After long journey, Harman at Q-School finals
Friday, December 2, 2011
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Q-School doesn’t care about your amateur resume. It’s all about numbers, not name recognition. Brian Harman learned that lesson the hard way.
Harman was the 2003 U.S. Junior champ and represented the United States at the 2005 and 2009 Walker Cups. He failed to advance out of Q-School’s first stage in his first two attempts. Last year, he double-bogeyed his 70th hole to miss by a shot.
“That hurt pretty bad,” he said. “It made me work a lot harder. I’ve been working my butt off, man, just trying to get better and better.”
Harman made it to Q-School finals this year, and is in good position halfway through the week. He’s tied for ninth at 9-under 207. A final-nine 29 Friday shot him up the leaderboard.
Harman added to his list of bad Q-School memories on his ninth hole Friday, hitting his approach into the water. He dropped his club in frustration, then watched it sink between two rocks lining the 18th fairway at PGA West’s TPC Stadium Course (Harman teed off on No. 10).
“I have no business letting go of a golf club out there,” Harman said, “but it ended up helping us because we got a laugh out of it. It brought light to the situation.”
He birdied seven of his next eight holes, making birdie putts of 3, 12, 1, 12 and 3 feet on Nos. 1-5, a 12-footer at No. 7 and an 8-footer at the eighth.
Harman has played the eGolf Professional Tour for the past two years, with one victory. He has two top-25s in six Nationwide Tour starts over the past two years. He’s rooming this week with former Georgia teammate Harris English, who’s tied for seventh.
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Will Claxton is your 54-hole leader at Q-School. He shot 69 Friday and is 13 under par, two shots ahead of Bobby Gates, Matt Jones and Seung-Yul Noh. Noh, 20, shot a bogey-free 64 Friday at PGA West’s TPC Stadium Course, matching the low round there this week.
Noh, a 20-year-old from South Korea, is No. 101 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He won last year’s Malaysian Open, an event co-sanctioned by the European Tour, and won the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit in 2010, the youngest ever to do so.
Claxton, seeking his first PGA Tour card, has spent most of his six-year pro career on the mini-tours. He tries not to pay attention to his standing, but the congratulatory texts he’s receiving from friends in Auburn, Ala., are tipping him off.
“I’m trying to stay focused on the fact that the only thing I can control is what I do on the golf course,” Claxton said. “That sounds kind of cliche, but sometimes for me, when I start looking at scores, especially this early in such a long week, I put pressure on myself. You just go play.”
Jason Dufner, the PGA Championship runner-up, is one of his regular playing partners back home. Dufner is one shot back 36 holes at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, a star-studded, limited-field event in South Africa. First prize there is $2 million.
Q-School’s first prize is $50,000. It comes with something priceless, though: a PGA Tour card.
Claxton made his first Q-School finals last year, earning conditional Nationwide Tour status. He made four cuts in nine starts. His best finish was a tie for 17th at the Mexico Open.
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Q-School isn’t known as a happy place. Chris Tidland, who’s playing his 13th Q-School finals, had reason to celebrate, though. He used an 8-iron to ace the par-3 eighth at PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament course. His 7-under 65 Friday moved him from T-101 to T-27. It was his fourth in competition and 10th overall.
“I was the only guy on my college team without one,” he said. “The ace helps your score in a hurry. Those 1s don’t add up very fast.”
Chris Tidland grew up in Southern California but has lived in Stillwater, Okla., since graduating from Oklahoma State in 1995. The reason? The Cowboys’ talented roster is a constant source of competition. Hanging out with the college kids helps the 39-year-old stay young. His recent competitors have included Rickie Fowler, Peter Uihlein and Morgan Hoffmann.
“It’s always fun to be around them,” Tidland said. “I practice every day with the golf team. They beat up on me every day. That will get you better in a hurry, or you’ll have to quit, because I don’t like losing to those guys.”
While Fowler has worked his way into contention at the Chevron World Challenge, the big-money event being played this week at Sherwood Country Club, Tidland is at Q-School finals for a 13th time, the most of any player in the field.
“Experience and all that is overrated,” he said. “If you’re not playing good, it doesn’t matter if you’ve had tons of experience, and if you’re playing great it doesn’t matter.”