SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Wes Short Jr. earned one of five Champions Tour cards for next season in his first attempt at the 50-and-older circuit.
The final two cards were won in a playoff Saturday morning because rain delayed the conclusion of play on Friday. Scott Dunlap and Jeff Hart each made par on the first playoff hole to get full exempt status for 2014 season.
On Friday, Short, Mike Reid and Jim Rutledge claimed the first three cards. Short, who turns 50 on Dec. 4, closed with 68 to tie the Champions Tour Q-School record at 20-under 264 and earn $30,000 for his five-shot victory over Reid and Rutledge. Rutledge started the final round outside the top 12 and closed with a 65 in rainy conditions at the TPC Scottsdale to earn his card.
After a three-hour rain delay to start Friday, Short battled through adverse weather conditions and then near-darkness late in the day for his victory. Short – the 36- and 54-hole leader – posted his 68 in a steady afternoon drizzle, and his 72-hole total of 20-under 264 tied the all-time Champions Tour record for a four-round qualifier set by Jeff Freeman at this same venue two years ago.
Short earned medalist honors by the largest margin in a national qualifier since Bob Gilder waltzed to a record seven-stroke victory in 2000 at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Both Dunlap and Doug Garwood three-putted the final green Friday to make bogey and drop back into a five-way tie for fourth place with Hart, Greg Bruckner and Willie Wood.
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Short birdied three of his first four holes and never looked back, holing nine-foot birdie putts at Nos. 1, 3, 4. He enjoyed as much as a six-stroke lead midway through the front nine and then played the back nine in 1 under to coast to the easy win. The 2005 Michelin Championship at Las Vegas champion on the PGA Tour, Short turns 50 on Dec. 4 and will enjoy fully exempt status on the 2014 Champions Tour.
“I didn’t think we’d finish today even if we managed to get started, which didn’t look like it was going to happen early. It really helped me to get off to the start that I did,” said Short. “It allowed me to play more conservative the rest of the way, especially near the end.
“This was a rough year this year. I missed so much competitive golf and really haven’t been in golf shape for about the last six years,” he added. “I really prepared hard for this Q-School and felt like my game was back in pretty good shape when I got here this week. I’m now really looking forward to the Champions Tour.”
Rutledge started the day outside the top 12 and was looking at having no exempt status for 2014. However, after turning in 2-under 33, the Canadian made four birdies on the back nine to shoot 65, equaling the low round of the day, and he quickly move up the leaderboard.
This is the fourth straight year Rutledge has finished among the top eight at Q-School. He also tied for second here at TPC Scottsdale in 2011.
Reid, a two-time Champions Tour major winner, regained fully exempt status for the 2014 season after making just seven appearances this past year due to his limited status from the combined-career (PGA Tour/Champions Tour) money list. This week, he strung together four straight rounds in the 60s and was steady down the stretch on Friday, playing his last 15 holes bogey free and in 3 under.