WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The football team may get top billing at Boise State, but on Monday, the eyes of Bronco faithful should be trained on Bermudagrass, not blue Astroturf, as two former Broncos are on the verge of PGA Tour cards at Q-School.
Troy Merritt, 24, and Graham Delaet, 27, are atop the leaderboard with one round remaining at Q-School. Merritt is leading at 18 under par, while Delaet is 16 under and in second place at Bear Lakes. They were on the 13th tee when play was called due to darkness.
“It was nice watching him hit it 30 yards by me,” Merritt said of playing with his friend. “It’s nice to see a familiar face.”
Delaet finished his college career one year before Merritt transferred to Boise State, but the two have played plenty of golf together in Boise.
Merritt and Delaet are well inside the cut line, which currently falls at 9 under par. There are exactly 25 players at that number; the top 25 and ties after the sixth round will earn PGA Tour cards.
Merritt and Delaet have taken disparate paths to West Palm Beach for this week, but have spent their fair share of time in the winner’s circle.
That experience is helping them this week, said Boise State head coach Kevin Burton. Burton played the PGA Tour in 1997.
“If you think, ‘Hey, I want to finish top 25,’ you’re going to finish up around 25,” Burton said. “They’re not there to finish in the top 25. They’re there to win.”
Merritt won seven times in his senior season at Boise State, including five in a row. Merritt turned pro in 2008, earned Nationwide Tour status at Q-School, then won this year’s Mexico Open.
He’s already exempt on the Nationwide Tour, so he can only improve his lot this week. Delaet has never held PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour status since turning pro in 2006.
Delaet won 10 times in college, and won around the globe this year.
He led the Canadian Tour’s Order of Merit this year, thanks to two victories and four other top 10s in nine starts. He is eighth on the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit after a win and two runners-up in five starts. He didn’t finish worse than 12th on that tour this year.
Delaet is No. 187 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, a leap of 579 spots from this time last year. He played in 16 events this year that offered Official World Ranking points. He finished 12th or better in 10 of those events, including seven top-four finishes.
Merritt and Delaet will play 24 holes Monday as they try to wrap up their PGA Tour cards. Merritt had to play the final nine holes of his fourth round Sunday morning, and Delaet had to complete seven holes, before they began their fifth rounds Sunday afternoon.
Play started at 7:45 a.m. Sunday so players could finish their fourth rounds; Merritt and Delaet started their fifth rounds at 1:30 p.m. The fifth round will resume at 7:45 a.m. Monday, with sixth-round tee times between 8:20 and 10:30.
“Everything just seems to be melding together,” Merritt said. “My head’s a little bit mushy, I’m a little bit tired. Tomorrow will be just as long. I just need to keep focusing and concentrating as long as I can and hopefully good things happen.”
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Delaet isn’t the only North American looking to play in the U.S. after spending 2009 abroad. Former Duke All-American Nathan Smith played the Challenge and European tours.
He finished 75th on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit. Smith was at 9 under par before making triple bogey on his final hole. He hit his second shot in a greenside bunker, then hit that shot 40 yards over the green onto the practice putting green. He chunked his next shot, which bounced off the cart path and onto a downslope behind the green. Smith’s next shot ran down a swale, 30 feet from the hole. He two-putted for 7 and signed for a 72. He is tied for 32nd at 6 under par, three shots outside the cut.
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QUOTABLE: “If there was one word that you could print, it would just be ‘hard.’ It’s just hard. … If you’re playing well and … you make a few bogeys and then you start going, ‘Oh god.’ You start thinking instead of just playing.” – Josh Broadaway on Q-School. Broadaway is tied for 12th.
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INSIDE THE CUT LINE (top 25 and ties):
• Jeff Maggert is tied for third at 14 under par. He was even par for 12 holes Sunday.
• Neal Lancaster, 47, was 3 under par for 15 holes Sunday to move from T-16 to T-8. He is 12 under par.
• Former PGA Tour winner Joe Ogilvie is tied for 12th after shooting 1 under for 14 holes Sunday. He is 11 under total.
• Brian Stuard, who finished No. 26 on the Nationwide Tour money list to miss his card by a spot, shot 68 Sunday and is tied for 17th at 10 under par.
• Rickie Fowler and Tom Pernice, who are both members at Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, Calif., are tied for 20th at 9 under par.
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OUTSIDE THE CUT LINE:
• Jonathan Kaye and Spencer Levin will start the final round tied for 26th. Kaye shot 69 Sunday, while Levin fired 70.
• Cameron Trinagle, a member of the 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team, is tied for 46th. He was 2 under par for 15 holes Sunday, and if 4 under total.
• Mark Anderson, the 2008 Players Amateur champ, is tied for 57th. He was 2 under par for 14 holes Sunday, and 3 under for the tournament.
• Tim Herron is in a tie for 68th after shooting 74 Sunday.
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