Part One of Two -- An Inside the Ropes Look at one player's attempt to qualify for a PGA Tour event
As a player support/caddie on the PGA Tour, I have been fortunate to witness some amazing play in Monday qualifiers. Monday qualifiers are one-day events that provide players with an opportunity to play for a spot on the PGA Tour event held that week. Qualifying for a PGA Tour event is a lifetime dream for many, for others its just part of the job of a touring golf professional. Many PGA Tour events require a player to play a supplemental qualifier just to qualify for a Monday qualifier. So, for hungry elite players looking to compete every year, Monday qualifiers are a great opportunity to obtain entry into a PGA Tour event.
Adam Svensson is a full-time status player on the Korn Ferry Tour. Adam has had full-time status on the PGA Tour for the 2019 season. He is currently on the Korn Ferry tour and has already won an event in this shortened 2020 season. Svensson has won over 100+ junior golf tournaments, including the prestigious Callaway World Junior at San Diego’s Torrey Pines Golf Club. He has won 2 national championships with Barry University and is a 9-time NCAA tournament winner. His stellar college career was rewarded when he became a Jack Nicklaus Award winner in 2014. Svensson has had experience winning at every level, showing he can compete on the world's greatest professional golf platforms.
Monday qualifiers are hosted generally during the same week of the sanctioned PGA tournament. The Monday qualifier is 18 holes, generally giving out 4 spots for the PGA Tour event. Monday qualifiers are designed to give players the opportunity to play an aggressive round of golf, shooting the lowest round possible to contend for a qualifying spot.
The Honda Classic Monday Qualifier
Banyan Cay is a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course located in West Palm Beach Florida. With lots of elevated greens and strategic water features, Banyan Cay offers a great test to any level player playing the golf course. Playing golf in Florida can offer some very windy conditions, especially in the spring. This Monday qualifier provided some tricky pin positions, fast breaking greens and gusty wind conditions -- a real challenge for any golfer.
Just recently I caddied for Adam Svensson in the 2020 Honda Classic Monday qualifier at Banyan Cay. Adam has had some good results in Monday qualifiers, showing he can contend for qualifier spots against quality professional players. In 2018 he Monday qualified for the Sanderson Farms Championship.
The qualifier consists of 100 plus players playing for 4 spots in The Honda Classic. Because of the short nature of the qualifier, being a one-day 18 - hole event, the Monday qualifier requires the player to play aggressively but smart, ultimately shooting a good score for 18 holes of golf.
Adam started the event birdie, double bogey and bogey. With tricky starting holes and windy conditions, he was +2 after 3 holes of competition. Usually with a poor start like this, the momentum is low, and the chances of bouncing back in an 18-hole tournament is not in his favour. Adam continued to grind and battle the conditions making a birdie on the 4th hole and a birdie on the 9th hole. He made 5 birdies in a row ( on holes 9 thru 13 ) finding himself in a great position for the tournament. With a birdie on 16, bogey on 17 and a birdie on 18, Adam managed a fantastic recovery to his round -- he recorded 7 birdies in his last 10 holes to shoot a -5 (67) for the qualifier.
Adam landed himself into a 2-way playoff with PGA Tour winner Arjun Atwal. The players proceeded to the 10th hole to start the playoff. The 10th hole is a fairly straight, reachable par 5 with water along the left side. Being reachable in 2 - shots, this is a terrific hole for both players to be aggressive at the start of the playoff. A sudden death playoff occurs whenever there is a tie for the final spot in the Monday qualifier. The player that makes the lowest score first wins the playoff, earning the final spot into the PGA Tour event (the Honda Classic).
A Monday qualifying playoff is a high pressure environment for any player in that position. The player understands that a single mistake or slip up could and usually does cost them dearly, resulting in a playoff lose and with it, the opportunity to tee it up at the PGA event. Every player understands that applying pressure early on in the playoff can put the other player in an even more stressful position, usually resulting in the other player faltering.
Adam was first to tee, hitting his stock driver down the middle of the fairway. Keeping to his game plan, he continues to hit smart aggressive shot shapes that he knows. Arjun was second to play, hitting his driver into the right rough. Atwal then proceeds to hit his 3 wood from the rough into the Par 5 green side collection area, leaving himself a tricky chip shot to the pin. Adam hits his approach shot with a hybrid to 30 feet, giving himself a look at eagle. With two excellent shots, Adam has applied early pressure on Arjun.
Doing the most improbable, Atwal proceeds to hit the perfect chip shot, holing his shot for an eagle. Just moments ago, we had positioned the golf ball efficiently, setting up a potential eagle opportunity, resulting in a birdie at worst. Arjun was scrambling with both of his shots, but when it mattered most, he chips in for eagle at what proves to be the most crucial time in the tournament.
With a single shot, the momentum changes completely, putting Adam and myself in a high pressure situation, having to make the eagle putt to extend the playoff. Keep in mind, making a downhill eagle putt in the twilight of the day to extend the playoff is an exceptionally low percentage situation for any player. Adam went through his usual putting routine, making his best effort to extend the playoff but, fell just short to Arjun Atwal.
The wise PGA Tour veteran Arjun Atwal defeated Adam Svensson clinching the spot in The Honda Classic. It is a tough result to accept -- defeated in the playoff by a player chipping in from off of the green for an eagle. It is an extremely uncommon event, but having succeeded, it completely shifted the momentum to Atwal's favour. One minute your mind is focusing on a potential two-putt situation for a spot in the Honda Classic. Instead, you find yourself suddenly needing to one-putt for an eagle just too extend the playoff.
Coming up short in a Monday Qualifier should not and cannot be looked at as failure. Showing that you can fight and be in the position to qualify against some of the best players for 18 holes, is much harder than a 72-hole standard tournament. Unlike a traditional 4-day golf tournament, you only have 18 holes to make something happen. But, like all good players know, a tough loss is also a great learning opportunity.
Austin Hughes is professional golfer having played in professional events over the past few seasons. He graduated from Dalton State University (Georgia) where he attended on a Golf Scholarship. He has also caddied for various professional players in tour events and qualifiers.