Not much movement at the very top of the leaderboard as four rounds seems to have settled everyone in and, barring a major change of fortune, all 520 golfers have an approximate idea as to where they’re going to be earning their paychecks this season–at least to start, as the Chairman has made sure that all but those 64-plus golfers locked into the Gerney Tour will have a chance to move up and down.
Yesterday’s leader, Bernhard Langer–he’s led for the past two days, came in with a three-over 75 as bogeys on one and three, a double on the par four 11th and a pair at the two finishing holes more than negated birdies on seven, ten and sixteen.
Even so, that 75 only pushed him down two spots into a five-way tie for fourth.
Shooting an even-par 72 and inheriting the lead, at least a tie for it, was Payne Stewart, with Scott Verplank’s 69 giving Stewart some company at the top.
The biggest moves of the day were reserved for the current crop of golfers as Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh each posted eight-under 64s.
For Goosen, it started with birdies on one and two and a run of four birdies in the first five holes of the back nine. Though he missed five fairways, his putting was lights out with only 23 for the round.
As for Singh, after a birdie on three, the Fijian hit the green of the 561 yard fourth in two and drained the eagle putt. Four birdies on the back nine and hitting all but one green in regulation made certain that Singh would post a low score, which he did.
Bob Lunn, from the ‘70s contingent, was the third member of the trio at 64. Unfortunately, it only got him back to even par for the tourney and it’ll likely take double digits under to be among the top 64, which means he’ll have to reprise today’s effort at least once more over the next two days to have a chance.
Other notable moves today included Justin Rose and Lee Trevino, both with 65’s, both moving into a tie for ninth at 13-under, Jim Furyk with a 66, now tied for 21st, and Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Gay Brewer with 67s. Johnson and Mickelson moved up into a five-way tie for third while Els and Trevino joined the aforementioned Rose and Trevino as well as Arnold Palmer and Randy Glover, both with 70, in that six-way tie for ninth.
Here’s the leaderboard, down to an eight-way tie for 21st.
It was moving day on day five of Q-School as many players posted low scores with a few moving to within shouting distance of earning one of those precious full-year Gerney Tour cards.
Names not heard from yet, gentlemen like Jack Burke, Paul Azinger (both with 64), Clayton Haefner, Lawson Little and Jim Colbert (all in at 65), made leaps up the leaderboard. Of the five, only Haefner, at nine-under, has a realistic chance of earning the coveted tour card, while Colbert (-6) and Burke (-5) still have some work to do.
A familiar name sits atop the leaderboard, Scott Verplank. Along with Payne Stewart, he led the 520-man tourney yesterday and his 66 today put him five shots clear of the field. At 22-under, he’d have to probably throw his clubs in the water to have any chance of not making the Gerney Tour. As it is, Verplank is the only golfer to break 70 in all five of his rounds.
With that thought in mind, Stewart practically fell off the radar screen (that sounds wrong on so many levels) as he ballooned to a 79, falling to nine-under for the five rounds. If Q-School ended right now, seven under would get one of the golden tour cards (sounds like Willie Wonka–hey Iron Chef meets Willie Wonka, cool!). But, as Bay Hill has been yielding low scores, even improving seven shots to even par is no guarantee for Stewart.
As for his round, water was not his friend, parking his second shot in the juice on both six and thirteen. On the sixth, his divining ball (I have a golf bag full of those) netted him a three-bagger and the one on thirteen got him a double. Great in baseball, lousy in golf. Stewart played the par-fives, the holes where you’re normally supposed to pick up strokes, in four-over. And putting? 35 for the round. With many players routinely in the twenties, a number like that can hurt you plenty. 79 says it did.
Here’s the leaderboard down to an eight-way tie for fifteenth:
The cut line for the Gerney tour vacillated between -9 and -8. With 64 guaranteed their golden Gerney cards, 63 players finished at -9. As nine players finished at -8 and the Chairman had established the Gerney tour at top 64 plus ties, that -8 group had plenty of thanks to go around.
But who to thank?
Turned out to be two gentlemen. One was old-timer Willie Campbell. Had he parred the 458-yard 18th, he would have been at -9 and, though all the -8s would have also been playing on the Gerney Tour next week, they would have only been guaranteed one event. Now they had a full season of playing for big money.
But the biggest thanks would have gone to Lanny Wadkins. At -10 coming into 17, he finished bogey, bogey when even one bogey would have eliminated the -8s from full-season Gerney play.
As for Payne Stewart and his 79 yesterday… He went one-over 73 today and, if it weren’t for a birdie on 18, he wouldn’t have gotten his golden Gerney card.
The remainder of the top 128 are guaranteed one event on the Gerney Tour and full rights and privileges on the Staffa Tour. The cut line there? 5-under. The golfer most grateful to be there? Steve Stricker, as a run of five consecutive birdies on the back nine, from twelve through sixteen, saw him post a five-under 67 and squeeze in at -5.
The “You have only yourself to blame” award: Boo Weekley. When even par would have put him comfortably on the Gerney Tour, he went out in 40. One-under on the back was one too many strokes and his -7 will guarantee him only the one event on the big tour.
After the six rounds had been completed, the Chairman once again appeared on the Bay Hill clubhouse balcony.
“As you see, all the scores have been posted and you’ll all be headed off to the first tournament to play on one of the three tours.
“But, before I get to the details, I would like to congratulate Scott Verplank. In a field of 520 of the best golfers whoever lived and over six rounds, Mr. Verplank won by five strokes.”
“As far as The Tour is concerned,” continued the Chairman, “it’ll be 36 events played at eighteen different courses requiring different types of skill. The ultimate champion will be the golfer who has mastered those skills.
“I realized that Bay Hill, though a fair test, may have been unfamiliar to some of you. Maybe it was the course layout, the beautiful weather or something else. So, the first tournament will be at a place familiar to all. Many have called it the ‘Auld Sod.’ All know it as ‘St. Andrews.”
The older crew, those in what many of the newer players thought of as restrictive clothing, let out a cheer. They’d be going home, for a little while, at least. After all, they were very confused as to how they ended up in central Florida in the 21st century in the first place.
After the cheering subsided, the Chairman added, “Don’t worry about transportation or accommodations. That’s all been taken care of. Matter of fact, you’ll wake up in St. Andrews wondering how you got there. While that might be a bit unnerving, you just worry about playing golf and I’ll take care of the rest.
“Now, how about all of you enjoy Disney World or Universal or even just a good steak at Morton’s. Don’t worry about cost. When people see you coming you will be instantly recognized, they’ll know that everything has already been taken care of and will welcome you graciously and you won’t have to wait on line or for a seat.”
Disney World? Some of the golfers wearing knickers and ties had a vague memory of something with a similar name opening on the coast in the 1950s. But they were old men by then and sometimes the memory goes on the fritz. Here in central Florida? They remembered the place as a cow town and swamp with oppressive heat in the summer and bugs that they swore had propellers. But the weather was comfortable now and, if the Chairman says ‘go and enjoy’ and ‘it’s on me,’ well, who were they to turn that down?