Power Rankings: Final Stage, Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament
December 03, 2018
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- T.J. Vogel has found success on the PGA TOUR Monday qualifier circuit, and he'll aim for similar vibes at Final Stage. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)
Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament is set for this week at Whirlwind GC (The Cattail and Devil’s Claw) outside Phoenix, as the four-month journey known as Q-School comes to a close.
From pre-qualifying, to First and Second Stages, players have navigated a variety of sites and conditions to earn the right to tee it up this week in search of guaranteed 2019 Web.com Tour starts.
One hundred and thirty-five players will compete this week across two courses in the desert for a chance to improve their status for the 2019 Web.com Tour season.
Here’s a breakdown of what they’re playing for:
• The medalist at Final Stage (and ties) will receive fully exempt status for the 2019 Web.com Tour Regular Season.
• Finishers 2-10 (and ties) at Final Stage will receive exempt status for the first 12 events of the 2019 Web.com Tour Regular Season, and will be subject to subsequent reshuffles (which occur in four-event intervals).
• Finishers 11-40 (and ties) at Final Stage will receive exempt status for the first eight events of the 2019 Web.com Tour Regular Season and will be subject to subsequent reshuffles (which occur in four-event intervals).
The field includes Web.com Tour, Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, and PGA TOUR China winners, past Final Stage medalists, Low Amateur winners at majors, and a handful of NCAA champions.
There’s no shortage of talent on display this week as golfers look to secure as many starts as possible on the 2019 Web.com Tour.
Here are the top players to watch this week at Final Stage, the culmination of an entire autumn of drama.
1. T.J. Vogel. The PGA TOUR’s ‘Mr. Monday’ in 2017-18 has advanced to Final Stage once again this year after surviving both First and Second Stage. Vogel, who Monday qualified for eight TOUR events last season, is no stranger to needing to go low when he’s under some serious pressure. A veteran of the Mackenzie Tour, Web.com Tour, and with a ton of PGA TOUR experience under his belt as well, it would be no surprise if Vogel topped the leaderboard at week’s end.
2. Norman Xiong. Xiong played both First Stage and Second Stage and was medalist at his First Stage site. The 2018 Jack Nicklaus Award winner as Division I’s men’s golfer of the year was also the Haskins Award winner as the most outstanding collegiate golfer. He played five TOUR events before turning professional earlier this year.
3. Braden Thornberry. Thornberry, one of three amateurs to compete in Final Stage, was formerly No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He won the 2017 NCAA individual golf championship and was named the Haskins Award winner that same year. Thornberry is Ole Miss’ all-time winningest golfer and since he was ranked in the top-5 of the WAGR, he was able to skip both pre-qualifying and First Stage.
4. George Cunningham. Cunningham finished in the top three in 33 percent of his Mackenzie Tour events this year, and had it not been for a three-win season from Tyler McCumber, he would have won the Order of Merit. Cunningham was the first person in Mackenzie Tour history to earn more than $100,000 and not sit No. 1 at season’s end. He’s no stranger to going low – his scoring average ranked second on the Mackenzie Tour in 2018.
5. Jordan Niebrugge. Niebrugge’s 2019 got off to a quick start – winning the first event of the year on the Mackenzie Tour. He played 10 tournaments on the Web.com Tour and four others on the Mackenzie Tour, where he finished 14th on the money list. At just 25, Niebrugge has a lengthy list of experience worthy of someone much older. He had a celebrated amateur career and is primed to take the next big leap.
6. Andy Zhang. Zhang, who is still an amateur, played the U.S. Open as a 14-year-old before heading to the University of Florida. The Sean Foley pupil won the 2018 SEC Championship as an individual. He finished T4 at his First Stage site and T9 at Second Stage.
7. Zach Wright. Wright started his 2018 Mackenzie Tour season on a record-breaking heater: he finished in the top-10 in six straight events. He added one more for good measure before the end of the year and finished third on the money list. He topped the Mackenzie Tour in both total birdies and total eagles, and this week in Arizona, he’ll have the luxury of sleeping in his own bed.
8. Doug Ghim. The Low Amateur at this year’s Masters finished fourth at his Second Stage site. Ghim had a lengthy list of accomplishments while playing at the University of Texas and continues to lean on fellow Longhorns like Jordan Spieth and 2018 Web.com Tour winner Kramer Hickok. Ghim played a handful of events on the PGA TOUR and in Europe this summer.
9. Brock Mackenzie. It would be a feel-good story this week for Mackenzie to complete his comeback after a horrific injury in 2017. Mackenzie, 37, lives in Arizona and is very comfortable with Whirlwind GC. He was close to earning his way into the Web.com Tour Finals after a solid finish at the Regular Season-ending event WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft-Heinz, but fell just short. Mackenzie is a former Mackenzie Tour winner, but he’s never topped the leaderboard on the Web.com Tour. A veteran with local ties and good vibes coming into the week could make for a great story to end the year.
10. Mark Blakefield. It wasn’t quite the Web.com Tour season Blakefield – a former winner on the Mackenzie Tour – was looking for, but now he’s back somewhere he’s quite comfortable. Blakefield finished 88th on the money list this year, but he finished T3 at last year’s Final Stage in Arizona after firing rounds of 69-65-66-66.