By Sean Martin, Golfweek
MCKINNEY, Texas (Nov. 17, 2012) -- Jordan Spieth’s first Q-School attempt came to an end Friday, ensuring that he won’t earn a PGA Tour card this year. The biggest question surrounding the Texas sophomore is when he’ll start pursuing his PGA Tour card in 2013.
Spieth wouldn’t answer that question after signing for 71 Friday afternoon at TPC Craig Ranch, but all signs point to Spieth heading to the PGA Tour sooner than later. He finished T-26 at Q-School’s second stage at TPC Craig Ranch. His 8-under 280 total (71-69-69-71) was three strokes too high. The top 20 and ties at this Dallas suburb advanced to the final stage, which will be held Nov. 28-Dec. 3 at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
Spieth was prepared to leave Texas mid-season if he earned a PGA Tour card in December. Will he keep that same schedule now that Q-School ended earlier than he’d hope? “I’ve definitely thought about all options,” Spieth said. He declined to indicate if he was leaning toward turning pro or returning to Texas. “I wouldn’t say,” he said.
The signs seem to say he’s turning pro sooner than later. It’s all but guaranteed that he will turn pro immediately after the NCAA Championship, at the latest, according to multiple industry sources. It’s likely he’ll turn pro before the next PGA Tour season gets underway in January.
Spieth was greeted outside the scoring area Friday by an agent, David Winkle of Hambric Sports, who also stood nearby as Spieth gave post-round interviews and who walked with the Texas sophomore to the parking lot. Multiple sources confirmed that Spieth has commit to sign with Hambric Sports when he does turn professional.
Turning pro in January would give Spieth more time to earn money before the inaugural Web.com Tour Finals, which will replace Q-School as a source of PGA Tour cards starting in 2013. Tournaments will have fewer sponsor exemptions in 2013 in order to allow PGA Tour members more starts during the condensed schedule that runs from January until September.
Spieth won’t have a problem attracting interest from tournament directors, but it may be difficult to get seven sponsor exemptions (the maximum for a PGA Tour non-member) between June’s NCAA Championship and the start of the Web.com Tour Finals in August.
Turning pro in January ensures Spieth will be pro for the PGA Tour’s Texas Swing, where the Dallas native seems a shoe-in to receive exemptions. He’s received sponsor exemptions to both the Byron Nelson Championship (2010, ’11) and Texas Open (2012), and made the cut in all three starts. He also received sponsor exemptions to the Northern Trust Open, AT&T National and John Deere Classic in 2012. The Northern Trust is held at Riviera, where Spieth helped Texas to the 2012 NCAA title.
Some 30 people followed Spieth Friday at TPC Craig Ranch, a mob by Q-School standards. They watched him struggle with the putter. “I didn’t make a putt outside of a foot-and-a-half today or the first round, and made maybe three the whole week,” said Spieth, who made 14 birdies, one eagle and eight bogeys. “It’s extremely disappointing right now.”
He missed a 12-foot eagle putt at the par-5 ninth hole Friday, then hit every green from Nos. 10-16, but two-putted them all. He barely missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th, then made bogey on the par-3 17th after his tee shot landed on the green, but rolled down a false front into a bunker. He missed a 7-foot par putt. Spieth parred the reachable par-5 18th after his greenside bunker shot failed to reach the green.
The galleries may have been small, but they saw second stage’s typical drama. Andrew Loupe, an LSU All-American who turned pro in 2011, shot 64 to advance without a shot to spare, including 6-under 30 on the back nine. It was the day’s best round by three shots. He started the final round five shots outside the cut line. He bogeyed his first hole Friday, then played his final 13 holes in 9 under, holing a 6-foot birdie putt at the final hole. He birdied seven holes in an eight-hole stretch from No. 6 to No. 13, then added birdies at 16 and 18.
“I never lost trust,” Loupe said. “I never lost belief.”
Second stage is where former major champions and players fresh out of college meet, all chasing the same goal. The players who advanced from TPC Craig Ranch to Q-School finals outside Palm Springs range from former Open Championship winner Todd Hamilton and Joakim Mikkelsen, who in April won the Big 12 Championship over a field that included Spieth.
Second stage is vital for young players, who are relegated to another year on the mini-tours if they miss out this week. Many of the veterans have status on either the PGA or Web.com tours to fall back on. They still feel pressure, though. Jeff Klauk has a PGA Tour medical extension to use in 2013 as he continues his comeback after being diagnosed with epilepsy. “I want all of it back, what I once had,” said Klauk, who made $1.2 million in his rookie PGA Tour season of 2009. He shot 12-under 276 to advance with a shot to spare.
Former Augusta State All-American Henrik Norlander. who also advanced, slept solidly for about three hours before the final round, and was out of bed at 4:45 a.m. Kevin Tway, the son of former PGA Championship winner Bob Tway, shot 71 Friday to reach 11 under and advance to finals for the first time. He was still nervous after Friday's round as he watched the leaderboard. “I want to see it in writing,” he said.
Only then can a player's heart rest at second stage.