At a chilly PGA Catalunya this weekend, the brave men on the edge of the European Tour struggled through the first two days of probably the toughest ever Q School. All 156 had played a round on each of the two courses in Spain and only 38 were left under par while the last placed player (let’s just say he’s a young German and spare his blushes) was already 20 over par.
Top of the pile was Argentinian Estanislao Goya on -7 with six players on -6 including Gary Orr of Scotland. Goya typified the opening 36 holes because the 24-year-old is a relative unknown (even though he won the low prize money Madeira Open in 2009) and the top of the field was full of other unlikely contenders while many of the so-called ‘names’ failed to start with any great confidence.
Among the most disappointed were Gary Boyd T100th, Ross McGowan T122nd, Kenny Ferrie T144th, Philip Archer T149th and Nick Dougherty T151st. Perhaps the most telling story among these players this weekend was McGowan’s because in 2009, any thought of Q School could not have been further from his mind as he won his first European Tour title and finished second in the Dubai Championship. Of course, this year, the top 60 players on Tour were back in Dubai without Ross who could only watch from the TV lounge in Spain.
A wrist injury has been at the heart of Ross’s problems since that fantastic 2009 and so the uncompromising European Tour sends him back to golf’s equivalent of the last chance saloon. His +6 total included a triple bogey and a double on the easier Tour Course yesterday (Sunday), so if he can cut out those mistakes, he just might have a chance by day six.
It was windy on day one on Saturday and that just about ended the challenge of men like Dougherty who shot a horrid 80, but others managed to fight back on a calmer day two. Among the best turnarounds were the 62 by Finn Mikko Korhonien that followed his opening 74 to put him T2nd; Scotland’s Alistair Forsyth’s 65 after a 75 (T20th); and Ireland’s Peter O’Keefe’s 65 that came after a nightmare 81 (T100th).
Very few players come back from a disastrous opening at Q School and, with only the top 25 and ties getting Tour Cards this year (previously it was the top 30), then one really poor round is even more unacceptable. It seems that the pressure on the Q Schoolers never lets up. With a four round cut taking place on Tuesday it will again be the only strongest-willed men who are left standing by the time the day six finish comes around on Thursday.
Ross Biddiscombe is the author of two books – entitled Golf On The Edge – about the European Tour Q School. For details, go to www.golfontheedge.co.uk.