Johnson’s caddie rolls at Champions Q-School

Zach Johnson, right, looks on with caddie Damon Green from the second tee during the first round of The Tour Championship.

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Odds are, caddie Doug Long didn’t have to read many putts for his boss this week at the first stage of Champions Tour Q-School.

Long was looping for good friend and former mini-tour player Damon Green, who is better known as the caddie of 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson. After leading the event through 54 holes, Green finished T-7 at MetroWest Country Club and advanced to Q-School’s final stage, where he will compete for one of five full exemptions on the Champions Tour in 2011.

“I still enjoy competing,” said Green, who became eligible for the Champions circuit on Nov. 1 after turning 50. “This was a good opportunity to come out and play a little bit. I know it’s kind of like finding lightning in a bottle making the Champions Tour, but I thought it would be fun to give it a shot.”

While Green ultimately was on the safe side of the cut Friday, he sputtered across the finish line, firing 77 in the final round to finish at 5-under 283. Quinn Griffing, who closed with 70 on an unseasonably cold, windy final day, took medalist honors at 10-under 278.

“It was a struggle,” said Green, who shot 42 on the front nine after double-bogeying Nos. 2 and 9. “At that particular moment, I remembered why I had quit playing. When we made the turn, I told my wife, Joy, ‘At least we know we’ve got a caddie job next year.’

“That kind of lightened up the day and I shot 1 under on the back.”

Green, who spent four years caddying for former PGA Tour player Scott Hoch before joining Johnson in 2004, turned pro in 1985 and played on the Nike Tour from 1995-96. Should he lock down a card for 2011, Green said he would continue to caddie for Johnson full time and play the Champions Tour on his off weeks.

Green said he is one of about 30 caddies on Tour with a serious golf game, naming Lance Ten Broeck (who has carried for Jesper Parnevik and Richard S. Johnson) and Brett Waldman as a few of the others. Waldman, who caddies for Camilo Villegas, made a run at PGA Tour Q-School last fall.

When asked what the strong points of his game were, Green pointed to decent length off the tee and a solid short game. The longtime caddie then smiled and thought of one other area that helps him compete on the golf course.

“I also have pretty good course management,” he said, laughing.

• • •

FAMILIAR TERRITORY: Damon Green said he had never played TPC Eagle Trace, site of the final stage of Champions Tour Q-School. One player that could give him some insight is Steve Thomas, who will be headed back to the Coral Springs, Fla., course for the fourth time in the past five years.

Despite a triple-bogey 7 on the final hole at MetroWest, Thomas easily advanced out of the first stage and will head back to Eagle Trace, where he holds a share of the course record (62) with Fred Couples.

“Hands down, it’s one of my favorite golf courses,” Thomas said. “It’s one of those golf courses that can get pretty crazy when the wind comes up on you. It can blow so hard that you don’t know what to do with the golf ball. But if you can limit your mistakes, you can really play well there.”

Thomas said he’s been playing in Q-School on various tours for 34 years, and this is his fifth try on the Champions Tour. Two years ago, he finished fourth at the Q-School finals to earn full status on the Champions Tour, despite shooting 81 in the second round of qualifying.

“It was one of those windy days where no one played well,” Thomas said. “After I shot 81, Kenny Knox told me that he won the (PGA Tour’s) Honda Classic at Eagle Trace one year after shooting 81 in the second round and that I shouldn’t lose hope. Sure enough, I shot 7 under the next two days and earned my card.”

• • •

ALL IN THE FAMILY: While Vijay Singh won’t be spotted attending Q-School any time soon, the same cannot be said for his brother, Krishna.

Krishna Singh, who plays on the Asian and Australian tours, finished at 2-under 286 at MetroWest, two shots inside the cut line. He will tee it up at Eagle Trace for a chance to play his first professional stateside golf since 2000, when he played the Golden Bear Tour.

“I’ll be trying,” Singh said. “I’d love to play here and see what I can do.”

Krishna said the difference between his game and brother Vijay’s is simple: “He’s a much harder worker than me,” he said laughing.

• • •

SHORT SHOTS: Mitch Adcock, who has made 32 Champions Tour starts and 60 PGA Tour starts in his career, advanced after finishing T-2 at 7-under 281. ... Paul Curry (T-5), Mark Mouland (T-7) and Roger Chapman (T-13) all advanced. Each is a past winner on the European Tour. ... John Ross, who shot even-par 288, survived a 4-for-1 playoff for the last available spot, while Terry Burke and Ben Sauls were named the two alternates.

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