Achenbach: Q-School is all about tough-guy golf
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- When it comes to the final round of the final stage of PGA Tour Q-School, resilience frequently trumps talent.
Being tough is often better than being skilled. Tough-guy golf -- the ability to hang in there mentally -- is the No. 1 priority of the day.
The last round of the Q-School is the granddaddy of stern tests. With 90 holes down and 18 remaining, the pressure can be enormous. The leaders will finish this year’s Q-School on the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West. This is the layout formerly used in the Bob Hope Classic until touring pros and amateurs alike complained it was too difficult. So it was removed from the rotation.
The course has been cleaned up since then, and the likelihood of hitting a shot into a ball-eating desert bush has been substantially diminished. Still, it is a killer course. We should expect casualties.
Australian Steven Bowditch, the tournament leader after five rounds, is Mr. Resilient. In the opening round here, in which 110 of 172 players broke par, Bowditch had a 1-over-par 73. Sure, he was in the half of the draw that wrestled with the Stadium Course, while the other half played the marginally easier Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course. Still, he was headed in the wrong direction.
That was nothing that 67-66-67-64 couldn’t fix. “I just made a few putts,” deadpanned Bowditch, who went from 1 over in the first round to 23 under after five rounds.
Actually he just played tough-guy golf. “In a tournament this long, you absolutely have to stay calm and believe in yourself,” he said.
And he did.
Paul Stankowski opened with 75. And what was his reaction?
“Well, I told myself that 75 was four shots better than 79,” Stankowski said. “In ’06, I shot 79 in the first round and ended up finishing eighth.”
Stankowski has broken 70 in every round since then and stands at 11 under with one round remaining.
Kevin Kisner had 71-75 in the first two rounds and was tied for 142nd. After rounds of 66, 65 and 67, he is tied for 17th at 16 under. The top 25 plus ties earn their PGA Tour cards for 2013.
“Bad things are going to happen in 108 holes,” said Kisner the golf philosopher. “I got mine out of the way early. To be honest, I was wondering what Web.com Tour events I’d get in next year. But I kept playing my game, and all of a sudden I was back in it.”
More tough-guy golf, because being tough mentally is essential at the Q-School.
Scott Dunlap, 49, is an expert on Q-School. “I don’t know how many I’ve been in, but it’s more than 20,” said Dunlap, who has posted four 69s along with a 74 that he’d like to have back. He stands at 10 under and needs a low number in the final round to keep the PGA Tour card he had in 2012.
“At least I’ve got a shot at it,” said Dunlap.
Tom Pernice Jr., 53, is the oldest player in the field. Trying to maintain fully exempt status on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour, he is tied with Kisner at 16 under heading into the last round.
“If you want to play on the best tour in the world,” Pernice observed, “this (Q-School) is what you do. Period.”
Spoken like a tough guy.