Teeing Off

October 04, 2009

FOR THEPRESIDENTS CUP

MY BAG

Stewart Cink

"You live bythe driver and die by the driver. When my driver works well for an entiretournament I usually do well."

PUTTER

Nike MethodPrototype

DRIVER Nike

SQ Sumo Tour(9.5°)

SHAFT Accra

Axiv Red (Xflex)

IRONS

Nike

(Two throughfour) Pro Combo OS; (Five through PW) CCi Forged

SHAFTS

True Temper

X100

BALL

Nike

One Tour D

FAIRWAY METAL

Nike

SQ2 (15°)

SHAFT

UST

Attas (Xflex)

WEDGES

Nike

VR

(54° and 60°)

SHAFTS

True Temper

X100

NEXT WEEK'S MAINEVENT

PRESIDENTSCUP

Drive Time in SanFrancisco

Harding Parkrewards big hitters. When the 2005 American Express Championship was heldthere, the tournament ended in a playoff between Tiger Woods and John Daly.(Woods won.) Going into the Tour Championship, the teams were dead even, withthe Internationals averaging 291.8 yards off the tee and the U.S. 291.6.However, the U.S. has four players who average less then 290 (Steve Stricker286.1, Justin Leonard 284.1, Zach Johnson 281.1 and Jim Furyk 278.5), while theInternationals have only two (Tim Clark 278.4 and Mike Weir 278.9). The biggesthitters? The Internationals' Angel Cabrera (305.0) and the U.S.'s PhilMickelson (300.1).

Team Works

Ruggedindividualists? Ha! The last 14 team matches show that the U.S. has fared bestin foursomes, the most partner-oriented format, while four-ball and singleshave held the Americans down in the Ryder Cup.

[The followingtext appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

• POINTS INFOUR-BALL

• POINTS INFOURSOME

• POINTS INSINGLES

• WINS

RYDER CUP

2 U.S. 98.5

5 EUR. 100.5

PRESIDENTSCUP*

5 U.S. 124.5

1 INTL 105.5

* Includes onetie

—Compiled by SalJohnson

DRILLING DOWN

School

1 GettingSchooled

Last week thefifth and final Q school prequalifier finished up, and 224 PGA Tour hopefulsearned the right to enter the official three-stage qualifying tournament, whichbegins on Oct. 21. For these players it may seem as if Tour riches and stardomare only a few good weeks of golf away, but that's not necessarily thecase.

2 StageFright

Even if a playergets through the pre-qualifier, the deck is stacked against him in terms ofmaking it to the PGA Tour. In 2008, 951 players entered the first stage andonly 315 advanced; 500 entered the second stage and only 125 advanced. Thethird stage had 163 participants and only the top 25 and ties earned Tourcards; 26th to 50th and ties were awarded Nationwide tour cards. The number ofthose advancing doesn't equal the number who enter the next stage because ateach step along the way the survivors are joined by a pool of increasinglyexperienced and accomplished players who've been given an exemption into thatstage. They include players from foreign tours, high money winners from theprevious year's Nationwide and PGA tours, top finishers from the PGAProfessionals tournament, guys who've made the cut in a given number ofofficial events and those who've achieved a predetermined position in the WorldRanking—among other criteria. In other words, every time you advance you haveto take on all the other players who've advanced and a slew of seasoned playerswho've been given a free pass to that round. That's why some of those PGA Tourplayers who never quite seem to cut it also never seem to go away. The systemis set up to give them an advantage in making their way back.

3 Long Shots

If a playersurvives the 324-hole grind of a prequalifier and all three stages of Q school,his problems are just beginning. Each player on Tour gets an eligibility numberbased on his status, and players with higher numbers are given priority when itcomes to doling out spots in tournament fields. Q schoolers are near the bottomof the pecking order, which means it's hard for them to get into tournaments.The eligibility numbers are reset several times a year based on performance upto that point, so it's possible to move up—but it's tough.

As an example,look at last year's Q schoolers. Only eight of the 28 graduates went throughall three stages. These guys received some of the lowest eligibility numbers,and so far this season they have averaged 16.4 Tour starts. The other 20 Qschool qualifiers have averaged 20 starts, and the Nationwide grads haveaveraged 21.5 starts (not including those who haven't pursued a full schedule).No surprise then that the best of the eight players who went through all threestages, Aaron Watkins (left), is a mere 175th on the Tour money list afterearning $250,889 in 14 starts. The five-tournament Fall Series looms large forthis group, either allowing them to crack the top 125 and keep their cards—orproviding good practice for another trip to Q school.

4 Pay to Play

The Q schoolsurvivors net anywhere from $50,000 for winning to $5,000 for landing between26th and 50th, but the endeavor requires a significant investment depending onthe stage at which you enter.

[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

STAGE ENTERED TOTAL FEE
Prequalifier $5,300
First Stage $4,500
Second $4,000
Final $3,500

SHORT GAME

RepeatPerformers

When sectionalplay in the LPGA's Q school started on Sept. 29, there was great potential forconfusion. The 110-player field included a Sara Brown and a Sarah Brown, aswell as a Jennie Lee and a Jenny Lee. There's a foursome Abbott and Costellocould love.... With 37 wins, Phil Mickelson is 12th on the Tour's career winslist. Of the players ahead of him, only Tom Watson and Tiger Woods had themajority of their success after 1980, which means that, without Woods, we wouldbe enjoying the Mickelson era.... At last week's SAS Championship LeonardThompson, 62, became the 10th person to start 1,000 combined PGA Tour andChampions tour events. Thompson won three times on Tour and three times as asenior, or once every 167 starts for those too lazy to do the math.... TomPernice Jr. (above), who turned 50 on Sept. 5, is the 15th player to win hisChampions tour debut. He has three wins in 527 combined PGA Tour and Championstour starts. In other words, he's no Leonard Thompson.... John Daly hasn'tplayed on the weekend in a while, but he's staying busy. Last Saturday, BigJohn tweeted his latest feelings: "Suck it up PETRINO—I'm the biggest fanof Arkansas but WE NEED A DEFENSIVE COACH—tired of watchin my team lose everyweek!... Twenty-year-old amateur sensation Rickie Fowler will make his firstPGA Tour start as a pro at the Frys.com Open (Oct. 22--25). He missed the cutat his first paycheck-seeking appearance, the Nationwide tour's AlbertsonsBoise Open.

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PHOTOFRED VUICH (BAG AND BALL) PHOTOROBERT BECK (CINK) CHARTSLIM FILMS (CHART) PHOTOMIKE EHRMANN (WATKINS) PHOTOCHRIS SEWARD/NEWS & OBSERVER/AP (PERNICE) PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)