end up being a blessing in disguise."
Gates, 25, finished fourth on the Australasian Order of Merit playing in just four events and almost winning the Australian PGA, leading with nine holes to go, but eventually finishing sixth to Peter Senior.
Because the top 5 on the Order of Merit receive exemptions into the HSBC Champions, Gates was assured of his position almost a year ago.
But more importantly for Gates, coming into this week he has made three of the last four cuts, boosting his confidence entering a WGC event and with Q-School looming as his next event.
“There’s a lot of things that could have happened differently,” Gates said. “I think the FedEx Cup could have shaken out a little differently, and if I make a few short putts here and there throughout the year, you could look back on it like that.”
With his status in Australasia, Gates had a chance to land a spot in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral but missed out. If he had gotten into the no-cut, guaranteed-check field, he would have earned enough to keep his card for 2012.
This week, only a victory would be counted as official by the PGA Tour; any earnings would be unofficial.
Gates brushes any "what if" scenario and is thankful for the opportunity on the eve of a tougher test looming at Q-School.
“For me, I’m just going to approach it like any other week,” Gates said of a guaranteed payday of $25,000. “It’s a great opportunity to play against the best guys in the world. That’s what these WGC’s are about: seeing how you stack up to the rest of the world.”