Ben Martin, runner-up at the 2009 U.S. Amateur, carded a 3-under 69 on the Crooked Cat course at Orange County National on Saturday to move to 16 under par and maintain his lead through four rounds of the PGA Tour Q-School finals. He enters the fifth of six rounds with a one-shot lead over James Driscoll (66/Crooked Cat). Zack Miller (68/Crooked Cat) is three back, while Scott Stallings (66/Crooked Cat), Bio Kim (68/Crooked Cat), Billy Mayfair (68/Crooked Cat) and Cameron Tringale (69/Crooked Cat) tied for fourth, four back.
The top 25 players and ties at the end of Monday’s sixth round will receive PGA Tour cards for 2011. The next nearest-number-to-50 will earn fully exempt Nationwide Tour cards for the first 10 events on the schedule and the remainder of the field will receive conditional Nationwide Tour status. After 10 Nationwide Tour events next year, the fully exempt members will be subjected to the re-order/conditional category.
2010 PGA TOUR Q-SCHOOL FINALS
The top 25 finishers and ties after Monday's sixth round will earn full playing privileges on the 2011 PGA Tour.
Martin was tied for second after the opening round and second after Round 2, and has been in solo first after the most recent two rounds.
Driscoll, in second place at 15 under par, made 13 of 26 cuts on the PGA Tour this year and finished No. 157 on the money list. His lone top-10 was a tie for ninth at the Valero Texas Open.
Duke’s Nate Smith, winner of the 2010 WNB Golf Classic on the Nationwide Tour, has steadily moved up the leaderboard and is currently tied for eighth. Smith, who finished No. 27 on the Nationwide Tour money list and barely missed earning his Tour card, was tied for 65th after the first round, tied for 40th after the second and tied for 16th after the third. Smith has posted scores of 73-69-66-67.
Veteran Mayfair is in solid position to regain his Tour card and stands tied for fourth after 72 holes at 12 under. Mayfair, a five-time Tour winner, turned pro in 1988 and made it through the Q-School on his first try that fall. He has not been back since then.
Martin completed his degree at Clemson in December of 2009 but did post-graduate work in order to compete for the Tigers last spring. He is a three-time Atlantic Coast Conference selection. He is joined in the field by five additional former Tigers: Charles Warren (tied for 14th), Kyle Stanley (tied for 27th), Tommy Biershenk (tied for 32nd), Brent Delahoussaye (tied for 100th) and Eliot Gealy (tied for 121st).
History is certainly on Martin’s side at this point. Every fourth-round leader/co-leader has gone on to earn his PGA Tour card for the past 18 years (Q-School records are incomplete prior to 1992). The closest anyone has come to not gaining a Tour card came in 2006, when 72-hole co-leader Michael Boyd posted scores of 71-78 over the final two days in California and finished tied for 25th. (Back in 1996 when more cards were handed out, Paul Claxton led by one after four days and shot a 78 in the fifth round and dropped into a tie for 37th place. Officials tried for two days to play the sixth round but heavy rains forced them to revert back to the standings after 90 holes. Claxton was the 49th, and last, player to earn a card that year.)
Four players who earned their PGA Tour card for 2011 by graduating (top 25) from the Nationwide Tour are seeking to improve their position this week at Q-School Finals: Jim Herman (No. 19), Joe Affrunti (No. 22), Michael Putnam (No. 24) and Justin Hicks (No. 25). These players will not count toward the top 25 and ties who will earn their PGA Tour card through Q-School, nor will they count against the next number nearest 50 to determine fully-exempt Nationwide Tour membership. Here is how they stand heading into Round 5: Affrunti is tied for 31st, Herman is tied for 40th, Hicks is tied for 21st and Putnam is tied for 27th.
Scott Stallings moved up the leaderboard with a 7-under 65 at Crooked Cat and moved from a tie for 27th to a tie for fourth heading into the final two rounds. Stallings ran off a string of seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch to put him closer to a Tour card for next year. The 25-year-old from Tennessee Tech just completed his rookie season on the Nationwide Tour, making the cut in 19 of 28 starts and finishing No. 53 on the money list. Stallings had three top-10 finishes but none in his final 11 starts.
Martin and Bramlett lead the field with 24 birdies thus far. Martin is at 16 under and leading while Bramlett, a 2010 Stanford graduate, is at 8 under thanks to 14 bogeys and one double bogey. Another Stanford grad, Zack Miller (2007) remained near the top of the leaderboard with a 4 under at Crooked Cat. Miller, a 2010 Nationwide Tour rookie, is at 13 under and solo third. Miller made the cut in 13 of 25 starts this year and had two top-10 finishes, including a tie for third at the Fort Smith Classic.
Brett Waldman, best known as the caddie for Camilo Villegas, carded a 72 at Crooked Cat and is tied for 59th. Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton is tied for 113th place after a 72 at Crooked Cat.
Two past Q-School medalists teed it up this week at Orange County National: 2006 medalist George McNeill (withdrew after third round) and 1992 co-medalist Skip Kendall (tied for 113th after a 70 at Panther Lake). Saturday’s best rounds were 65s at Crooked Cat from Justin Hicks and Scott Stallings and a 64 at Panther Lake from Camilo Benedetti.