Heroics, heartbreak at Final Stage of Q-School
December 12, 2017
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Fresno State alum Matt Ryan played his final 45 holes of Final Stage in 22 under to secure guaranteed starts in 2018. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
After four stages, including pre-qualifiers, and approximately 1,000 players giving it a go, the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament reached its finish line on Sunday.
The top 45 finishers (and ties) were guaranteed entry into the first eight events of the 2018 Web.com Tour season, while those who finished second through 10th (and ties) secured spots in the first 12 events.
Lee McCoy, who fired 28 under par, was the medalist and will be fully exempt for the 2018 Web.com Tour season.
By just making it to Final Stage, players earned conditional status, meaning they’re eligible to move up in the periodic reshuffles based on their money-list standing.
At Final Stage, we saw veteran types, collegiate studs, and well-known names (along with some not-so-well-known) all vying for status on the path to the PGA TOUR.
Here are five things to know from one of the most stress-inducing weeks in sports.
Lee McCoy wins final stage at Web.com Tour Q-School
Go low or go home
The scores on top of the leaderboard looked more like the early-December weather forecast at the North Pole, when all was said and done at Final Stage.
McCoy’s winning total of 28-under was a product of rounds of 65-67-63-65. He was just two shots clear of runner-up Sung-Jae Im, who fired a 12-under 60 on Saturday.
McCoy said the South Korean just never let up.
“We had a great battle out there today,” he told PGA TOUR Digital on Sunday, referencing his final-round pairing with Im. “Every time I thought I had gotten far enough ahead and could start playing conservative, he would roll in a 20-footer … and it was a little frustrating at times, but it’s nice to be able to push yourself that hard in a big spot and come out on top.”
Other low rounds included:
Matt Ryan: 11-under 61 (final round)
Jose Toledo: 11-under 61 (first round)
Trevor Murphy: 11-under 61 (second round)
Jimmy Stanger: 10-under 62 (second round)
Max Rottluff: 10-under 62 (final round)
Brad Brunner 10-under 62 (final round)
Lee McCoy interview after winning Web.com Tour Q-School
With nothing to lose, a handful of players shot their best rounds of the week in Sunday’s final round.
Matt Ryan’s 11-under 61 led the pack, and it moved him from 67th to a tie for 30th (and inside the magic number). Max Rottluff also moved from outside the top 45 to a tie for 23rd after his final-round 62.
Ben Taylor started Q-School with a 2-over 74 in the first round, but bounced back with rounds of 64-63 over the weekend to sneak into the top 45. His 9-under 63 on Sunday was his best round of the week.
Erik Barnes and Justin Lower shot matching 64s on Sunday to both finish at 14-under and tied for 42nd, right on the mark to earn starts in the first eight events of the 2018 season.
Jhared Hack and Brady Schnell shot matching 65s during their final rounds and also both finished at 14-under. Hack shot a 7-under 65 in his final round of Second Stage to also earn a spot at Final Stage.
Trevor Murphy, who spent most of the year selling real estate, birdied his final three holes to shoot a final-round, 1-under 71, and make it through right on the number. He managed to bounce back from a triple bogey on the par-5 eighth hole to make four birdies on the back nine (including Nos. 16-18).
Three countries were represented in the top 10 on the leaderboard at Final Stage, while nine countries overall had representatives in the top 45.
South Korea’s Sung-Jae Im, who will join countrymen K.H. Lee, D.H. Lee, and Jin Park on the Web.com Tour in 2018, led the international flavor after finishing runner-up to Lee McCoy. Fellow South Korean Bio Kim also earned starts in the first 12 events of the season by finishing tied for seventh at Final Stage.
Amateur standout Curtis Luck, from Australia, wowed the crowd in Arizona last week with his hair, his creative sweaters, and his good play. He finished tied for third at 22-under par. Luck earned enough non-member FedExCup points to make it to the Web.com Tour Finals, but didn’t secure a PGA TOUR card. He had to go to Final Stage to earn Web.com Tour status, but he did just that.
Canada’s Ryan Yip rounded out the international contingent in the top 10. He finished tied for 10th at 18-under-par after bouncing back from an opening-round 73. Yip finished 116th on Web.com Tour’s money list in 2018.
The other international players who made it through the top 45 at Final Stage included:
Jose Toledo: T16 (Argentina)
Ben Taylor: T16 (United Kingdom)
Stuart MacDonald: T23 (Canada)
Sebastian Cappelen: T23 (Denmark)
Gerardo Ruiz: T23 (Mexico)
Albin Choi: T23 (Canada)
Max Rottluff: T23 (Germany)
Seann Harlingten: T30 (Canada)
Fernando Mechereffe: T30 (Brazil)
The Path to the PGA TOUR
The Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada, PGA TOUR China, and PGA TOUR Latinoamerica are dubbed part of the path to the PGA TOUR for a reason.
And that was on display in force during Final Stage.
Medalist Lee McCoy finished sixth on the Mackenzie Tour Order of Merit in 2017 after winning the first event of the season.
Brian Richey finished third on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Order of Merit (with one victory) and finished tied for fifth at Final Stage, while fellow Latinoamerica alum Jose Toledo finished tied for 16th. Toledo finished fourth on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica’s money list with one victory in 2017.
Patrick Newcomb – who won on both PGA Tour Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour in 2017 – and Max Rottluff (who won the second event of the year in Canada) both finished tied for 22nd at Final Stage.
Chase Wright won on the Mackenzie Tour and finished eighth on the money list. He finished tied for 42nd, as did Brady Schnell, who won two straight starts on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica to close the season and eventually finished eighth on the money list in just four events.
Hank Lebioda finished 11th on the Mackenzie Tour money list, and sixth on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica money list, on the heels of six top-10s in South America and one victory in Canada.
Mark Blakefield captured a title on the Mackenzie Tour this summer and finished tied for third at Final Stage.
Notables to miss
Coming into the week, there were a handful of names that were worth of keeping an eye on, but as is the case with golf, not all predictions come to fruition.
Perhaps the most heart-wrenching miss of all came for ACC standout Jimmy Stanger.
Stanger, who captured medalist honors at both his First Stage and Second Stage sites, fired an 80 in his first round, but bounced back with a 10-under 62 in his second round – 18 shots better, essentially a shot-per-hole improvement.
He had a 15-foot birdie putt to get into the top 45 on the 72nd hole, but it ended up sliding by.
Other notables who ended up missing the top-45 mark include three members of The Five on this year’s Mackenzie Tour Order of Merit -- Robby Shelton (T65), Johnny Ruiz (T65), and Rico Hoey (T85) -- past Web.com Tour standouts including Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (T80), Ryan Brehm (T85, won WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz in 2016, played PGA TOUR in 2016-17), Max Homa (T85, won Rust-Oleum Championship in 2016, played PGA TOUR in 2016-17), Michael Putnam (T134, won twice in 2013), and former amateur golf standouts John Oda (T85) and Jordan Niebrugge (T99).
The lone amateur in the field, Joaquin Niemann, finished tied for 134th and will remain an amateur until after next month’s Latin America Amateur Championship – where the winner receives an exemption into the 2018 Masters Tournament.
Australian Cameron Davis was the golfer many thought would have a great week at Final Stage after he won his first professional event at the Australian Open just three weeks ago. It was not to be for Davis, however, as he finished tied for 113th.