December 4, 2008

2008 Q-School Updates

Michelle Wie gains LPGA card; Frazar runs away while Begay and Berganio roll in

Golf Digest Digital writers Ron Sirak and John Strege are on the scene at the final stage of LPGA Tour and PGA Tour Q school. Follow their reports throughout each day from Daytona Beach, Fla. and La Quinta, Calif. as players chase the card.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 8

LA QUINTA, Calif. (4 p.m. PST): Harrison Frazar was a landslide winner at Q school, coasting to an eight-stroke victory that had taken root with the 59 he recorded on the Nicklaus Tournament Course on Saturday.

Returning to the same venue on Monday, Frazar went out in 31 and birdied the first two holes on the back, putting him seven under par through 11 holes en route to a 67 and a 108-hole total of 32-under par 400. James Nitties and Derek Fathauer were second.

The drama came elsewhere, two veterans providing much of it. Notah Begay III and David Berganio, both of whom have battled debilitating back injuries that threatened their careers, delivered in the clutch and regained their PGA Tour exemptions.

Begay was two strokes off the number late in his round when he reeled off consecutive birdies on his 15th, 16th and 17th holes on the Stadium Course. A par on 18 gave him a 67 and tied him for 11th.

Berganio, meanwhile, began his round tied for 25th, then made seven birdies and no bogeys in a round of 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course to finish in a tie for seventh.

"It's been a long time," Berganio said. "Five-and-a-half years trying to fix my back. It's been a long journey."

LA QUINTA, Calif. (12:10 p.m. PST): It has become apparent that Harrison Frazar is going to win the final stage of Q school. The only question is his margin of victory.

Frazar, who vaulted to the lead with a 59 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course on Saturday, shot a five under par 31 on the front nine there today to open a seven-stroke lead.

Josh Teater, meanwhile, was at 19 under with four holes to play and probably needed only to par out to get his PGA Tour card. Instead, he hit two balls into the water that surrounds the green at the par-5 15th hole of the Nicklaus Tournament course and made a triple-bogey 8 to fall to a tie for 33rd.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (10:30 a.m. PST): Y.E. Yang of South Korea is five under par through nine holes on the Nicklaus Tournament Course to jump from a tie for 29th to a tie for seventh.

Josh Teater is four-under par through nine holes on the Nicklaus course to jump from a tie for 29th to a tie for 19th.

Garrett Willis is headed in the opposite direction. Willis is even through seven holes on the Nicklaus course to drop to a tie for 35th. He began the round tied for 21st.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (8:45 a.m. PST): All but four of the players in the top 37 entering the final round of Q school are playing the Nicklaus Tournament Course today, giving them a distinct advantage. The Nicklaus Tournament Course is playing almost two strokes easier through five rounds, (69.359 average to 71.321).

Notah Begay III (tied for 21st), Wil Collins (tied for 25th), Rich Barcelo and Hunter Haas (each tied for 29th) are the only players in the top 37 who will play the Stadium Course.

SUNDAY, DEC. 7

LA QUINTA, Calif. (3:45 p.m. PST): The drama isn't atop the leaderboard at a Q school, but down near 25th place in a tournament that rewards only the top 25 with PGA Tour cards. Entering Monday's final round, that precinct is crowded.

Four players are tied for 21st, one shot ahead of four players tied for 25th, who are one shot ahead of nine players tied for 29th. The number of players who still have a shot is incalculable given the vulnerability of the golf courses, as Notah Begay III demonstrated on Sunday.

Begay made the biggest move, shooting a nine-under par 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course to jump from a tie for 95th to a tie for 21st.

"I pulled a rabbit out of my hat there," he said. "I hit it great the last two days. Yesterday, I had 11 looks inside 15 feet and only made one. I was eventually going to start making them, but I didn't know whether it was going to happen today, tomorrow or next year."

LA QUINTA, Calif. (2:30 p.m. PST): David Berganio, 39, was beginning to forge a lucrative career that held the potential to deliver even more before a chronic disk problem in his back curtailed his productivity and threatened him with early retirement. Today, six years after he last played a full schedule, he's on the brink of resuming his PGA Tour career.

Entering Monday’s final round, he stands at 14 under par, tied for 25th. The top 25 receive PGA Tour exemptions for 2009 and while Berganio is on the bubble, he likes his position nonetheless.

"I’ve always been an underdog," he said. "I like clawing and scratching."

Berganio lost a playoff to Phil Mickelson in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic down the street, on the Palmer Course at PGA West, in 2002, after which his career began to unravel as a result of his back.

"I'm not 100 percent yet, but I've learned to manage my practice time," he said Sunday. "I practice less and tell myself I’m ready."

LA QUINTA, Calif. (12:20 p.m. PST): Chris Riley was once ranked 22nd in the world and was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2002, yet he hasn't been exempt on the PGA Tour since 2005. He is moving to threshold of rectifying that. Riley, who turns 35 on Monday, is one under par today and has moved into a tie for 20th.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (2:43 p.m. EST): All three made par on the par-5 16th hole, Yang making a fine two-putt from 45 feet, Lewis an up-and -down chip from 25 feet and Wie barely missing an 18-foot birdie try. Wie had her bad cop/good cop thing going on the 17th, mis-hitting her tee shot on the par-3 30 yards short of the green then chiping in for birdie to get to 12 under. Lewis knocked in a nine-footer for birdie to get to 17 under and Yang made par.

Lewis birdied the 18th to finish off a three under 69 to win Q school at 18 under by three strokes over Yang, who finished second at 15 under. Anna Grzebien was third at 14 under, closing with a 65. Wie's final-round 74 put her at 12 under, tied for seventh, easily good to enough to earn her 2009 LPGA card.

There was no playoff as exactly 20 players finished at five under par or better.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (2 p.m. EST): In a perfect example of the course-management focus she has maintained all week, Wie had a wood in her hand to go for the green on the par-5 13th in two. But rather than flirt with the pond on the right side she switched to an iron and hit a lay-up shot. While four strokes behind Lewis, she realized the goal here is not so much to win as it is to finish top 20.

All three parred the 13th, but Wie lost another shot on the par-3 14th when she leaked her tee shot into the right bunker and couldn't get up and down, missing from seven feet. Lewis and Yang again made pars. All three made par on No. 15, leaving Lewis at 16 under par, Yang at 14 and Wie 11.

The number to get a card continues to be five under.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (12:59 p.m. EST): Wie made her first birdie of the day on No. 10, curling in a 12 footer, but it was only good enough to keep pace with Lewis, who made a seven footer. Yang missed from eight feet and made par. That put Lewis at 16 under par, Yang at 15 and Wie at 12.

Yang made her first poor swing of the day on the 11th, jerking her appproach into the left bunker and making bogey while Lewis and Wie made par. Perhaps hoping to see her potential marquee star get her card, LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens, who recently had foot surgery, showed up in a cart to watch.

All three missed birdie opportunities in the 15-foot range on No. 12, after which Lewis was one under for the day and 16 under for the tournament. Yang is at one under and 14 under, while Wie remains at two over and 12 under.

The projected number to get into the Top 20 is five under.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (9:20 a.m. PST): Two years of frustration aren't necessarily erased by one day of brilliance for Harrison Frazar, for whom the 59 that he shot on the Nicklaus Tournament Course on Saturday is less a cause for celebration than something on which to build.

Indeed, Frazar intended to have a single beer before turning his focus to the final two rounds of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. Frazar starts the homestretch of the tournament today (his tee time is 10:10 a.m. PST) with a four-stroke advantage on the field and newfound confidence that went missing the past two years.

"It shows me that I can make putts," Frazar said. "Probably the biggest thing for me today was I was proud of the swings I made on the last couple of holes."

Frazar called the two swings he made at 18 on Saturday "probably my two best swings all year." Needing a par to shoot 59, he split the fairway with his tee shot, then hit his second right over the flag. Two putts later, he had a score that bore no resemblance to the way he played the past two years when he missed 31 cuts in 55 starts.

Of more importance than a single round, Frazar said, is playing six rounds well enough to return to the PGA Tour full time. He is acutely aware that one bad round is enough to derail his bid.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Noon EST): As the clock approached 12 p.m., the sparse gallery following the final group grew to a couple hundred. The early round jitters also seemed to ease as Lewis, Wie and Yang all made routine pars on the Par- 4 seventh hole. Lewis stiffed to four feet on No. 8 for birdie to get to 14 under, tied with Yang, who made par, both now three ahead of Wie, who also parred.

Lewis and Yang stretched their margin over Wie to four strokes when they birdied the par-5 ninth and Wie only managed a par, chunking the third shot from just yards in front of the green, leaving it short. Lewis turned in 36, Yang in 35 and Wie 39.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (11:35 a.m. EST): Easily the most difficult scoring conditions of the week -- cold, just enough wind to get into your head and it being a Sunday -- were taking their toll. After starting with three consecutive bogeys, Wie settled down with three pars and was at 11 under through six holes.. Lewis bogeyed No. 6 and was two over on the day and 13 under for the tournament. And the impressively steady Yang rattled home a seven-foot birdie on the sixth follwoing a 10-footer for birdie on No. 5 to get to one under and 14 for the tournament.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (8 a.m. PST): After four days of weather on which it would have been impossible to improve in this California desert -- sunny, mid-70s, no wind -- rain is in the forecast today. Blue skies have been replaced by a blanket of clouds. At that, the temperature is still supposed to reach 72 here.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (10:30 a.m. EST): A few dozen hearty souls huddled in scarves and winter jackets shivered around the first tee at the Champions Course when the last group of Lewis, Wie and Yang teed off.

Playing under a bright sun that belied a brisk wind that made 50-degree mercury readings feel more like 30 degrees, both Wie and Yang missed short par putts on the first hole as Lewis gutted out a par to remain at 15 under par, two strokes ahead of Wie and three clear of Yang. Wie lost another stroke on the par-4 second when both Lewis and Yang birdied. Wie then missed the par-3 third hole left then missed on a 5-foot par save to lose another stroke as both Lewis and Yang made par.

"The plan is to win today," said one source familiar with the Wie camp. "That would put to rest a lot of negative memories." Early on, the chances of that did not look good. Wie was three over through four holes to fall to 11 under.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (9:50 a.m. EST): Unless something almost beyond comprehension happens -- a disqualification or a shockingly high number -- Michelle Wie will end Sunday with a 2009 LPGA Tour card in her hand. One stroke off the pace set by Stacy Lewis and nine strokes clear of 20th place -- the final spot awarded playing privileges for next year -- Wie entered the final round of the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament as close to a sure thing success as this game offers.

With rounds of 69, 65, 72 and 68, the 19-year-old Stanford student is at 14 under par 274. Interestingly enough, her two playing partners Sunday on the Champions Course have both beaten her when they have gone head-to-head this week. Lewis notched a 71 to Wie's 72 on the Legends Course Friday and Amy Yang, who is at 275, needed only 67 strokes on the Champions Course on Saturday.

There will be a few twists thrown into Sunday's final round absent all week. First, the mercury was resting only at 53 degrees when Lewis, Wie and Yang teed off at 9:46 a.m.. Secondly, the wind that had been virtually non-existent through the first 72 holes of the 90-hole event, was blowing steadily at 10 mph and gusting to 20.

And then there was perhaps the most important variable: It is the last round. That fact alone tightens the old collar around the throat. Likely, the ones feeling that pressure the most, however, are those farther down the leader board among the 70 players making the cut at two-over 290.

The top 20 finishers Sunday get fully exempt cards for 2009 and going into the final round there were exactly 20 players at five under or lower. Players finishing 21 to 40 receive non-exempt status for next year, which makes them eligible to get into some tournaments, and that number was two under as the day began.

No. 70 began the day only four strokes out of No. 40, and No. 40 teed it up only three strokes from the magic No. 20. So while Lewis, Wie and Yang will be happy to tread water on Sunday, but there were a lot of others who need to make waves.

SATURDAY, DEC. 6

LA QUINTA, Calif. (3:10 p.m. PST): Harrison Frazar made seven consecutive birdies to shoot 13 under par 59 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course.

Frazier, who had four birdies and an eagle on the front nine, holds a four-shot lead on the field.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (1:55 p.m. PST): The magical number of 59 momentarily entered D.J. Brigman's field of vision Saturday, but the fact that it did not materialize did nothing to dampen his spirits.

Brigman still shot a nine under par 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course in a round that came within one errant shot of qualifying as flawless. He made 11 birdies and a double-bogey, and climbed from a tie for 85th into the top 20.

"Except for one bad swing, I hit it left in the water at eight (his 17th), I was hitting it where I was looking all day long," he said.

When he got to nine under through 14 holes, he began pondering 59. "I figured I had to birdie in to do it," he said, "and when I parred six (his 15th hole) I still figured if I could make eagle on the par-5 seventh I'd have a chance."

LA QUINTA, Calif. (1:45 p.m. PST): John Huston relied on a pair of fortuitous bounces to fashion a seven under par 65 on the Stadium Course that vaulted him into contention through four rounds.

On the ninth and 13th holes, Huston hit errant shots that hit railroad ties adjacent to ponds and each time the ball bounded onto land, enabling him to save pars.

"I was fortunate today," he said. "I got a couple of really nice breaks. Hopefully I'll get on a roll tomorrow (Sunday) and play more toward winning than making it on the number. That's when it gets hard, trying to make it on the number."

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (3:07 p.m. EST): Michelle Wie did what she had to to in Saturday's fourth round of LPGA Q School. Her 68 on the Champions Course put her at 14 under par through 72 holes. That's a single shot behind leader Stacy Lewis, but it is a safe 10 strokes away from what would be the playoff Sunday for one of the 20 spots on tour next year.

Wie got to 14 under -- and four under on the day -- with a four-foot birdie putt on the par-5 16th after a fine shot from a greenside bunker. She protected that with two pars coming ion to finish off a rather ho-hum 68.

Yang putted for birdie on every hole -- albeit from the fringe on No. 17 -- as she authored a masterful 67, her only bogey coming on a three-put, finishing at 13 under. Mayorkas also broke par, fashioning a 69 and is at 11 under going into Sunday's final 18 holes.

Wie, who continued her verbal boycott of the media, promises to talk when the 90-hole marathon is over Sunday. It seems pretty safe to say what she will be telling us is what her plans are now that she has a LPGA Tour card.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (12:05 p.m. PST): D.J. Brigman birdied four consecutive straight holes on his back nine on the Nicklaus Tournament Course to move to nine under par through 14 holes. Brigman has moved from a tie for 85th to a tie for seventh.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (2:10 p.m. EST): Wie has definitely dialed it down with her driver. Call it "In Search of the Elusive Fairway." Don't get me wrong, she does have a gear few others have, but she has learned she doesn't always have to use it. At least she has attacked LPGA International that way this week, with a controlled, easy swing.

After a 10-minute wait on the tee of the par-3 14th hole -- should I rant about pace of play again? -- Yang and Mayorkas made their first bogeys of the day while Wie had a two-putt par. Yang three-putted from 35 feet and Mayorkas failed to get up and down from a bunker.

All three made par on the 15th hole, Wie after driving into a fairway bunker then hitting a greenside bunker. Through 15 holes Wie was three under on the day and Yang five under, putting them both at 13 under for the tournament. Mayorkas was two under and 10 under. Shiho Oyama and Stacy Lewis are tied for the lead at 14 under.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (10:55 a.m. PST): It once would have been inconceivable to think 59 was in play at either the Stadium Course or the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, and though it isn’t likely to happen here this week, the perfect scoring conditions at least allow it to enter the discussion.

John Huston was six-under through 11 holes on the Stadium Course on Saturday morning, while D.J. Brigman shot a five-under par 31 on his front nine (the back) on the Nicklaus Course. Four rounds of 63 already have been recorded this week.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (10:45 a.m. PST): PGA Tour veteran John Huston, who is attempting to regain his exempt status for the first time since 2006, is among those making substantial moves on Saturday. Huston had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine of the Stadium Course, then birdied 10 to move from a tie for 36th to a tie for third.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (1 :05 p.m. EST): Not to carry the NASCAR metaphor too far, but let's talk about the number of golf carts following the Wie group. Any given fairway looks like the start of the Daytona 500. In the Valvoline Budwesier Goodyear No. 138 cart is the Golf Channel. The Preparation H Advil No. 117 cart has some marshals whose main purpose seems to be to yell, "Cart coming through, move aside please." Others have rules officials, security folks, tour officials, tour bloggers and some geezers with no apparent function who seem to have gotten lost on their way to the early bird special at Red Lobster.

Yang keep her momentum with yet another birdie -- her fifth in eight holes -- when she rolled in a 20-footer while Wie and Matorkas both made par. All three made two-putt pars on the eleventh, Yang missing once again from inside 10 feet. Yang missed another short one -- six feet -- on No. 12. Meanwhile Wie rolled in an 18-footer to join Yang at 13 under. Mayorkas nailed a 4-footer for birdie to get to 11 under.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (12:15 p.m. EST): By the seventh hole , the gallery had grown from a couple dozen to a couple hundred. The sun is also fighting its way through the cloud cover. Along with the temperatures the players heated up as well, all three making birdie on No. 7. Mayorkas knocked in an 18-footer, Wie hit from 15 feet and Yang made her third birdie in five holes, this from three feet.

Yang, who won the German Open of the Ladies European Tour in May where Wie had her best finish of the year at sixth place, continues to impress. She hit it to seven feet on No. 8, but missed the birdie try. Wie, meanwhile, made her first poor swing of the day, hitting a snap hook into the hazard and, after a penalty drop, made bogey. Mayorkas had another routine par.

Yang's eight-foot birdie on No. 9 gave her a 32 that could have been a lot lower. She missed four birdie tries inside 10 feet. Wie also turned at 12 under, making a four-foot birdie on the ninth for a 34. Mayorkas also shot a 34 and was at 10 under par.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (11:30 a.m. EST): Wie broke through with a four-foot birdie putt on No. 4 as word filtered from behind that Oyama had birdied the opening three holes. On the par-5 fifth hole, Wie's birdie try from 12 feet took a peek in the hole but refused to fall. Yang's putt from 4 feet did the same thing. Then Mayorkas hit from two feet for her first birdie of the day.

Yang knocked in a four-footer on the par 3 sixth hole while Wie and Mayorkas both made pars. Through six holes, Yang is two under on the day with Wie and Mayorkas one under.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (10:45 a.m. EST): Wie began play in Saturday's fourth round on the Champions Course at LPGA International at 10 under par, two strokes behind leader Mollie Fankhauser, one back of Shiho Oyama and tied with Stacey Lewis for third. But the most important number is that she is seven strokes clear of being tied for 20th place, the spot that would playoff Sunday for the last 2009 tour card.

Wie's two playing partners in the penultimate threesome -- Amy Yang and Charlotte Mayorkas -- began play another two back at eight under. Teeing off under overcast skies, mild temperatures, little wind and a sparse gallery of a few dozen, all three made pars on the first hole, Mayorkas needing a 4-footer for her save. They all made two-putt pars on No. 2 then Yang made the first birdie of the day in the threesome with a 14-footer on the third hole. Wie and Mayorkas both made their third consecutive par.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (7:20 a.m. PST): Entering fourth-round play today, several familiar names remain outside the top 25, including former PGA Tour winners John Huston, Chris Riley, Olin Browne, Carlos Franco, Robert Gamez, Jason Gore and Notah Begay III.

Of that group, Huston, Riley and Browne are best positioned to make a move; each is tied for 36th, two strokes short of the top 25. Franco and Gamez are tied for 65th, four strokes out, while Gore and Begay are tied for 85th, five strokes in arrears.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (10 a.m. EST): With apologies to Sarah Palin, I can see the Daytona International Speedway from my hotel room. I'm not sure that qualifies as an expert on foreign affairs, but I do know something about speed on the golf course. Here's two tips to those LPGA Q school finals to get around LPGA International faster: Don't mark two-foot putts -- putt them. And every shot doesn't require a two-minute conversation with your caddie.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (8 a.m. EST): Michelle Wie could probably shoot a pair of 74s this weekend at LPGA International and still walk away with her tour card for the 2009 season. But there has been absolutely no indication in the way she has played the first three rounds at Q school finals that she will post any numbers that high during the final 36 holes of this 90-hole endurance test.

Yes, Wie shot a 72 on the Legends Course in Friday's second round and was beaten by both of her playing partners, Shiho Oyama and Stacey Lewis, who each recoded scores of 71. But the point of Q school is not so much to win as it is to finish in the top 20 and get one of the fully exempt cards for next year.

And the sound course management and even sounder swing Wie has displayed while playing the first 54 holes 10 under par screams that she gets it, shouts out that she is following a plan that avoids big round-killing numbers.

Wie goes into Saturday’s fourth round two strokes behind leader Mollie Fankhauser, a stroke behind Oyama and tied with Lewis. The 19-year-old Stanford student will play with Amy Yang and Charlotte Mayorkas, both at eight under par, in the penultimate group behind Fankhauser, Oyama and Lewis.

The field will be cut to the low 70 and ties after Saturday’s fourth round. On Sunday afternoon, the top 20 finishers -- and there will be a playoff for the 20th spot if needed – will be awarded fully exempt status or the 2009 season. Numbers 21 through 40 will get non-exempt status, which will get them into a lot of tournaments.

Wie is back on the Champions Course, the easier of the two layouts here, and will be able to attack with her driver, which she used only four times Friday on the tighter legends Course. Still, Wie's style of play has made it clear that attacking is not her game plan this week . She has made only two birdies in the 12 par-5 holes she has played here this week.

The goal is simply to get one of those 20 LPGA tour cards. And the way she has positioned herself after three rounds makes it virtually impossible for her not to. In that sense, Michelle Wie is already a winner. But she also enters the weekend with the most to lose of anyone in the field.

FRIDAY, DEC. 5

LA QUINTA, Calif. (3 p.m. PST): It is all or nothing for at least one player in the field, Chip Sullivan, who either finishes in the top 25 here and re-joins the PGA Tour or goes back to work.

Sullivan, 44, the winner of the PGA Professional National Championship in 2007, is the head pro at Ashley Plantation in Daleville, Va., to where he will return should he not qualify for the PGA Tour. The odds are starting to mount against him; at the midway point, he stands at two-over par 218 after a third-round 72 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course, and is well off the pace to finish among the top 25.

"I’d love to play on the PGA Tour again," said Sullivan, who played on tour in 1997. "But I have no interest in the Nationwide Tour. If I'm not out here (on the PGA Tour) I've got a wonderful job back home."

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (3:02 p.m. EST) -- As a highly interesting chess match of a round swung into the closing three holes it appeared as if Wie, Oyama and Lewis wisely had their eyes on the long-term prize -- securing a card -- rather than be seduced by the immediate gratification of beating each other. They weren't attacking as much as they were maintaining, content to play old-man par to a draw.

The first birdie of the back nine by the threesome came on No. 16 when Oyama drove into a bunker on the par-5, laying up to 170 yards then made a 30 foot putt from the fringe. Wie followed that with a 12 foot birdie of her own and both were at 11 under par, two ahead of Lewis.

After another dreadful wait on the 17th tee, Wie found the fairway with her driver employing one of her best swings of the day to rocket 25 yards past Oyama and Lewis. Pace of play, which had been wonderful until the 15th tee, grinded to a halt almost as if the players didn't want to ruin the LPGA's reputation for slow play by recording a round under five hours. The problem was in the group ahead where hopefully someone is shooting a 58. Otherwise they have no excuse.

Lewis and Oyama both hit the 17th green with their second shots and made two-putt pars. But Wie thinned her approach shot into the right front bunker, blasted to 20 and missed the putt to bogey and fall to 10 under par.

Lewis, who had made 12 consecutive pars, rolled in a 20-foot birdie on No. 18 to finish off 36-35 -- 71, and 10 under par. Wie parred to finish off a 35-37 -- 72 to remain at 10 under and Oyama was at 35-36 -- 71 for 11 under par.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (11:45 a.m. PST): Anthony Kim and Jason Day crossed paths earlier this week, a duo once linked by their potential and youth, the future of the PGA Tour. Kim, 23, was the youngest player on the PGA Tour in 2007, Day, 21, the youngest on the tour in 2008.

Kim began to deliver on his promise, winning twice in '08 and playing a starring role in the U.S. Ryder Cup victory. He was here at Q School as a spectator, in support of his friend Seung-su Han, who is in the field.

Day, meanwhile, is back at Q School by virtue of his poor play in '08, when he missed 15 cuts in 28 starts. He’s given no indication here that he’ll be back on tour in 2009, either. In the early going of the third round, Day was tied for 127th.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (2:00 p.m. EST) -- That ugly low, pull-hook swing resurfaced on No. 13 and Wie snapped her drive into the hazard, pitched out and made a bogey to fall to 10 under par. Lewis and Oyama both had two-putt pars, Oyama missing badly from five feet for birdie.

Wie went back to the 3-wood on the par-5 14th hole and missed the fairway by a yard in the left short cut. The other two split the fairway. All three hit lay-up shots then peppered the green with birdie putts, all three in the 15 to 18 foot range, and all three missed their birdie tries.

The 15th tee, a par-3, was the first time the threesome had to wait to hit a shot all day, bidding their time in silence for seven minutes. The delay was of little bother as all three made pars. Through 15 holes, they were each even par on the day leaving Wie and Oyama at 10 under par and Lewis at nine.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (1:19 p.m. EST) -- The crowd of a few hundred, the largest of the week and more than on every hole of both courses combined -- including players and caddies -- watched all three players begin the back nine with ho-hum pars. No one among the spectators is more vocal than Wie's mother Bo, who pierces the sky with frequent yells of, "Good shot, Michelle," the chorus sometimes joined by father B.J.

Wie and Lewis followed with stress-free pars on No. 11 while Oyama failed to make an up-and-down from the left greenside and fell to 10 under par.

Following a two-putt par by Lewis and after a lengthy discussion with her caddie, Tim Vickers of the Leadbetter Academy, Wie missed a 10-foot birdie try on the par-3 No. 12. Oyama also missed from eight feet. Through 12 holes, Wie is 11 under par, Oyama 10 under and Lewis at nine.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (9:40 a.m. PST): Former U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes made an early climb up the leaderboard Friday, with birdies on three of the first five holes on the Stadium Course.

Barnes moved to seven under par, tying him for 22nd, after beginning the round tied for 68th. Barnes already has a PGA Tour exemption for next year, by virtue of finishing 25th on the Nationwide Tour money list. He is here trying to improve his position on the exempt list pecking order.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (12:33 p.m. EST) -- Wie jerked her tee shot on the par-3 seventh into the left bunker, munched on some trail mix during her stroll to the green, and blasted to six feet. Lewis missed the green 10 yards right and flopped to eight feet. Oyama putted from 30 feet on the right fringe to three feet. Lewis made her par save, as did Wie and Oyama.

On the par-5 eighth hole, Wie hit a poor punch shot from 80 yards to 25 feet and made par. She has birdied only one of the 10 par-5s she has played during the 45 holes thus far. Oyama rolled in a birdie from seven feet and Lewis made a two-putt par.

All three made two-putt pars on No. 9 with Wie and Oyama turning in 35 and Lewis at 36. Halfway through the 90-hole marathon, Wie and Oyama are 11 under par with Lewis at nine under.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (11:50 a.m. EST) -- Oyama, who plays delightfully fast, got to 11 under with a 25-foot biirdie on the par-4 fourth hole. Wie kept pace two strokes back when she rolled in a 10-footer on top of Oyama. Lewis lost a stroke when she missed the green two yards long, chipped seven past and missed the par putt to join Wie at nine under.

When Wie stiffed her approach to 15 inches of the 364-yard fifth hole and converted for her second consecutive birdie, she had erased her double bogey and was back to 10 under par.

But Oyama converted from 15 feet and got to 12 under. She gave that back by driving into the hazard on No. 6. After a penalty drop and a lay-up, Oyama was lying three where Wie and Lewis were with their drives

Wie made it three birdies in a row with a 25-footer on No. 6. Lewis two-putted for par and Oyama missed from 18 feet to make double bogey. Through six holes, Wie is 11 under, Oyama 10 and Lewis nine.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (11:10 EST): For the first time this week the leaders are playing together at LPGA Q school, and more than 150 people were on hand to watch Michelle Wie, Shiho Oyama and Stacey Lewis go at it in round three on the Legends Course at LPGA International.

The Legends is the more difficult of the two courses, but once again the scoring conditions were perfect -- no wind and 70 degrees. All three hit the first green but only Lewis converted, rolling in a 20-footer to join Wie and Oyama at 10 under par. On the next hole, a 525-yard par-5, Wie found her first trouble of the week. She hit a pull-hook with a quick-swing 3-wood into the hazard from which she took a penalty drop. Tested for the first tiome this week she failed the pop quiz

After hitting a nice hard hook with a hybrid to 150 yards, Wie hit an indifferent iron to 35 feet, rolled it seven feet past and missed the comebacker to make a double bogey and fall to eight under par, two behind Lewis and Oyama. All three hit the green on the par-3 third hole, Wie the closest at seven feet. She failed to convert the birdie opportunity, however, and remained two over.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (8 a.m. PST): Perfect weather, warm and virtually no breeze, has rendered toothless two otherwise thorny courses, the Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses at PGA West, and it's reflected in these numbers: Of the 163 players in the field, 127 are under par through 36 holes. Only 25 players are over par. Nine scores of 64 or better were recorded on Thursday, including a 63 recorded by Jonathan Fricke on the more difficult Stadium Course.

The forecast in La Quinta for round three today is for more of the same, which is to say perfect: 74 degrees, light breeze. Look for more low scoring.

THURSDAY, DEC. 4

LA QUINTA, Calif. (4:15 p.m. PST): Six months into his professional career, Australian James Nitties was diagnosed with reactive arthritis, essentially setting his career back two years. Now he's leading the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament.

Nitties, 26, an alumnus of the Golf Channel show "The Big Break," shot a nine under par 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course on Thursday and stands at 12 under 132, one stroke better than Robert Garrigus and Harrison Frazar.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (3 p.m. PST): Guy Boros is leading the offspring division of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. The son of World Golf Hall of Famer Julius Boros, Guy is tied for 11th through 36 holes in his bid to return to regain a PGA Tour exemption for the first time since 2004.

Jeff Curl, whose father Rod played the PGA Tour for 20 years, is tied for 101st, while Kevin Stadler, son of former PGA Tour star and Masters champion Craig Stadler, is tied for 128th.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (2:30 p.m. EST): While Michelle Wie is the name-brand hope for the United States among those trying to earn an LPGA card for 2009, another American, Stacey Lewis, is a pretty compelling story in her own right.

The 23-year-old former Curtis Cup player via the University of Arkansas was in third place at Q school finals at nine under par, one stroke behind Wie and Shiho Oyama after two rounds of the 90-hole ordeal. Lewis birdied her final hole Thursday for a 66 on the Legends Course to go with her 69 on the Champions in the first round.

Being a professional golfer is not a future many would have forecast for Lewis when she was a child. Diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 11, she wore a back brace for 7 1/2 years only to find out the procedure failed to realign her curved spine and that she needed surgery. When stricken with the condition as a child, and while the bones are still growing, a brace is worn to try to coax the spine into its proper position and avoid corrective surgery. The corset-like device fits from the armpits to the hips.

Lewis wore her brace 18 or more hours a day, usually only removing it to play golf. It was anything but comfortable.

At the end of her senior year in high school, The Woodlands, Texas, native had a rod and five screws placed in her back to straighten the spine. Following surgery, she was in a race for another three months and then endured six more months during which she couldn't bend over or lift anything weighing more than five pounds. After red-shirting her freshman year at Arkansas, Lewis joined the Razorbacks golf team in the fall of 2004 -- she trampled her peers in her first team qualifier by 20 shots -- and eventually went on to win the 2007 NCAA individual title.

Lewis concluded her amateur career in May by becoming the first player to go 5-0 in the Curtis Cup as she led the United States to a 13-7 victory over Great Britain and Ireland. She turned pro June 9 of this year, the day of the U.S. Women's Open qualifier at Eastern Hills CC in Garland, Texas, which she won by four strokes. She then made a spirited run at this year's U.S. Women's Open before finishing third, faltering with a final-round 78 she placed into amazing perspective.

"It's hard to be upset," she said. "I finished third at the U.S. Open, my first pro event."

LA QUINTA, Calif. (12:05 p.m. PST): Among the hottest hands in the field is Steve Wheatcroft, who finished first in both his first and second stage qualifying events, and was at seven under through 13 holes of the second round during the final stage.

Moreover, Wheatcroft also shot a 65 in the final round of the Miccosukee Championship on the Nationwide Tour to tie for eighth and jump to 99th on the tour money list, giving him a conditional exemption for 2009, should he need it.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (12:53 p.m. EST): A pair of eight-foot birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 , plus a par on the closing hole polished off a seven-under 65 for Wie, putting her at 10 under through two rounds of Q school.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (9:15 a.m. PST): The notion that golfers on the whole are an uninteresting lot surely has merit, but there are exceptions, some of them revealed by a cursory check of the questionnaires players at Q School are asked to fill out.

Ryan Cobb, for instance, has a Masters degree in accounting and was a senior audit associate at KPMG. One of the queries on the questionnaire pertains to something unknown about them. Cobb wrote, "That I can do a tax return, audit a Fortune 100 company, successfully ride a 10-foot wave in Costa Rica and work the ball both ways."

Scott Fawcett, meanwhile, "founded an energy company when Texas deregulated its electricity market in 2002 and ran it for seven years before trying competitive golf again." Fawcett, 35, lists among his achievements that he won the Bent Tree stroke play club championship three times. "Ha!" he wrote. "That should intimidate them."

Englishman Gary Christian, who attended Auburn and lives in Chelsea, Ala., wrote, "A mix of a lot of beer and Gator Gumbo can get an Englishman extremely excited by Auburn football."

David Robinson, 27, revealed that he became a father at 16. His daughter Carly is 11.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (11:55 a.m. EST): About the only part of Michelle Wie's game that hasn't been hitting on all cylinders here is the putter. But she took any doubt out of the equation on No. 5, a par-5, when she hit her approach from 80 to three feet and rolled in the birdie putt. That put her at four under through 14 holes of her second round and seven under for the tournament. She then rolled in a six-footer for birdie on here 15th hole to pick up another stroke.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (8:45 a.m. PST): Things are underway here at PGA Tour Q school.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (11:12 a.m. EST): Michelle Wie's first missed fairway of today's second round did not come until her 11th hole -- No. 2 on the Champions Course -- and it was by all of two yards. Not that it mattered much. She knocked her approach to nine feet and two-putted for yet another no-sweat par. She followed that with a shot to six feet on the 174-yard third hole, a putt that once again evaded the hole and she remained three under for the day and six under for the tournament.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (10:45 a.m. EST): Even when Michelle Wie is a little less than perfect she is now finding ways to make good things happen. Missing the green to the right side on the 168-yard 17th hole, she chipped in from 35 feet out of the gnarly rough to go to three under par for the day. A par on the 18th caped a 33 on her first nine and put her at 6 under par through 27 holes of the 90-hole Q school finals, four strokes behind leader Shiho Oyama of Japan, who was 10 under through 27 holes.

By the turn Wie's gallery had grown to about 100, the same as followed her in the first round.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (10 a.m. EST): Most noticeable in this latest version of Michelle Wie -- along with a more controlled swing and better fitness -- is an absence of the roller coaster rounds that have characterized her play the past two years. Through six holes Thursday, and now 24 holes of Q school, she has been in no trouble, needing only a handful of relatively routine up-and-downs to save par. Hitting every fairway on the generous Champions Course, Wie was two under through six holes of round two after rolling in an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 15 and five under for the tournament.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (9:10 a.m. EST): Perhaps it was the earlier tee time -- 8:26 off No. 10 on the Champions Course Thursday compared to 10:47 a.m. at the Legends on Wednesday -- but only a couple dozen fans were on hand for Michelle Wie's opening tee shot of the second round at LPGA Q school compared to about 100 a day ago.

Although it was a new day, Wie opened her round with the same controlled play as Wednesday, hitting the first three fairways -- two with driver -- and stiffing her approach on No. 12 to 2 feet to start out one under through three holes and four under for the tournament.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (8:15 a.m. EST): Michelle Wie moved into Day Two of the LPGA's 90-hole Q school marathon positioned perfectly like a runner drafting off those in front of her. After an opening 69 on the Legends Course at LPGA International, the 19-year-old Stanford student moved to the Champions Course tied for sixth place, five strokes behind first-round leader Shiho Oyama of Japan.

The goal of Q school is to be in the top 20 when plays is completed Sunday afternoon. Those are the lucky few who will have fully exempt playing cards for 2009. Wie, who played completely under control in Wednesday's opening round, looked very much as if finishing top 20 would be a breeze, hitting nearly every fairway and nearly every green. The pressure, however, will only build as the week progresses. This is only the five-mile mark of this marathon.

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 3

LA QUINTA, Calif. (4:45 p.m. PDT): Among the better, though least likely, names near or atop the leaderboard on day one of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament is that of Major Manning.

Manning's father Russ went to the University of Florida when one of the Gators' rivals, Alabama, had a star running back, Major Ogilvy, from whom his son's given name was taken.

His is also an unlikely name atop the leaderboard because he has never played in either a PGA Tour or a Nationwide Tour event, yet in his first round in a final stage of Q School he managed to shoot a five-under 67 on the Stadium Course at PGA West and is tied for the lead with Craig Kanada and Joey Lamielle.

Manning, 24, played college golf at Augusta State and spent 2008 playing the Hooters Tour. In April, during Masters week, he hurt his back falling from a mechanical bull at the Country Club on Washington Blvd., in Augusta.

He spent 2 1/2 months recuperating, after which he won the Capital Chevrolet Classic.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (1:45 p.m. PDT): Three players here have already qualified to play on the PGA Tour by virtue of their standing on the Nationwide Tour money list: Spencer Levin (22nd on the Nationwide Tour), Bryce Molder (23rd) and Ricky Barnes (25th).

Each has entered the Qualifying Tournament in an attempt to better his position on the exempt list going into 2009. A high finish here would improve access to tour events early in the year.

Only Molder broke fast on Wednesday, shooting a four-under par 68 that put him in a tie for 19th. Both Barnes and Levin shot even-par 72s and are tied for 104th.

DAYTONA BEACH (3:53 p.m. EST): Michelle Wie finished with birdie at the 18th, good for a three-under 69 in the first round of the final stage of LPGA Tour Q school.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (12:45 p.m. PST): The clubhouse at the Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses at PGA West is closed for renovation, which isn't an issue in and of itself, but the fact that the renovation is going on during the course of play could prove problematic for some.

About 40 yards separate the construction fence and the double green that serves the ninth and 18th holes of the Nicklaus course. Beyond the fence is a corps of workers in hard hats, none of them necessarily overly concerned with silencing their tools while players are putting. Even a generator was running during play.

As if this game and this tournament weren't hard enough.

The clubhouse, incidentally, is six weeks from completion.

DAYTONA BEACH (2:55 p.m. EST): Wie made bogey at the par 5-13th, but rebounded with a birdie at the 171-yard par-3 14th to get back to two under. She is six shots behind Shiho Oyama, who is the leader in the clubhouse after a eight-under 64.

LA QUINTA, CALIF. (10:37 a.m. PST): The torturous PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament mercifully began Wednesday under perfect weather conditions in this California desert, warm and windless.

The two PGA West courses on which this 108-hole marathon will be played, The Stadium and the Nicklaus Tourament, can be daunting in the best of conditions -- at one time, they each had a slope rating of 150, highest in Southern California. Mix in a typical desert wind and what you would have would be a replay of the first round here in the 2006 Q School, where more players shot 80 or higher (nine) than broke 70 (seven).

The benign conditions were reflected in early scoring. Craig Kanada, for instance, parred the first hole on the Nicklaus Course then birdied six straight holes to surge to an early lead.

-- John Strege

DAYTONA BEACH (1:21 p.m. EST): Michelle Wie is two under par through nine holes with birdies at the 364-yard par-4 fifth and 379-yard par-4 ninth.

DAYTONA BEACH (1 p.m. EST): Michelle Wie is one under par through seven holes after a birdie at the 364-yard par-4 fifth.

DAYTONA BEACH -- (9 a.m. PST): Players showing up at LPGA International in Daytona Beach for the first round of the 90-hole Q school final were greeted by a surprise. The Champions Course and the Legends Course both resembled undulating wedding cakes, frosted with, well, frost as the mercury plunged into the low 30s overnight.

The climatic surprise meant that Round One of Michelle Wie's first attempt to earn an LPGA Tour card will be pushed back until at least 10:32 a.m. on the Legends Course. She's one of 140 players vying for 2009 playing privileges.

The field will be cut Saturday to 70 players and ties after 72 holes and the survivors will compete for the 20 fully exempted spots in Sunday's final round. The 20 is a hard number and if there is a tie for the final spot there will be a playoff. Those finishing 21 through 40 will have non-exempt status for the 2009 season.

As always, Q school is a drill in organized chaos. Veteran caddies looking for a late-season extra check show up to try to steer young talent -- or returning veterans -- to a card. On this day, players arrived looking for officials to find out the length of the delay. The final word: One hour on the champions course and 1:15 on the Legends, pushing Wie's first tee shot back to 10:47 a.m.

-- Ron Sirak