Thursday, December 04, 2008

Matthew Richardson in top 10 after
first round at US Final Q School

Major Manning and Craig Kanada ran off birdie strings on different PGA West courses on their way to 7-under 65s and shares of the lead in the first of six rounds at the US PGA Tour Final Qualifying School at La Quinta, California yesterday.
Editor's note: England's Matthew Richardson, the only UK player in the field of 163, started well with a round of 67 to be joint 10th at the end of the first day.
Manning, who made it through two stages of Q-School to reach the finals, had five straight birdies in the middle of his round on the TPC Stadium Course, while Kanada started his round with six straight birdies on the Nicklaus Tournament Course.
Joey Lamielle, who also began his quest for a card in the first stage, had a 65 on the Nicklaus course.
The 108-hole tournament, one of the most grueling in golf, will end on Monday with the top 25 players and ties earning cards.
The biggest name atop the leaderboard was former PGA champion Mark Brooks, who is at Q-school for the first time in 21 years. Winless since his capturing the 1996 PGA Championship, Brooks opened with a 66 on the Stadium Course.
The group at 67 included Jay Williamson, who reached the third round of the PGA Tour Play-offs for the FedExCup but failed to keep his card. Joe Durant, whose four PGA Tour victories include the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in the desert seven years ago, was among those at 68.
Among former TOUR winners who struggled was Jason Gore, who had two bogeys on his opening three holes and took a 7 on the par-3 eighth on his way to a 75.
Former U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes already earned his card by finishing 25th on the Nationwide Tour money list, but he entered the final stage with hopes of improving his status for the 2009 season. He opened with a 72 and was tied for 104th in the 163-man field.
Manning made eight birdies, including five in a row on holes 9-13, on the Stadium Course.
Kanada began his round on the Nicklaus course with a par at the first hole before reeling off six consecutive birdies on holes 2-7, shooting 5-under 31 on the front nine. Lamielle's round, also on the Nicklaus Course, included six birdies and an eagle at the par-five 11th.
Six players are tied for fourth at 6-under 66. Bryan DeCorso, a Nationwide Tour winner earlier this year, Mark Brooks, the only Major Champion in the field, and Troy Kelly, the only La Quinta resident playing this week, all played the Stadium Course. Jeff Gallagher, Steve LeBrun and Jason Dufner shot 66 on the Nicklaus Course.
Nine players are tied for 10th at 5-under 67, while 17 players are tied for 19th at 4-under 68, making a total of 35 players at 4-under or better. Players tied for 79th or better, at 1-under-par, make up the number nearest to 50 who would earn exempt status on the Nationwide Tour.
The purse for the 2008 PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament is $1,057,500 with the winner receiving $50,000. Players earning a PGA TOUR card by tying for 25th or better after 108 holes will earn a minimum of $25,000. Players who gain exempt status on the Nationwide Tour by finishing in the next 50 (or number nearest to 50) will earn $5,000.
The final stage saw 163 players (including one amateur -- Scott Fawcett from Dallas, Texas) tee it up after 1,288 players entered the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. Six pre-qualifying sites, 12 first-stage sites and six second-stage sites were used to determine the 163 players for the final-stage.
Only six players made it through pre-qualifying, first-stage and second-stage to reach the finals. They are Scott Fawcett, Brad Golden, Patton Kizzire, Martin Piller, Joseph Sykora and Steven Taylor. In 2007, six players also advanced through the pre-qualifying and both stages. In 2006, when pre-qualifying was introduced, only one player advanced to the final stage from the pre-qualifying.
When these venues were used in 2006, George McNeill won with a score of 23 under. Forty players qualified for the PGA TOUR that year (35 and ties were accepted) with a score of 8-under or better. Forty-nine players (the next nearest number to 50) shot 1-over-par or better to earn exempt status on the Nationwide Tour. All remaining players earned conditional status on the Nationwide Tour.
Superintendent Greg Hrycyk and his staff have removed approximately 20 acres of scrub from the Stadium course during the year. The scrub removal program was instigated to make the Stadium course more playable and assist with the pace of play.
The field this year includes one former Major Champion (Mark Brooks -- 1996 PGA Championship), one former Ryder Cup representative (Chris Riley - 2004), three former Presidents Cup representatives (Carlos Franco -- 1998, 2000, Notah Begay III - 2000, Mark Brooks - 1996) and 20 former PGA TOUR winners, led by Brooks and John Huston with seven victories. Three players who finished in the top 25 on the 2008 Nationwide Tour money list and graduated to the 2009 PGA TOUR are also here this week trying to improve their current status. They are Spencer Levin (22nd), Bryce Molder (23rd) and Ricky Barnes (25th).
It is a truly International field this week. While the majority of the field is composed of Americans, Australia (12), Canada (four), Sweden (two) and South Korea (two) have multiple representatives. The United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, Colombia and Norway each have a single representative.
US PGA Tour star Anthony Kim was spotted on site. Kim is a friend of Seung 'Su Han, a fellow Californian and Korean, who has Kim's caddie Eric Larson on the bag for the week. Han contested last year's final stage of PGA TOUR Qualifying School as an amateur but finished well down the list. He turned professional on Wednesday before he teed off in the first round of this year's final stage, shot 73 (1 over) on the Stadium Course and is tied for 125th.
Scoring average for Wednesday's opening round was 70.427 on the Nicklaus Course and 70.926 on the Stadium Course. There were 103 players under par after the first round -- 53 players on the Nicklaus Course and 50 players on the Stadium Course.
Nineteen bogey-free rounds were recorded during the first round -- five on the Stadium Course and 14 on the Nicklaus Course. Only four of the top nine players shot bogey-free rounds (Bryan DeCorso, Jeff Gallagher, Troy Kelly and Steve LeBrun).
Sang-Moon Bae (73), from South Korea, eagled both par 5s on the front nine of the Nicklaus Course. Erick Justesen (67), from Sacramento, Calif., made six consecutive birdies on holes 5-9 on the Nicklaus Course. Troy Kelly, from La Quinta, Calif., holed out from the fairway for an eagle at the par-4 seventh on the Stadium Course. It was the only eagle on a par-4 or par-3 hole during the first round.

Par 72

65 Major Manning, Craig Kanada, Joey Lamielle.
66 Bryan DeCorso, Mark Brooks, Jeff Gallagher, Troy Kelly, Steve LeBru7n, Jason Dufner.
67 Oskar Bergman, Matthew Richardson, Brian Stuard, Ted Oh, Jay Williamson, Ryan Hietala, Erick Justeson, Kent Jones, Bob Heintz.
Field of 163 players.

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