Ross Biddiscombe writes how reputations count for little when it comes to Q School...
Soren Hansen was part of Europe’s Ryder Cup victory at Medinah in 2012; John Edfors once won three European Tour trophies in a single season and Edoardo Molinari is a World Cup winner as well as half of golf’s most famous sibling rivalry. Yet all these great players have somehow slipped down golf’s rankings and tee it up at Q School’s Final Stage starting Saturday.
Injury is often the cause (see Hansen and Molinari’s CVs for that), but a mysterious loss of form can also be to blame. That’s exactly what makes this end-of-season nerve-jangler so compelling. The once-great champions who could do no wrong are facing the next generation of winners in a battle for a Tour Card for the 2016 season. The problem is that no one quite knows who’ll succeed.
This 156-man field is full of possibilities: Nick Dougherty (now a part-time Sky Sports presenter) and Ross McGowan, who finished second in the Tour Championship to Lee Westwood in 2009, are against three of this year’s Walker Cup team: Jimmy Mullen (who won his Q School Second Stage event), Ashley Chesters (who cruised through to Final Stage) and this year’s Open Championship leader after 54 holes Paul Dunne (who needed a dramatic playoff just to be in Catalunya for this weekend’s tournament). Would you put your mortgage on any one of them? I doubt it because they are all capable of finding a hot streak.
Everyone starts even at Final Stage. Nothing from their past, even Dunne’s near-disaster a few days ago, will count on the first tee and this is actually one place where experience, especially previous Q School failures, doesn’t always count for much.
In my new book – Cruel School: The 40th Anniversary of Golf’s European Tour Q School published next month – Nick Dougherty talks about how confidence is the key, but even that can disappear during the gruesome six rounds of Final Stage. Ian Poulter, perhaps the world’s most confident ever player, tried Q School four times before he got his Tour Card and many who have won at Second Stage before, like Mullen, have come unstuck a few days later.
WATCH: Ian Poulter takes us on at the Short Game Challenge
Only the top 25 and ties will receive a Tour Card and I will be in Catalunya to report live on who makes it and who misses out. It should be another fascinating event.
Ross Biddiscombe is author of Cruel School: The 40th Anniversary of Golf’s European Tour Q School. This book will be available in hardback and eBook formats from mid-December. For more details, go to www.golfontheedge.co.uk