Meet the man on a Monday mission
May 16, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- T.J. Vogel qualified for the AT&T Byron Nelson on Monday, the fifth time he has Monday qualified for a TOUR event this season. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
DALLAS – It was mid-February and T.J. Vogel was about to reach his breaking point. Money was so tight that he had stopped looking at his bank account. He didn’t want to know how little he had left.
The previous summer, Vogel had made the cut in all 12 of his starts on PGA TOUR Canada-Mackenzie Tour, but the $42,373 in Canadian currency (approximately $33,000 U.S.) was now drying up. In the fall, he Monday qualified for The RSM Classic, making a birdie on his last hole to avoid a risky playoff. But did not make the cut, so no paycheck. With just conditional status on the Web.com Tour, he had made the go-or-be-broke decision to chase his PGA TOUR dream as a Monday qualifier.
Now the dream was on life support.
“I didn’t know how much longer I would’ve been able to play,” Vogel said. “I’m spending money but no money’s coming in. It gets real low. What am I going to do? How am I going to survive?”
The next week, he Monday qualified for The Honda Classic as the medalist, shooting a 64. Again, he didn’t make the cut. But the confidence booster he received by playing his way into the field was worth something. He could build on that.
Two weeks later, he was again the Monday qualifier medalist, shooting a 63 to make the field at the Valspar Championship. This time, he made the cut by two strokes, followed by a pair of 2-under 69s on the weekend to finish tied for 16th. Money earned: $77,295.84.
Finally, he could look at his bank account again.
“That’s freed me up to know that I’m going to have a few more months of going for it,” said the 27-year-old Vogel, who grew up in Florida but now lives in Los Angeles. “Last place on the PGA TOUR if you make the cut is like $13,000 or $14,000. That could fund me for four months. That top 20 at Valspar funds me for a year.”
Money in the bank hasn’t changed his status, though. Monday qualifying remains his avenue into TOUR events -- and now he’s building a reputation as a Monday king. He qualified at the Wells Fargo Championship, making a late eagle to secure his status, and then made the cut by a stroke. His T-59 finish was worth $16,863.
And this Monday, he shot a 6-under 66 to Monday qualify for the AT&T Byron Nelson. That’s five successful times he’s Monday qualified, by far the most of any player. One more and he ties the 2012 mark of Patrick Reed, who Monday qualified six times that season and earned the reputation as Mr. Monday.
Six years later, Reed earned another title: Masters champ.
“It’s very cool to be able to qualify for an event and be able to play at this level,” said Vogel, who has one Masters appearance himself – in 2013 by virtue of winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. “What he did was pretty amazing. Obviously that’s something that I’m striving for. My No. 1 goal is to try to get into the Web Finals through FedExCup and play for my card that way.”
As a non-member, Vogel is not officially listed in the points standings, but if he earns enough points to place him between the 126 and 200 margin in FedExCup points, he would get a spot in the Web.com Tour finals. A year ago, the 200th player had 82 points; Vogel currently has 47.
Asked why he didn’t try to play his way in via Web.com qualifiers, Vogel offered a unique perspective.
“It might even be easier to qualify for this [PGA] TOUR simply because the courses that the PGA TOUR sets the qualifiers up, they’re more difficult and sometimes they’re not a full-field – whereas the Web, since there’s no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren’t as tough.
“So I feel like if you take a lot of the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers, you have to shoot 8 under. That was a playoff last week in Knoxville, whereas I shot 6 [under] this week and I’m in, no playoff.
“I see that happening a lot, so I’m like, why wouldn’t I just try to go for the PGA ones where you can be rewarded for shooting a 5 or 6 or 7 [under] and get in? Just made more sense.”
Yet, that also puts Vogel in a do-or-die scenario each time he tries to Monday qualify against stronger golfers. Playing with his back against the wall, he said, is actually a good thing. It motivates him, keeps him aggressive. Keeps him hungry.
Plus, the more times he does it, the more his confidence is raised – and the more opportunities he can get to have a Valspar-kind of week.
“I’m more motivated because I got a taste of this,” he said. “This is everybody’s dream to play this TOUR. Got a taste and it’s super-motivating. I want to keep playing and it’s what I’ve dreamed my whole life.
“I’m not here yet; I’ve got to earn it. But it’s nice to have these experiences to get even better.”
He remains humbled, though – and frugal. This week, he’s staying with a friend, so no money spent on hotel rooms. He splits rental car costs with other players (until he makes the field; then he gets a courtesy car). He takes the cheapest flights he can find.
“I’m still Pricelining stuff,” Vogel said. “Until you get out here [as a PGA TOUR member], you can’t really afford to be living big. I don’t have that luxury – yet.”
But he has the dream. And now he has the magic touch, at least on Mondays. How far will it take him?
Well, there are no other options right now.
“To be honest, I didn’t really set up my life in a way, where, what else am I going to do?” he said. “This is something I want to do my whole life. It’s more of me now seeing that I belong out here.”
If Mondays are any indication, there are no doubts. The other days of the week are starting to look pretty good, too.