If you are lucky there is a small group of people out there who you can count on. They know the same words to the same songs that you still play on your IPod. They were there when you had your first beer. They were there when you had your first breakup. If you are lucky they are still there no matter how old you are. But if you are a Tour player, they can’t help you on Monday in the final round of Q-School.
The business of trying to be the very best is often lonely and so full of sacrifice that the scales often tilt in the wrong direction. For many this week – known to golfers as “finals” – it is not about birth or rebirth. It is not about redemption or validation. It is about justification for all that was put aside in the name of a career. To walk away from this week with the opportunity to fulfill your dream is enough. But golfers don’t hold their dreams alone, they are shared with all those whose lives they have touched. That is the burden that the player carries with him for 108 holes.
The last round at finals isn’t like any other round of golf that you will ever play, even if you have been here before. Some time mid-week, emotional overload turns to emotional exhaustion. The final round, much like a player’s entire career, is about attrition. For those players on the bubble like veterans Dicky Pride, Tag Ridings and Scott Dunlap – all tied for 29th – the situation is clear: play one good round of golf and you get another year.
You get another chance on the game’s biggest stage.
For Seung-Yul Noh, Q-School has already taken its toll and he still has 18 holes left to go. On Saturday, he finished bogey, quadruple bogey to finish with a 73 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. He dropped from the lead and is now just three shots inside the top 25. What could have been a cake walk of a Monday, a 5-plus hour celebration has now turned into the most important round he has ever played.
A player, no matter how accomplished, can’t know how he will handle the situation when there is so much on the line. You try to convince yourself that it is just a round of golf. You try to tell yourself that you have done this a thousand times before. But the silence tells a different story. The silence emanates from your cell phone that hasn’t buzzed all week. Your friends don’t know what to say this week. The silence is everywhere broken only in flashes when club meets ball. The silence roars in your ears.
Every player knows that there will be someone who stumbles on the way home Monday. They know that someone will miss a putt that could have changed his life. Every player is hoping that it happens to someone else.
There will be 25 smiling players. Within an hour of finishing their voice mail will be full with congratulations calls. Their family and their friends will celebrate. Some players will celebrate too. But mostly they will be looking forward to their first good night’s sleep in more than a week. Then tomorrow they can start looking forward to 2012 and the Sony Open in five weeks.