5 Things: Kunick making name for himself; Kim leads
LA QUINTA, Calif. – We’re at the halfway point of PGA Tour Q-School. Three rounds are down, and three rounds remain. The leaders played PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament course Friday, the easier of the two layouts in use this week, and will head to the Stadium Course on Saturday. Three rounds remain for players to work their way into the top 25 and earn PGA Tour cards at the last Q-School that will offer such a prize. Here’s 5 Things you need to know from the third round of the final Q-School as we know it. Meen-Whee Kim, at 18-under 198, holds a one-shot lead over Robert Karlsson:
1) LOCAL HERO: This is the last year players will be able to make an immediate leap from the mini-tours to the PGA Tour via Q-School. Tim Kunick is making the most of that opportunity. The Dakotas Tour veteran is T-14 after shooting 67-68-69.
Kunick has local ties. He was an assistant pro at The Plantation Golf Club in nearby Indio, Calif., for several winters while playing the Dakotas Tour, where he’s won seven times, in the summer. The 29-year-old from Bismarck, N.D., played college golf at Louisiana-Monroe.
Kunick advanced out of Q-School’s first and second stages without a shot to spare at each site. “Both first and second stage, for about an hour-and-a-half, I was about ready to throw up on myself,” he said.
This is Kunick’s third Q-School attempt, but first time playing in the final stage. “I have nothing to lose,” he said. “I’ve never been here. I just have to play the best I can.”
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2) GONE FISHING: It’s hard to turn down guaranteed money, but that’s what Ross Fisher did to attend the final Q-School. He was eligible for last week’s European Tour finale in Dubai, but skipped the 60-man tournament to stay fresh for this six-round affair. The plan seems to have paid off. Fisher shot 65 Friday to move from T-31 to T-9.
“I figured if I got through second stage, I wanted to give it my all," said Fisher, No. 99 in the Official World Golf Ranking. "I just felt like this is the right thing to do."
His peers from the European Tour aren’t faring as well. Five players competed last week in Dubai; only Marcus Fraser (T-44) is in the top 100.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who’s 33rd in the Official World Golf Ranking, is 108th at 2-under 214. No. 51 Alex Noren is T-132 at even-par 216. No. 53 Rafael Cabrera-Bello is T-120 at 1-under 215. And Romain Wattel, who’s No. 164 in the OWGR, is 155th at Q-School. He followed an opening 67 with 78-75. Most of the players who flew from Dubai took a 16-hour flight to Los Angeles on Monday.
Fraser, Fernandez-Castano and Cabrera-Bello were exempt into Q-School’s final stage. Noren and Wattel had to play Q-School’s second stage in the United States the week before Dubai. Fisher just shook his head and smiled when he was asked how he’d be feeling if he’d make the long trip from the Middle East earlier this week.
Fisher played Friday with a countryman with whom he shares a last name, Oliver Fisher. The European Tour winner is T-31 after three consecutive 69s.
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3) ROOKIE REBEL: Derek Ernst is one of 12 players who are in the Q-School finals field after starting their Q-School journey at the pre-qualifying stage. He’s already played 11 rounds of Q-School and is faring well in the three rounds he’s played this week. Ernst is 10 under par through three rounds at PGA West, shooting 68-68-70. He was 4-under through six holes today after a chip-in at the par-5 15th, but ended up just 2 under today. Still, it’s a good start for a player who turned pro after this year’s U.S. Amateur.
“It’s better than I expected. It’s a lot more fun,” Ernst said of Q-School. “It’s challenging for sure, but the pressure you put on yourself is the only pressure that’s there. Playing the (Frys.com Open), that took off the edge and made this feel like my second PGA Tour event. That helped a lot.”
Ernst, a UNLV alum, also is one of five 2012 All-Americans in the field. He turned pro after this year’s U.S. Amateur. He represented the United States at the 2012 Palmer Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event between the top collegians from Europe and the United States, and was a semifinalist at the past two U.S. Amateur Public Links. He lost the 2011 Publinks final to Corbin Mills.
He Monday qualified for the 2012 Frys.com Open, finishing T-41 after a first-round 65.
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4) COAST-TO-COAST: Billy Horschel was successful in his first two Q-School attempts, earning his PGA Tour card at the 2009 and 2010 Q-Schools. Both those sites were in Florida. Horschel is in good shape to raise his Q-School batting average to .750 (3 for 4) halfway through this week. He’s T-4 after shooting 70-65-66. He’s bogey-free in his past two rounds.
He was asked by the Golf Channel if he would appear on camera after Friday’s round. He agreed, but with two stipulations. “I don’t want to know where the leaders are, and I don’t want to know where I stand,” Horschel said. Ignorance is bliss at Q-School.
Horschel made 15 of 17 cuts this year, but had just one top-10 (3rd, True South Classic) and earned $486,177.
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5) SHORT SHOTS: Joseph Bramlett was one of three players to fall out of the top 25 in the Web.com Tour money list in the 2012 season’s final week, costing him a PGA Tour card. He’s making the most of his second chance at Q-School. Bramlett is T-14 after three consecutive 68s. ... Camilo Villegas’ 66 Friday moved him to T-9 at 13 under par. Heath Slocum, another player who’s back at Q-School after winning in 2010, also is T-9. ... Chez Reavie shot 68 and is on the cut line for a PGA Tour card. He’s T-20 at 10 under par. Reavie is just the second player since the FedEx Cup began to play Q-School finals the year after qualifying for the Tour Championship. ... Daniel Chopra’s 76 Friday dropped him from T-5 to T-66. He’s 6 under par, four shots off the cut line. ... Tag Ridings (T-44) is the highest-ranked player who played the Stadium Course on Friday. He shot 66. Dusty Fielding (T-53) fired 67 on the Stadium Course. ... Brad Fritsch had the scorecard of the day. He was 5 under after four holes, but made quadruple-bogey 8 on his sixth hole. He rebounded to shoot 66. Fritsch is T-17 after shooting 72-67-66. He already has earned a PGA Tour card after finishing 18th on the Web.com Tour money list.