Well, you wouldnt know it by the lack of crowds at The Oxfordshire this week compared to the standing-room-only in Kentucky. However, there are players who come through this First Stage of Q School who will one day play in the Ryder Cup. Justin Rose is an example this year, Ian Poulter another. In fact, eight of the European 12 in Valhalla have Q School experience: Rose, Poulter, Stenson, Hansen, Jimenez, Karlsson, Westwood and, yes, even Harrington (one appearance in 1995).
But for all the Ryder Cup excitement, it has been Chris Woods week at Q School this week. Chriss dreams of a regular place on the European Tour in 2009 are still on track; he took joint 1st place in the First Stage of the Qualifying School tournament at The Oxfordshire which finished yesterday.
Twenty-year-old Wood shot a 2 under par 70 to end on 17 under, the same score as Northern Irish amateur Jonathan Caldwell. Wood wins £1,500, but faded towards the end of his round as play slowed to a crawl. Others to get through were Jamie Elson, Stuart Little and Elliot Saltman.
I lost my concentration because we were waiting on every shot on the back 9, said the Open Championship silver medallist. It was so slow it was frightening. I was just glad to get in at the end.
Wood, who had dropped only one shot in the previous three rounds, leaked three shots in the final three holes as frustration set in.
I was playing solid and not making any mistakes, but I was running out of food and drink because it was taking so long, he said.
Wood and about 95 others have now won a place at Second Stage of The Q School in Spain in November, but they will need to progress from there to Final Stage and then finish in the top 30 before he obtains a European Tour Card.
The tall lad from Bristol could still win a Card with a top three finish at one of his three remaining Tour invitation tournaments.
His first chance is the British Masters at The Belfry starting next Thursday. If I play at The Belfry like I did this week then I wont need to go to Second Stage, he says.
And Wood can even imagine further into the future the Ryder Cup in 2010 at Celtic Manor in Wales. That course is only across the road for me and the way Im working on my game theres nothing stopping me and the Ryder Cup would definitely be pretty nice in two years.
In Italy, Swedens Daniel Sandberg came roaring through with a 65 to take to spot where 32 players went through. In France, it was two Spaniards Carlos Aguilar and Vicente Blazquez finished one shot ahead of homeboy Adrien Mork.
Myself and about 180 First Stage success stories will now move to one of four venues in Spain. When I published my Q School book (weblink) this year there were an unbelievable number of dramas to cram into it and this years events prove that there is no juicier tournament in the world than this one. Second Stage in November I cant wait.
Click on the link for more on Ross’ book Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School