This has been a strange PGA season so far. Other than Phil Mickelson’s win at Phoenix, and Brandt Snedeker’s win at Pebble Beach, the winner each week has either been Tiger Woods, or someone new. This week, at The Shell Houston Open, nothing has changed. Tiger didn’t make the trip to Texas, so we have another new player with a chance to win a golf tournament that will net him both status on the Tour, and a trip to Augusta.
Even if you are a Monday Qualifier, back to back -5 under par 65’s on Thursday and Friday will usually get you some attention, and so it is this week with Steve Wheatcroft. The 35-year-old journeyman golfer shot a bogey free round on Friday to get his total to -10 under par and a one-shot lead going into Saturday. Wheatcroft went out early before the wind came up and built a lead that would stand up throughout the day. Both round one leader, D.A. Points, and Jason Kokrak made runs but came up one stroke short.
Not only does he have no status on the PGA TOUR, he has only conditional status on the Web.com Tour. After missing out on a Web.com Tour event last week in Louisiana, he figured he might as well enter the Shell Houston Open qualifier Monday.
“Monday qualifiers are terrible. They’re just not fun, plain and simple,” Wheatcroft said. “I was on the PGA TOUR in ’07, played terribly. I had no status. So I had to be back to Monday qualifiers and pre-qualifiers the next year. I hate them.”
A Monday Qualifier has not won on the PGA Tour since Arjun Artwal did it at The Wyndham Championnship during the 2010 FedEx Cup playoffs. A win at Redstone would not only earn Wheatcroft a trip to Augusta, but a two-year exemption, and status on the tour. We will see on Saturday how he handles the pressure of playing in the final group.
Maybe the trend will continue, and another young player will get an opportunity to improve his position on the PGA Tour. After all, Tiger Woods is in hibernation this week, and it is time for someone else to shine.
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