Q-School: Fowler, Horschel nearing Tour card
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Rory McIlroy is the gold standard among golf’s young stars. Halfway through Q-School, two players who beat him at the ’07 Walker Cup look like they'll join him on the PGA Tour.
Rickie Fowler flirted with 59, while Billy Horschel breezed through the front nine Friday at Bear Lakes’ Links Course. Both are in the top 15 after the first 54 holes of their Q-School debuts.
The top 25 and ties after Monday’s sixth round will earn 2010 PGA Tour cards. McIlroy, 20, recently accepted special temporary membership on the PGA Tour for next year.
“Billy and I go at it the same way,” Fowler, 20, said. “We go out and do our own thing, and not try to worry too much about what’s going on around us.”
Fowler and Horschel were one of the big stories during the ’07 Walker Cup at Royal County Down. They teamed to go 2-0 in foursomes (including a Sunday victory over McIlroy and Jonny Caldwell), and each compiled a 3-1 record.
They were crucial to the United States' one-point victory over the McIlroy-led Great Britain &Ireland squad.
Now they’re making news at Q-School.
Horschel shot 67 Friday and is tied for fifth at 10-under 206; Fowler shot 66 and is 8 under par, in a tie for 13th. Both shot front-nine 30s.
Fowler made a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 11th to get to 9 under and added another birdie at the 13th to get to 10 under. He played Nos. 15-17 in 4 over, though.
He hit tee shots on the par-3 16th and the par-5 17th into the water. He had to hole a 7-foot putt for double bogey on No. 16.
“It’s still a 66,” Fowler said. “Unfortunately, the bad swings just came at the end.”
A carefree attitude is helping both players. Fowler has already earned more than $500,000 since turning pro in September. Horschel is happy to be here after advancing through Q-School’s first two stages to get to Bear Lakes.
“Now I feel comfortable,” Horschel, 22, said. “I’m laughing, as much as I can. ... I’m still trying to play well, but at least I have a home next year. First and second stage were the real pressure.”
Playing a Walker Cup on foreign soil is valuable experience. Fowler said it was “the most nervous I’ve ever been.” Horschel said Q-School “doesn’t compare” to the pressure he felt at Royal County Down.
If they earn PGA Tour cards this week, Horschel and Fowler would join Walker Cup teammates Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson as players to ace Q-School in their first attempt. Johnson, a two-time Tour winner, did it in ’07. Simpson did it last year, and finished 70th on this year’s money list.
Fowler turned pro after this year’s Walker Cup, while Horschel decided to skip the ’09 event and turn pro in June after his senior year in Florida. He said the pro experience was valuable, and helped him realize he needed to make changes to his putting stroke. Those have paid off this week.
Fowler and Horschel paired so well together because they have similar mentalities on the course. Confidence is one of their shared traits.
“I knew if I got to finals I’d play well,”Horschel said. “Six rounds, the better players come out to the top. I’m good enough to play out here every day.”
PGA Tour Q-School (Round 3)
J.P. Hayes shot 63 on Day 3 at PGA Tour Q-School and was tied for the lead when play was suspended.
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INSIDE THE CUT LINE:
• J.P. Hayes (63) and Troy Merritt were tied for the 54-hole lead at 12 under par. Hayes disqualified himself from second stage last year for using a nonconforming ball; he had seven birdies and an eagle Friday. Merritt was 4 under through 16 holes Friday before play was called because of inclement weather.
• Joe Ogilvie, the 2007 U.S. Bank Championship winner, shot 64 and is tied for fifth at 10 under par.
• Australia’s Matt Jones shot 66 Friday to move from T-39 to T-20 at 6 under par.
• Brian Stuard shot 66, including an eagle 2 on the par-4 third hole, to move up 31 spots into a tie for 23rd at 5 under. Stuard finished 26th on this year’s Nationwide Tour money list to miss his PGA Tour card by one spot; he missed his PGA Tour card by three strokes at last year’s Q-School.
• Omar Uresti shot 65 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 23rd.
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OUTSIDE THE CUT LINE:
• David Duval birdied three of his first four holes Friday, but played the final 14 holes in even par to shoot 69 and move up just three spots on the leaderboard into a tie for 36th.
• Shaun Micheel shot 68 and is T-36.
• Ray Beaufils opened with a 79, but has gone 67-68 to move into a tie for 50th at 2 under par, three shots outside the cut line.
• Joe Affrunti had a hole-in-one on the par-3 13th at the Links Course, shot 71 and is tied for 82nd at 1 over par.
• Jesper Parnevik, who made news this week for his criticism of Tiger Woods, is tied for 82nd at 1 over par after rounds of 73-72-72.
• Sunny Kim, 20, shot 68 Friday but is tied for 118th. He opened 72-80. Kim is the youngest player in the field. Kim is 3 months, 11 days younger than Rickie Fowler. Kim is also one of three players in the field to advance from pre-qualifying to the finals.
• Todd Hamilton, the 2004 British Open champ, is tied for 159th at 10-over 226.