The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
• Andrew Svoboda last had full PGA Tour status in 2015 and has had only one start on Tour since then. He survived a three-hole playoff to get into the Travelers Championship. The final two players in the playoff, Svoboda and recent college graduate Ryan Davis, are exactly why I love Monday qualifiers. Davis has never played an event on any of the PGA sanctioned tours. Svoboda is 41, has played 77 PGA Tour events and is a three-time Korn Ferry Tour winner.
• It is great to see Stephen Stallings get through on Monday. His family is very dear to us. Stephen’s sister, Samantha has Chiari Malformation, the same condition as our son, Jackson. The Stallings have been great in helping us with all things Chiari. Stephen tied the course record with a 63, a record he now shares with Clark Robinson. Stephen’s caddie on Monday … none other than Clark Robinson. Robinson is a member at Ellington (Conn.) Ridge Country Club, which hosted the qualifier. He missed at the pre-qualifier, so he caddied for Stallings. “He was a huge help on the greens,” Stallings said.
• A huge shoutout to Ellington Ridge for being the best Monday qualifier host of the year. A lot of places do not want to give up their course for a Monday Q, let alone be excited about hosting one. That is not the case with Ellington Ridge. In fact, the club held a member event Saturday and Sunday and sent an email explaining there would be some weird pins for the weekend. The email went on to explain the pins would be placed in unusual spots to reduce traffic around the normal Monday Q pin locations. I cannot tell you how rare that is. The club also has volunteer spotters on a lot of holes. Ellington Ridge is the gold standard of Monday Q sites.
• If you aren’t a Tour member, you have to be in the top 100 in the world to skip pre-qualifiers. Lucas Herbert sits squarely on that number. If he wants to continue to play Mondays without a pre-qualifier, a made cut here will go a long way in staying in the top 100.
• This was an especially important Monday for Seamus Power for a pretty unknown reason: one of the ways a player can collect on their Tour pension is to make at least 15 starts in each of five seasons. Power has just 11 starts this year, and he knows he will get into three more events. On Monday he will attempt to qualify for the Rocket Mortgage Classic and get to the magic number of 15.
• Tain Lee is agonizingly close to earning enough points to be eligible for the Korn Ferry finals, but with no status, his only way into an event is through a Monday qualifier. That puts a lot of pressure on a player. He played pretty well on Monday, shooting 70, but it was three short of the playoff
• The pro game can be a grind, as John Augenstein is quickly learning. The 2019 U.S. Amateur runner-up has made just one cut on Tour since turning pro last November. He shot 67 on Monday, earning a spot in the 4-for-1 playoff, but he was knocked out after making a bogey on the first hole. He hit his drive into the right trees, and his punch shot went well over the green. That was it.
• It is hard to see Sangmoon Bae continue to struggle. After fulfilling his required two-year military commitment in South Korea in August 2017, he just hasn’t been the same. He shot 74 on Monday.
• My good friend Neil Johnson got through the pre-qualifier, which meant he was staying in town for most of the week. He asked for a pizza recommendation, and a member at the club suggested Mulberry Street Pizza. When Neil called to place an order, he was told the restaurant does not deliver to hotels. Wait, what?
• Ben Taylor continues to come so close but he needs to start finding his way into events, as his spot in the Korn Ferry finals hangs in the balance. Taylor is 201st in FedEx Cup points. Players finishing 126th to 200th get into the KFT finals and have a chance to earn their Tour cards, or at worst have full status on KFT. Players finishing outside the top 200 must return to Q school. At U.S. Open sectional qualifying in Columbus, Ohio, Taylor dunked a wedge in a playoff stacked with major winners and PGA Tour players to earn the second alternate spot. But he didn’t get into the Open, and this week he missed the playoff by one. Starts are invaluable right now, and the bogey he made at the 16th to miss by one will sting for a while.
• Zach Zaback missed the cut by one at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Then he flew across the country to get to the Monday in his home state, only to shoot 74. The guy has been grinding this year; he deserves a break.
Korn Ferry Tour
• I can’t remember a more unexpected 64 than the one shot by Jace McCarron on Monday at The Ledges Golf Club in York, Maine. McCarron has played on Minor League Tour, the West Florida Tour and the Florida Pro Tour, and best I can tell, he has broken 70 just once on those tours in the three years since he turned professional. I talked with his swing coach, Jordan Dempsey, who said a recent equipment change has McCarron trending in the right direction
• Caleb Manuel, a 19-year-old sophomore at UConn, got through with a 66. He already has had some cool moments in his young career. Last year at the Maine Junior Championship, he came to the last hole, a par-5, tied for the lead with his playing partner, who had about 20 feet for eagle. Manuel dunked a 6-iron for an albatross to win. He also shot a 59 when he was 17. I talked to his college coach, Dave Pezzino, who talked little about his golf game, rather telling me what a great young man Manuel is.
• Three amateurs got through. It’s the first time I remember that happening in the three years I have been running this account. Manuel, Joshua Mccarthy of Pepperdine and Aman Gupta of Oklahoma State will tee it up on Thursday at Falmouth Country Club.
• Gunner Wiebe, son of two-time PGA Tour winner Mark Wiebe, will make his first KFT start since 2016. Gunner is an assistant pro in California and in 2020 won the National Assistant PGA Professional Championship.
• Another reason I love Mondays is looking at the schools players come from. Included in the eight qualifiers were traditional powerhouses such as Oklahoma State and reigning NCAA champion Pepperdine. Then there were schools I have never heard of (Cameron in Lawton, Okla.) and a school that is famous for producing Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry (Davidson). So for 18 holes your resumé—or in this case the school you come from—doesn’t mean a thing. Making it in pro golf is the essence of sports: Shoot the scores and you’re in.
• This was a difficult Monday Q site to get to, and the field size reflected that. We have come to expect two sites with a total of 250 players or more at KFT Mondays. A course all the way up in Maine that was more than an hour drive from a major airport attracted only 74 players.
• Danny Guise has had some tough Monday finishes of late. At the Wells Fargo last month, he was in the playoff for the last spot before hitting a shank on the first playoff hole. This week he lost again in a playoff. His good play hopefully will be rewarded at some point.
• I was pulling for Rico Riciputi to get through, just because of his great name, but he shot 77 and missed by a bundle.
• I got a text on Sunday morning from Kolton Lapa, who was playing in the Maine Monday Q. “You don’t happen to know any lefties in Maine with a right-handed putter, do you?” Right-handed putters are plentiful, of course, but these are the joys of traveling. Southwest Airlines had lost his bag. He discovered his clubs were sitting in Orlando and might not arrive in time. He asked around and learned the pro at the host course had a friend who was left-handed. When he didn’t hear from Southwest, Lapa drove an hour to the airport in hopes of finding the clubs there, which he did. One problem: The baggage office was closed for the day. Lapa next searched for anyone who could help him; an airport employee found someone with a key. Lapa started the drive back to his hotel to get ready for the morning. His 69 was good enough for a 7-for-2 playoff, but he failed to get through.