Polland Follows 64 with 66, Now T23 in Web.com Q-School Finals
December 9, 2018
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Casey Martin played on the golf team at Stanford University with Tiger Woods during the 1990's. Martin went on to play for a while on the PGA Tour, but he wasn't as successful as his former teammate and gave up trying to make a living as a tournament golfer in 2005. He didn't give up the game, however. He went into coaching and after one season as a volunteer assistant at the University of Oregon, he as named the Ducks' head coach in 2006. In 2016, he led them to the NCAA Division I championship in 2016.
Norman Xiong was a junior golf prodigy who left high school early to begin playing for Oregon in January of 2017. He won the Phil Mickelson Award as the nation's top freshman that spring. That summer, he won the Western Amateur, was named to the Walker Cup team and went 3-0-1 for the U.S. team. He then played so well for Oregon during the 2017-18 season that he was the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy winner, collecting college golf's two biggest prizes -- the Jack Nicklaus Award and the Fred Haskins Award.
All of which tended to remind Martin of Tiger Woods, and Martin has said that Xiong is a lot like El Tigre at the same age. Xiong turned 20 on Nov. 9.
So far this week in the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Q-School, Xiong has done nothing to suggest otherwise. Xiong is now a professional, trying to gain status on the Web.com for the 2019 season, and he pretty much locked that up on Saturday by shooting a 7-under-par 65 on the Devils Claw course at Whirlwind Golf Club, one of two courses being used for the qualifying (Whirlwind's Cattail is the other course). That gave him a 54-hole total of 193 (minus 23) and has him in a three-way tie for first place.
Florida All-American Andy Zhang, the 2018 SEC champ, is also at 193, after a third-round 64, and so is former Virginia star Jimmy Stanger, who posted a second consecutive 63. Zhang concluded his round at Devils Claw on Saturday by holing a 120-yard wedge shot for an eagle 2 at the 442-yard 18th.
The Final Stage medalst will have fully exempt status for all of the next Web.com season. Those who finish second through 10th (plus ties) will be fully exempt through the third re-shuffle, meaning they will have 12 guaranteed starts. Those who finish 11th through 40th (plus ties) will be fully exempt until the second reshuffle (eight guaranteed starts).
There's a lot of pressure on the guys in this tournament -- basically, they're playing for a year of their lives -- but it doesn't seem to be afftecting the scores, which are really low.
As an example, Ben Polland, the Bloomington Jefferson High School alumnus who won on the PGA LatinoAmerica Tour early this year, shot 64 Friday in the second round and followed that with a 66 on Saturday. He's 15 under par (201) and tied for 23rd going into his final round Sunday at Cattail. But he doesn't have any margin for error, because he's only one stroke ahead of the Bubble Number -- 202.
Sixteen players are tied at 202 for 37th place.
There are four stages in the Web.com Q-School process, a Preliminary Stage, plus the First, Second and Final Stages. Polland, who won the National PGA Assistant Professional (Club Pro) Championship in 2016, was exempt from the first three stages by virtue of being 10th on the LatinoAmerica Tour money list this year.
Nick Heinen, the former two-time Resorters champ from Oklahoma, is in the field, too. He's put together three respectable rounds and is 8 under par -- 67-70-71--208 -- but he's mired in a tie for 83rd (out of 135 players in all), and would need something like a 62 or 63 on Sunday at Devils Claw to have any chance of cracking the top 40. Even if he doesn't make the top 40, though, he will at least have partial status for the Web.com next year. The problem is that partial status doesn't get you into very many tournaments if you're well down the list of "Others."
(The top 40 finishers and ties will get fully exempt status for the 2018 Web.com Tour season)
At Whirlwind Golf Club
Cattail Course (par 72, 7,334 yards)
Devils Claw Course (par 72, 7,029 yards)
T1. Jimmy Stanger 67-63-63--193
T1. Andy Zhang 63-66-64--193
T1. Norman Xiong 65-63-65--193
4. Timothy Madigan 66-65-63--194
T23. Ben Polland 71-64-66--201
Magic number after 54 holes: 202 (16-way tie for 37th place)
T83. Nick Heinen 67-70-71--208