The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from this week’s Qualifiers
Welcome to my new weekly column rounding up the action at Monday qualifiers across the golf world. The journey continues…
The Good: Big playoffs are what Mondays are all about, and the Byron Nelson qualifier didn’t disappoint: 7-for-2, with an interesting mix of vets and young guys… Monday fist pumps from players from the University of Illinois are becoming a thing. First it was Nick Hardy at the Waste Management qualifier and now Dylan Meyer this week, after he made an 8-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to get through and punctuated it with a huge fist pump and an aggressive hug with his caddie. Meyer had a decorated career at the University of Illinois and finished 20th in his first pro start, at the U.S. Open. It looked like the start of a big career but the pro game has been a challenge for Meyer as he battles ulcerative colitis, which leads to intense stomach pain and other issues associated with the disease. He told me after the round he has worked so hard on his swing and feels like he has turned a corner with his health. “I am finally starting to feel comfortable with my game again,” Meyer told me moments after getting through. Earlier this year he Monday qualified for the Puerto Rico Open, including making birdies on all three playoff holes in that qualifier. He then made the cut and finished T63. The climb back often starts with a few small steps and there are signs that Meyer has started to turn a corner.
Mondays are filled with players climbing back from the depths of pro golf. Tom Lovelady, who hasn’t played a Tour event since 2019, birdied three of the four playoff holes to grab the final qualifying spot at the Nelson. Lovelady had a great career at Alabama but after some success on the Korn Ferry Tour, and two seasons on the big tour, he has pretty much disappeared over the last couple of years. During Covid, he stepped away from the game and took a full-time job in sales at Baker Bay Golf and Ocean Resort. I talked with his good friend and fellow pro Michael Johnson, who said,“I think Tom gained a lot of perspective being away from the game for a while.” Johnson added that Lovelady was working a lot on his mental approach to the game. One good Monday can change your life: A few months ago Lovelady was sitting at a desk and Thursday he will be back on Tour, where he is 72 good holes from never sitting at a desk again.
Despite a deep slump that began three years ago, Smylie Kaufman is still grinding. He missed the playoff by one stroke but I followed him for a few holes and his ball-striking was impressive, maybe a sign that some life is returning to his game. The 2016 Shriners champion played in the final group on Sunday at that year’s Masters alongside his pal Jordan Spieth but he has made just one cut on the PGA Tour since 2019. There have been glimmers of hope, like the Australian Open in ‘19 where he contended early, but more recently Kaufman has been missing cuts on the GPro Tour in North Carolina. Kaufman is still only 29 and has somehow retained his fun-loving personality—here’s hoping he can make the climb back.
Hank Keuhne was Bryson before Bryson and it was good to see him out playing a Monday. Now bald with a graying goatee, he shot 73 but the swag was still there, including a vintage pimp-step tee pick up. Kuehne led the Tour in driving distance in 2003 with an average over 320 yards, taking the title of “golf’s longest hitter” from John Daly, who held it for eight straight years at that point. It’s hard not to wonder how long Kuehne could have been with updated technology and if had his body had not started to break down. Now 45, Kuehne can still move it. If he can stay healthy it will be fun to watch him on the Champions Tour…and hopefully a few more Mondays.
M.J. Daffue is becoming the King of Mondays. This was his twelfth successful Monday in the last two years across the Korn Ferry and PGA Tour. I saw him miss three very makeable birdie putts during his round of 64 and he told me afterward it felt like it could have been a 59. J.J. Killeen played with Daffue a few weeks ago and said,“I have no idea how he hasn’t won on Tour yet.” … John Lyras was one of the last scores posted, making it through his second career Monday. The first came at the Wyndham in 2019 when he was an amateur, a breakthrough that inspired him to turn pro… A Monday gallery! There was a group of 20 or so people following the playoff and you love to see it… Greg Chalmers had just hooked a drive into the trees on the 14th hole when he got the call that with that Dustin Johnson had WD’d from the Nelson and Chalmers was now in the field. He took the best ride there is at a Monday: a cart ride to your car, knowing you have a tee time Thursday … The first tee announcer was REALLY good. He nailed a couple of tough pronunciations and was belting them out like there were a thousand fans crowding the ropes around the first tee. (I was the only fan at the time.) He needs a gig in the big show… I had a fun conversation with Chase Koepka during the rain delay. Anyone who thinks he’s riding the coattails of his famous other brother doesn’t know the kid—he is a grinder. Chase also has a big heart, as he has been helpful with so many of the charity things I have done.
The Bad: Norman Xiong is really struggling. I followed him for a couple holes and he looked like he is just going through the motions. He did cobble together a 69 but he has not really been close in any of the Mondays he has played. Hopefully the former top-ranked amateur in the world can find it again… Peter Creighton shot 67 to get into the 7-for-2 playoff, birdied two of the four holes playoff holes played and still failed to get through. Mondays can be rough … Stephen Stallings, Jr. was 6-under through 14 and finished three over on last four to miss playoff by two strokes. “Had it going but didn’t finish,” he said after the round. “On to the next one” … Justin Suh was three under at the turn and I saw him on the 18th green looking at scores on his phone and shaking his head, knowing his two late bogeys knocked him out of the big playoff… Mondays are not a fun place in pro golf, no one really wants to be there, and rain delays make it worse. Players sit around and talk about what is next, how they are playing, where they will play if they miss. John Peterson, after a 40 on the front nine, took the time to polish off three Miller Lites and said to me,“I just need a 26 on the back.” (He shot 35.) … The winter storm that hit Texas earlier this year caused problems for a lot of courses and Hurricane Creek, the site of the Monday Q, was no different. There were a lot of tees and fairways with dead areas. Classic Monday conditions, in other words.
While it was nice to have fans at a Monday, a few were overserved and began heckling players. Folks, this is the players’ livelihood. A couple of beers does not give you the right to be disruptive… J.J. Killeen’s tee shot on the second playoff hole at the Byron Monday hit a tree and dropped straight down, traveling maybe 90 yards. He has been playing very well at most Mondays and that is a tough way to miss… With no live scoring it’s so hard to know where players stand at any given Monday. Smylie Kaufman hit a great shot on the difficult par-3 16th hole to about 15 feet. He hit a solid putt and it did a full horseshoe back to him. He ended up missing the playoff by one. Kaufman later tweeted that he missed a 12-inch putt on the twelfth hole. This game can be brutal at times.
Korn Ferry Tour
The Good: Will Grimmer was oh-for-30 in Monday qualifier attempts over the last two years before finally breaking through this week. “It’s such a huge relief, I’ve been so close so many times,” he told me. “Mondays can be so frustrating, you can really get down on yourself. I feel like my game is really in a good place right now too, so I’m really excited about the week.” … An all-time great name, Bogle Larue, got through… Alex Scott is the best Monday player you’ve never heard of. He has not posted a score worse than 67 in his last four Mondays, making it through twice, missing by one once, and losing in a playoff. Watch for him this week. (The fact that he carries a Monday Q Info towel has NOTHING to do with him being included here but it does show he has good taste.) … Jordan Hahn is the tallest pro golfer I know of, standing a towering 6’9”. He successfully Monday qualified for the second time in the last three weeks. He missed the cut at the Valspar after getting through there… Justin Hueber has battled injuries for a long time but he is back chasing Mondays and birdied two of the last three holes to qualify.
The Bad: I know it can be hard to find courses to host Mondays but a course with punched greens, as happened this week, is less than ideal with players’ status hanging in the balance… Domenico Geminiani made a hole-in-one on his 16th hole to get into the playoff for the last spot but he failed to get through… It doesn’t seem right buy many courses charge Monday qualifiers for practice rounds. This week the greens fee was $55. There are sections that cap the amount a course can charge at $40—this needs to be the standard.
The Ugly: Please stop signing up for Mondays if you can’t be competitive. A player had to be pulled off the course after opening with 10’s on three straight holes. There was also a 92. Mondays are serious business and not for tourists looking to have an “experience” or boost their social media presence. Treat Mondays with the respect they deserve.
Parting Shot: Ever wondered what it costs to chase a Monday? I asked a player at each of the qualifiers to track their expenses. (Here’s what they said in their own words.)
PGA TOUR :
Flight- I’ve been lucky that my family saved up miles for me, so it was 25K in miles round trip
Hotel- $150 total for Sat and Sunday. Another $150 for an emergency room Monday night after my flight was canceled.
Car- $320 for 2.5 days
Food- Around $70 on the Chipotle/Chick fil a Program
Entry Fee- $300 (Mackenzie Tour member)
Misc- $25 for practice round, $20 for Yardage book
Total- $1030 with a free flight
Korn Ferry Tour:
Round Trip flight- $355
Rental Car- $200
Entry Fee- $100 (Korn Ferry Member)
Practice Round- $55
Yardage Book- $20
Punched Greens and a bogey on the first hole- Priceless