7 surprising golfers fighting for status at Q-School this week

Familiar faces will fight for PGA Tour cards at Q-school this week including Tour winners, major contenders, Presidents Cuppers and more.

The post 7 surprising golfers fighting for status at Q-School this week appeared first on Golf.

Familiar faces will fight for PGA Tour cards at Q-school this week including Tour winners, major contenders, Presidents Cuppers and more.

The post 7 surprising golfers fighting for status at Q-School this week appeared first on Golf.

Like any school you’ve ever been to, this week’s PGA Tour Q-school is a mix of those who are happy to be there and those who desperately wish they didn’t have to be.

There are dreamers with bright futures like tournament favorite Keita Nakajima, who is seeking PGA Tour status after a killer season on the Japan Golf Tour, or Sam Bennett, who captured the world’s attention as an amateur at this spring’s Masters en route to a T16 finish. There are also mini-tour pros who have dreamt of this opportunity, never having been so close to legitimate status and now just four stellar rounds from a Tour card.

That’s where this year’s format is different than years past: The top-five finishers secure PGA Tour cards. After that? The next 40 finishers (plus ties) earn guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts, while the next 20 after that will get guaranteed starts on the PGA Tour Americas. (Think of those as golf’s Triple-A and Double-A affiliates, respectively.) And every player in the field will secure conditional status on those lower tours just by playing this week. But the difference between full PGA Tour status and partial PGA Tour Americas status is like making the Red Sox’ starting lineup vs. backup catcher for the Portland Sea Dogs. It’s significant.

There are other weird subplots at play, like the fact that Jon Rahm‘s LIV defection bumped Carl Yuan up from No. 126 to No. 125 in this year’s FedEx Cup, granting him full status and allowing him to WD from Q-school. There’s no doubt that new No. 126 Henrik Norlander will have his eye on the news, too — but for now he’s in this week’s field.

(Another wrinkle: As Q-school whisperer Monday Q Info points out, the combination of bad weather and already-guaranteed status could add up to competitors dropping like flies once they’re out of contention for the top five.)

What makes it even more cutthroat is that this a zero-sum game. For every pro who gains his PGA Tour card there’s another pro who’s losing his. And that’s where we’ll settle for the purposes of this article: seven names you might recognize from the PGA Tour ranks who will pop up this week among the 165 pros across TPC Sawgrass (Dye’s Valley Course) and Sawgrass Country Club. Some have conditional status, meaning they’re likely to get some starts in regular PGA Tour events even without improving their status this week. But others will fight for any starts at all. The list includes recent PGA Tour winners and major championship contenders, each of them serving as a reminder of just how temporary this all can be. Here they are!

1. Patton Kizzire

FedEx Cup rank: 128

Surprising because: It’s not just that his 6-foot-5 figure has made his presence known on the PGA Tour. Kizzire has been a mainstay for the better part of a decade, playing two dozen events every year since he graduated from the Korn Ferry in 2015. In 2017-18 he won at Mayakoba and the Sony Open in the span of four starts, bringing him to the edge of the top 50 in the world. But this year wasn’t quite good enough to maintain full status.

2. Scott Piercy

FedEx Cup rank: No. 131

Surprising because: There’s a group of PGA Tour pros who have been a part of the fabric of the Tour for so long you just assume they’ll always be there. Scott Piercy is now 45, so it’s no shocker that he may not be playing the best golf of his life. And we’re getting further from his most recent win (the 2015 Barbasol) and his best major performance (T2, 2016 U.S. Open) but it’s significant to see the 69th-ranked player on the PGA Tour’s all-time money list ($23.4 million in on-course earnings) battling it out with the stars of tomorrow.

3. Adam Long

FedEx Cup rank: 137

Surprising because: It feels like he just won! As it turns out, Long’s lone PGA Tour win was in 2019 at the Desert Classic, improbably holding off Phil Mickelson by a single shot. He posted multiple podium finishes in 2020, too, plus a runner-up at Congaree in 2021. But his two-year winner’s exemption (plus one-year Covid exemption extension) has now run its course, leaving Long to fight for better status with club in hand.

4. Harry Higgs

FedEx Cup rank: 144

Surprising because: He still owns cult-hero status on Tour. Higgs actually showed plenty of promise early this season, posting top-25s at the RSM Classic and American Express plus a T7 in Puerto Rico. But these cards are often earned late in the season and in his most recent 10 starts he’s made just two cuts and finished T68 both those times, slipping outside the top 400 in the world in the process. It was just 2021 when he finished T4 at the PGA Championship — and just 2022 when he was T14 at the Masters! He’ll fight to return in 2024.

5. Russell Knox

FedEx Cup rank: 146

Surprising because: It’s Russell Knox! When the Scotsman won the 2015 WGC-HSBC and the 2016 Travelers Championship soon thereafter he moved to No. 18 in the world, his career high. He has been a constant presence on the PGA Tour ever since and he’s just outside the top 100 on the Tour’s career money list ($17.4 mil, 107th). But it’s been over a year since his last top 25, leaving the 38-year-old scrambling for more starts.

6 and 7. Kevin Chappell and Martin Trainer

FedEx Cup ranks: 175 and 162

Surprising because: …of what they did last week. Intriguing might be a better word. Chappell is a former Presidents Cupper and PGA Tour winner who’s No. 109 on the Tour’s career money list. (His list of runner-ups is arguably more impressive: Players, Memorial, Bay Hill, Tour Championship and more.) Trainer is a more recent PGA Tour winner at the 2019 Puerto Rico Open. And while neither played his best golf in 2023, both headed to Abu Dhabi to play LIV’s first-ever Promotions event last week and finished inside the top 10, earning exemptions to the International Series (a step below LIV) in the process. Now they have some access to the DP World Tour, some access to LIV’s feeder circuit and some access the PGA Tour. How much? We’ll know more after this week. At some point we’ll learn the extent of their punishments, too…

Honorable mentions: Tour mainstays Kevin Tway, Kelly Kraft, Kramer Hickok and Austin Cook, U.S. Amateur champ (and Tour contender) Doc Redman, recent Masters cutmakers Sotashi Kodaira and Sung Kang, multitalented Wesley Bryan, promising Tour youngster Austin Smotherman and, well, I’ll leave it there. All these guys are pretty good.

We’ll see which ones play the best this week.

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