Begay not discouraged after 76
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. -- During each day at PGA Tour Qualifying School, GolfDigest.com's Brian Wacker will chronicle the efforts of Bill Haas, Notah Begay III and Boo Weekley as they compete in golf's most grueling week.
The second day of the PGA Tour's Qualifying tournament began like a lot of days do in Albuquerque, N.M. -- with the wind blowing. It also began with a phone call between Tiger Woods and Notah Begay III.
"We've been talking this week," said Begay, a former teammate and close friend of Woods' from their days at Stanford together. "He encouraged me and told me to just go out there and kick ass."
Begay didn't exactly do that, shooting a 4-over 76 at Orange County National's Panther Lake. But this four-time tour winner is too experienced, and has worked too hard, on and off the course, to let that get him down with four more rounds to play -- even if he ended the day 67 spots lower on the leaderboard in 117th place.
"This is the kind of day where being a veteran and experience comes into play," Begay said. "I was happy when I saw the wind was up. I just really struggled out there, and when you struggle in conditions like this, your misses are really going to affect you."
Those misses cropped up mostly on holes 16 through 18, which Begay played in three over par, including a double-bogey on the 453-yard par-4 16th hole.
"Three shots got away from me from dead center of the fairway, and you just can't do that," Begay said. "Other than that I played fantastic."
With so many holes and so much golf still to be played, maintaining the goals set at the beginning of the week could get lost in the shuffle, especially on a day when a 76 could have been an 80, or a 72. But Begay has a simple way to break it down to be more manageable.
"I want to go out and beat every nine holes, and basically that means shooting 1-under for every nine holes," Begay said. "By the end of the week, that puts you at 12-under."
With the bottom end of the top 30 at three-under after two rounds, that would be more than enough to secure a tour card for 2006.
"Some guys shot themselves out of it today, I can guarantee that," Begay said. "The veteran guys though, the ones who have been on tour, know they can make up so much ground in four rounds. There are guys who win tournaments [on the PGA Tour] from 10 shots back with two rounds to play.
"Anyone within 10 or 15 shots of whatever the so-called number here still has a chance."
That still includes Begay.
A day after hitting his driver every which way but straight, Boo Weekley seems to have taken a liking to his new one -- a Callaway Fusion -- and why not? He hit 13 fairways at Panther Lake with it on Thursday. Coupled with two birdies and just one bogey, the man from Milton, Fla., was more than content with his round of 1-under despite having what he called "stone hands" on the green.
"Naw, I won't change putters," Weekley said. "I just hit everything too far by the hole or left it short. I think the greens today were harder and faster than what we played [Wednesday] at Crooked Cat."
When you play as well as Weekley did -- only 25 of the 163 rounds shot Thursday were sub-70 -- you don't mess with your game. After playing for nearly six hours, a weather-beaten Weekley called it a day, packed his golf bag and headed off to lunch with his grandparents and mother, both of whom arrived today. "I was pretty hungry, and pretty beat," Weekley said.
Two days down and Weekley's chances of returning to the tour are so far so good -- he moved up two spots into a tie for 14th. "I won't look at the leaderboard though," he says. "I'm here to shoot 2-under every day, and the rest will take care of itself."
Mrs. Boo comes into town on Friday, in case you were wondering.
On a day like this, you just try "not to mess up," says Bill Haas.
"When it's cold and windy like this it's tough for anyone," said Haas after keeping his place in line for a tour card in a tie for 14th with an even-par 72. Like Weekley, he doesn't scoreboard-watch, either.
"I didn't even know they had one," Haas said. (They don't, not an electronic one anyway, which John Feinstein, who's here working on a book about Q School, said would sort of defeat the purpose of what this tournament is all about. After all, the story isn't the leader on the last day here.)
Walking part of the day with Haas' mom Janice, we found out that the eldest of her five children is an obsessive college basketball fan. Having gone to school at Wake Forest in hoops-crazy North Carolina, it's easy to understand why. In fact, despite growing up in a golfing family, Haas' dream was to play basketball. "I would have rather played hoops," he said. That is, until he figured out he couldn't jump.
So far, it looks like Haas made the right career move.
Brian Wacker is an assistant editor for GolfDigest.com