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Five long shots for TOUR cards in Q-School's final round

8 Min Read



    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Saturday’s expected wet and wild conditions never materialized at PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry’s Final Stage, offering up scoring opportunities for the field’s back half to make furious moves and keep their PGA TOUR hopes alive.

    Several players did just that, including 6-under 64s by Trey Winstead, Blake Elliott and Thomas Power Horan at TPC Sawgrass Dye’s Valley Course. They’ll switch to Sawgrass Country Club for the final round (postponed to Monday due to storms), looking to continue the weekend surge and earn their first PGA TOUR cards. They might be long shots, but they have shots. Q-School’s beauty, after all, lies in opportunity.

    “I love it,” Elliott said Saturday. “I want to do this for my job, and I’m just grateful to be here. It’s crazy.”

    The top half of the field (through 36 holes) played the third round at Sawgrass Country Club, with the bottom half playing at Dye’s Valley Course. All players will switch venues for the final round, set for threesomes off two tees (both courses) from 8:45-11:01 a.m. ET Monday.

    (Severe storms hit northeast Florida from Saturday night into Sunday morning, forcing the postponement of the final round to Monday.)

    The top five and ties after 72 holes at Final Stage will earn 2024 PGA TOUR membership, with the next 40 and ties earning guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts in 2024. After that, the next 20 and ties will earn guaranteed starts on PGA TOUR Americas. The remainder of the field will be conditionally exempt on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR Americas.

    Here’s a look at five players who kept their hopes for a TOUR card alive on Saturday at Dye’s Valley Course, as they ready to take their second crack at Sawgrass Country Club – five long shots of sorts who are gearing up for a potential life-changing final round.

    Trey Winstead

    The LSU alum opened the week in 6-over 76 at Sawgrass Country Club. His prospects of earning guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts seemed unlikely, let alone earning a chance at a TOUR card in the final round.

    All he has done since is rally with rounds of 66-64 at Dye’s Valley Course; he hit all 18 greens in regulation Saturday, rebounding from a three-putt bogey at the par-5 first hole with five birdies and a hole-out eagle on the par-4 seventh.

    Winstead began the third round in 78th place, after matching the day’s low round, he stands T13 into Sunday. He’s 4-under for the week, three strokes off the top-five number. He’s well within striking distance. The prospects are tantalizing.

    “It’s a big day,” Winstead said of the imminent final round. “So much can happen. Very fortunate to be in this opportunity. I know I’ll go out and commit to each shot, and hopefully a dream will come true.”

    Winstead is the son of longtime LSU men’s golf coach Chuck Winstead and spent time around the team as a kid – mentors included the charismatic Smylie Kaufman. Winstead looks to channel those lessons Sunday and earn a place on professional golf’s grandest stage.

    Blake Elliott

    After graduating from high school in Texas, Elliott walked onto the golf team at Paris Junior College. The school offered scholarships, he said. He just wasn’t good enough at the time to earn one.

    Now he’s one round away from playing on the PGA TOUR.

    Elliott carded a bogey-free, 6-under 64 Saturday at Dye’s Valley Course – matching the day’s low round – to ascend from T94 to T19 on the leaderboard. He felt uneasy with the flat stick across the first two rounds, opening in 72-71, prompting an adjustment to his setup into the weekend. Elliott isn’t apt to tweak something mid-tournament, but this isn’t a run-of-the-mill event. This is a chance for Elliott, 26, to radically change his career fortunes – he has yet to make a PGA TOUR or Korn Ferry Tour start, having spent the majority of his five-year pro career on the All Pro Tour, in addition to eight PGA TOUR Canada starts in 2021.

    Elliott is soft-spoken but possesses a big game, as evidenced by his success at First Stage and Second Stage of Q-School this fall – and then a memorable Saturday in northeast Florida to earn a chance at authoring a life-changing final round.

    “It means a lot,” Elliott said. “It’s going to be a little stressful, but I’m going to take it one shot at a time and just hopefully get it done.”

    Thomas Power Horan

    The Australian has only been to the United States on four or five occasions – including a stint caddying on the LPGA Tour. (It was four or so years ago; he wasn’t playing well at the time, he said, and figured he would try out something else.)

    Horan enjoyed caddying and enjoyed America, but he found his way back to professional golf, and he is glad he did. The seven-year pro matched Saturday’s low round with a 6-under 64 at Dye’s Valley Course; moving from 109th place into a tie for 24th. The significance is twofold – he’s in position to earn guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts, and he has an outside chance at his first TOUR card. He’s 2-under total into Sunday, five strokes off the top-five number.

    Horan has spent the bulk of his career on the PGA Tour of Australasia; he finished second on the 2022-23 Order of Merit, a season which included two victories. Prior to traveling to northeast Florida for Final Stage, he spent three days in South Carolina with longtime instructor Bradley Hughes – a Korn Ferry Tour winner who has competed in 10 major championships. It served him well in Saturday’s third round, which included a front-nine 29.

    Horan dreams and believes. Now he looks to achieve.

    Marcus Byrd

    The Turn: Go all-access at PGA TOUR Q-School

    Byrd had the start of dreams Saturday at Dye’s Valley Course, opening eagle-birdie-birdie to rocket up the leaderboard after beginning the day in 78th place. He cooled off throughout the day but signed for a 3-under 67, moving to T36 into the final round at 1-under total. He’ll enter Sunday squarely on the number for guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts.

    Byrd is a highly accomplished APGA player – four wins this season – and advanced through Q-School’s Second Stage on the number. Now he’s on the verge of ascending toward golf’s highest level, and with a magical Sunday, he could earn his first TOUR card. He’ll need a super low one – he’s six strokes back of the top five. But he knows he has that low one in him, and it’s his intent to execute accordingly.

    “I’ve been saying for months now that I want to play on the PGA TOUR,” Byrd said Saturday. “That’s my goal; I’m not going to sell myself short. I’ve got a chance tomorrow to go do it.”

    Byrd has been supported by Billy Horschel this week, a mentor who has followed outside the ropes and provided updates on Byrd’s play via social media. The two shared a lengthy embrace following Byrd’s third round. Byrd, a Middle Tennessee State alum, is fired up to channel Horschel’s perspective on a challenging Sunday (which could extend into Monday) at Sawgrass Country Club.

    “Billy has been an awesome mentor for me the last couple years, especially this week,” Byrd said. “I’ve really leaned on him a lot, even when I feel like I don’t need to hear anything, he comes to me with some knowledge, and he just wants to see my succeed and he wants me to be the best player I can be. No one’s been in my corner harder than him.”

    Cody Blick

    Blick began the season with back-to-back runner-up finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour, and he held a spot in the top 30 on the season-long standings (the threshold to earn a PGA TOUR card) until the final two weeks of the season.

    Blick earned direct exemption to Final Stage, with one final chance to earn his first PGA TOUR card this season. His back is against the wall, but he kept his faint hopes alive with a third-round 67 at Dye’s Valley Course, moving from 109th to 68th on the leaderboard.

    Cody Blick talks about chasing TOUR dream at PGA TOUR Q-School

    The Californian stands 1 over into Sunday, eight strokes off the top-five pace. Unlike the other four players on this list, a finish in the next 40 and ties (after the top five and ties) does nothing for him. He holds full 2024 Korn Ferry Tour status at minimum.

    Blick’s final round at Final Stage represents the essence of a free roll, and even though he likely needs a score in the low 60s, that feat is not without precedent. Five years ago, he carded a final-round 63 at Final Stage – overcoming stolen clubs the night before the final round, no less – to earn guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts for the first time.

    Who’s to say he can’t do it again?

    “I don’t know where fifth is, but it doesn’t matter,” Blick said Saturday. “It really doesn’t matter. I’m not going to try any harder if I knew where it was. I’m just going to do my thing.

    “We’re just going to go have fun tomorrow, and we’re going to play well.”

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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