Tour Monday qualifiers never an easy task

Frank Lickliter during the 2009 U.S. Bank Championship.

So you want to play on the PGA Tour? Sure you do, only you better have status because chasing these Monday qualifiers is hardly a lifestyle to be desired.

The entry list for this week’s Monday qualifier at the Waste Management Phoenix Open ran 118 deep – and that’s not counting the 26 other players who either withdrew or failed to turn in a card.

Making things even more demanding, there were only three spots available, not the usual four. (That is tied in to the fact that it’s a 132-player field, so only five sponsor exemptions and three Monday qualifiers are given.)

So with slimmer odds, it’s no wonder that it took a combination of drama and extra work to make it through.

Those who advanced – Martin Flores, Frank Lickliter and Troy Kelly – did so in a Tuesday playoff after six players had shot 67 at McCormick Ranch Golf Club’s Pine Course. Ousted in the playoff were James Nitties, Stephen Allan and Jim Carter.

But surviving the playoff was only half the drama for the lucky trio. Each had to do something special just to shoot 67, and they did. Lickliter eagled the par 5 18th, Kelly birdied the 18th, and Flores birdied his 18th hole, the ninth.

Lickliter and Kelly made it through first, with birdies at the second playoff hole, but Flores needed more work. He finally ousted Allan at the fifth playoff hole, by which time he felt he had already put in a full day. No time to rest, however, because he got in his car and drove over to TPC Scottsdale for a practice round alongside Vijay Singh and John Rollins.

“Actually, it worked out well,” said Flores, who knew he wouldn’t be able to use TPC Scottsdale Wednesday because he wasn’t in the pro-am. “It helps that I played last year (in the WMPO) and know the course.”

Flores said he’d take advantage of the Wednesday break and simply rest, knowing his situation is different than most of his competitors in Scottsdale.

“I’ll be playing the Nationwide Tour starting in February,” he said, “so this gives me a chance to get in some competition. Qualifying was definitely a bonus.”

It will be Lickliter’s first start of the year as he continues a long battle to get back on Tour. He played in just 14 tournaments in 2009, and only six last year.

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