David Duval flunked Q-School twice, and both times came away feeling good about himself.
Because at least he tried.
Duval was one of those can’t-miss college stars -- he had the 54-hole lead at a PGA Tour event as an amateur -- but in his first attempt to get on tour, he failed miserably. He didn’t even make the 72-hole cut for the final two rounds of qualifying school.
“Failed miserably? Thanks,” he said with a chuckle. “Actually, I birdied five of the last 10 holes in the fourth round. Moved right up to the number to make the cut. Then watched that arrow move right up to 2 under and I was out. But I gave it my best shot.”
Duval returned in 2009 with a resume unlike any other at Q-School -- a 13-time PGA Tour winner, British Open champion, former No. 1 in the world. He didn’t want to be there. But without a tour card, Duval felt that’s where he was supposed to be.
His five-year exemption from winning the British Open ended in 2006. He used a one-time exemption for being top 25 in the career earnings, received an extra year because of health issues at home, then used his exemption for top 50 in career money. He finished 130th on the money list in 2009 to lose his card and faced a tough decision.
Duval could still get in a fair number of tournaments, and since he remained a popular figure in golf, he could count on sponsor exemptions to get him through the year. Instead, he packed away his pride and headed back to school.
“I don’t know why you wouldn’t,” he said. “You do what you need to if you’re serious about playing great golf. I’m sure at some point, the people at these tournaments who decide on sponsor exemptions look at who goes to Q-School and tries to do it themselves. Because they know you’re working, you’re going. You’ve got to make an effort on your own. Some people don’t even try.”
Duval failed again. He shot 79 in the fourth round, never recovered and finished in a tie for 78th, a category that didn’t even award full status on the 2010 Nationwide Tour.
As expected, Duval got into enough tournaments and received enough sponsor exemptions to put together a decent 2010 PGA Tour schedule. And he played well enough in two tournaments -- a tie for second at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and a tie for sixth in the Frys.com Open -- so that he didn’t have to go back to school this fall.
He finished the season 101st on the money list, well inside the top 125 who get full privileges for the 2011 season. And he gets to return to The Players Championship next year for the first time since 2006.
Was going to Q-School even worth it?
Duval thinks it was worth at least a couple of sponsor exemptions he received.
“I went to Q-School knowing that I could play well and get through,” he said. “And if I didn’t, that my status over 15 years and support of these tournaments would be remembered. But I didn’t count on that entirely. I still went. Because I think it shows I’m doing all I can.”