King For A Day
TJ. Vogel knew he had broken a record—an unofficial record, but a record nevertheless. His six-under-par 65 at The Resort at Glade Springs on July 2 in West Virginia made him the medalist in the Monday qualifier for A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, which would begin three days later.
Vogel, 27, was one of four players to Monday-qualify for The Greenbrier, and it was the seventh time in the 2017-'18 PGA Tour season that he had "Mondayed," or "four-spotted," into one of four berths in a tournament.
"I knew Patrick Reed had done it six times in a year , so when I made it for a seventh time, I knew it was some sort of record," says Vogel, who pushed the record to eight in August. "My buddies had started talking to me about it when I made it at the Byron, because that was my fifth one."
Players don't aspire to holding Monday records. Playing on Monday generally means you don't have enough status to get into PGA Tour events or—in most cases—Web.com Tour events. But there is a certain art to qualifying on Monday, because anywhere from 80 to 100 players—many of them PGA Tour veterans—usually play for those four spots.
"You have to approach it almost like match play," says Reed, who played in 12 events as a rookie in 2012—half of them out of Monday qualifiers. "Every hole is important. You have to try to birdie every hole, be very aggressive. Because there's almost no score that's guaranteed to be low enough. If you think being five under after six holes is good enough, you probably aren't going to make it. You have to come out firing."
Jason Gore, who has gone from Mondays to being a PGA Tour winner, then back to Mondays, remembers a Monday in New Orleans a few years back in which he shot 64 and went to a nearby barbecue place to celebrate.
"By the time we sat down, I was tied for the last playoff spot," he says. "I decided to finish my barbecue and go back to the golf course for the playoff, and I made it."
Although players use the term "medalist" to describe the player with the lowest score, there are no medals—unlike at USGA qualifiers. And there's no money for advancing.
"They give you a player packet that will get you registered [for the PGA Tour event], into the locker room and onto the golf course," says Chase Seiffert. "Honestly, that's all you really want."
Seiffert, 27, is one of five players who converted a Monday qualifier into a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this season. He had a very good college career at Florida State and bounced around mini-tours before Monday-qualifying three times in 2017. His best finish was a T-43 at the Travelers Championship, which earned him a then-career-high $19,869. He returned to Hartford this past June and again Monday-qualified.
Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
"I think doing it in the same tournament two years in a row was a big help," he says. "I knew the golf course, and liked it. I knew I could play well there because I had played well the first two rounds the year before. So I teed it up on Thursday feeling confident." Almost everyone with experience in Monday qualifying says the same thing: Thursday almost always feels good; Friday, not so much. "It is the elephant in the room," Vogel says. "You get to Friday, and you're trying not to think about the cut. I tell myself that the cut isn't my goal, getting on the leader board is my goal. If your goal is to make the cut, then you're going to find yourself around the cut line."
Vogel had just that experience at The Greenbrier, shooting one-under-par 69 both days. The cut was three under.
"It's nice to know that I've done something kind of cool on Mondays," he says. "Every week now when I show up on Tuesday at a tournament site, my friends who are on tour say, 'Again?' I know what I've done isn't easy."
Like most who play Mondays, Vogel knew exactly where he stood on the FedEx Cup points list, even though technically he was nowhere. The tour doesn't officially credit nonmembers with points, but if they accumulate enough points unofficially, they earn a spot in the Web.com finals, a four-tournament grind that leads 25 players to the PGA Tour and everyone else to at least some status on the Web.com. Through the Barbasol Championship, Vogel had 51 points—42½ of them from his T-16 finish at Valspar. He had checked early in the year and found that 82 FedEx points had been enough to get into last year's Web.com finals. That became his goal. "I pretty much decided after Valspar to just play in the PGA Tour Mondays," he says. "The Web Mondays aren't as difficult, but those events don't have as much potential value."
Vogel made an eighth Monday before the Wyndham Championship, the last regular-season tour event, surviving a four-for-three playoff after shooting 66. Knowing he probably needed a top-25 finish to make the Web.com finals, he missed the cut by a shot. Vogel went home with the unofficial Monday-qualifying record but not with what he wanted most. Next stop: Q school.
PAYING UP TO TRY YOUR LUCK
Web.com Mondays cost the same as PGA Tour Mondays—$450 for nonmembers and $100 for members—but there are generally 12 spots available, and you're less likely to encounter players who have had success on tour.
Cost is important to those who play on Mondays. That's why Patrick and Justine Reed often traveled through the night to qualifiers, slept a couple of hours in their car and then headed for the first tee.
Qualifying to play on Thursday earns a player only the coveted player packet. To save money, players often do without a caddie and, more often than not, travel by car. In some ways, it's a throwback to the old days on tour when most players traveled that way from event to event.
That's also why Seiffert's finish at Hartford was life-changing. "Now I can make decisions based on what's best for my golf, not on cost," he says. "If I drive, it will only be because that's the easiest way to get where I'm going."
Most players estimate that qualifying on a Monday but failing to make the cut costs about $1,000 for the week, including travel, entry fees, hotel (usually as inexpensive as possible) and food.
Qualifying events draw 80 to 100 players—a mix of tour veterans, youngsters and locals who think it’s worth $450 to tee it up for four spots.
In Charlotte, where Vogel was also the medalist, some of the other players who did not make the four-player cut were past PGA Tour winners Tommy Gainey, Frank Lickliter, Ken Duke and D.J. Trahan. There were other familiar names, including past U.S. Amateur champion and U.S. Open runner-up Ricky Barnes, five-time Web.com winner Mathew Goggin and tour veterans like Cliff Kresge, Cameron Tringale, Steve Allan and Kyle Reifers.
That's a pretty typical Monday field—a mix of veterans trying to return to the tour, youngsters trying to make it to the tour and locals who think it's worth $450 to tee it up with guys who have played on the tour—some just to say they did it; others because occasionally one will make it to the field.
"It's a crowded locker room when you walk in on a Monday," Reed says. "There's no one stopping anyone from walking in, so you've got players, families, agents, club reps. It's a lot quieter on Thursday."
SHIFT TO THE ALL-EXEMPT TOUR
Once upon a time, Mondays were a rite of passage for almost everyone who played on tour. Until 1983, only 60 players were fully exempt. Everyone else played on Monday to earn a spot in the field. When the "all-exempt" tour came into existence, the tour saved four slots for Monday qualifiers. That's when the events became known as four-spotters. And it's not four-and-ties—playoffs are the norm for the final spot or spots.
Since the all-exempt tour came on line in 1983, three players have won coming out of a Monday: Kenny Knox at the 1986 Honda Classic, Fred Wadsworth at the Southern Open later that year, and 24 years later, Arjun Atwal at the Wyndham Classic. That's the list.
More realistic—though still difficult—is a top-10 finish, which not only makes you a good deal of money and is worth a lot of FedEx Cup points, it grants you a spot in the next non-invitational event on the schedule.
Five players accomplished that feat in the 2017-'18 season: John Oda (T-3 at the Barracuda Championship), Scott Strohmeyer (T-4 at the Sanderson Farms Championship), Trey Mullinax (T-8 at Valspar), Julian Suri (T-8 at Houston) and Seiffert (T-9 at Hartford).
‘What you figure out eventually is, hard as it is to get through a Monday, it’s just a beginning, not an ending.’
Seiffert's comfort level with TPC River Highlands helped him shoot 66 on Thursday. Then the cut nerves kicked in, and he shot 71 on Friday, managing to survive the cut with a shot to spare. More relaxed on Saturday, he shot 67, moving up to T-22. That was when a top-10 finish became possible.
"I was at breakfast on Sunday with my mom and my teacher, David Hanson, who had come up to caddie for me," he says. "I told them, 'I'm going to treat this as my Monday qualifier for The Greenbrier. I know I have to go low, shoot maybe five or six under to get to the top 10, but I'm on a golf course I like, and I'm playing well, so why not go for it?' "
As it turned out, six under was the magic number that day, and Seiffert hit it on the head, shooting 64. At one point on the back nine, he was seven under for the day and 13 under for the tournament. "Walking off 14 green, winning actually occurred to me," he says. "I figured it would take at least 15 under, but I wasn't that far from it. I hadn't looked at a board all day. When I didn't birdie 15 [a drivable par 4], I looked at a board. I knew I wasn't going to win, but I was thinking that one more birdie would lock a top 10. So, I ended up bogeying 17."
As it turned out, he hung on to finish T-9, though there was some suspense waiting out the last few holes. He, his mom and Hanson drove to a nearby restaurant to eat and wait. "We didn't eat much at first," he says. "We were checking our phones pretty constantly. Finally, I figured out that mathematically,
I couldn't finish out of the top 10 because of the players still on the golf course. After that, we ate very well."
That finish earned Seiffert $189,000—$169,131 more than he'd ever made in a golf tournament. It was also worth 75 FedEx Cup points, almost assuring him of being one made cut away from the Web.com finals. Two weeks later, he staggered to a 73 in the first round at The Greenbrier. With nothing to lose, he came back to shoot 65 on Friday. That left him one shot outside the cut line.
Painful. Even so, the glow of Hartford and the check he received there lingered.
"For me, that's life-changing money," he says. "It means I can fly more often if I want to and hire a caddie when I have to play on Mondays."
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
PATRICK REED'S PATH
Many players, even those who have played on tour, carry their bags or take a pullcart on Mondays rather than pay for a caddie.
Reed was prepared to carry his bag before going out on tour to try Mondays in 2012 when Justine volunteered to caddie.
"I laughed at her," Reed says. "She's five-feet nothing and 100 pounds, soaking wet.
I said to her, 'The bag weighs almost as much as you do, and my driver's taller than you.' She just laughed and said, 'Try me.'
"So, we went out on a brutally hot Houston day. After nine holes, I was hot, sweaty, done. I said, 'OK, that's enough.' She insisted we keep going. By the time we finished 18, I was completely dragging. She was fine. Moral of the story: She's a lot tougher than I am." Justine caddied for Reed through the year of Monday qualifiers, through his first win on tour in 2013 and gave the bag up only after she became pregnant with their first child.
Many players don't have the luxury of a wife, fiancee or girlfriend to caddie for them, which is why many of them go it alone on Monday. If they qualify for the tournament, they get a caddie—even though there's no guarantee they'll make any money until they make the cut. "It's all very nerve-wracking," says Austin Cook, who survived three Mondays in 2014 and 2015 before earning full tour status and then winning the RSM Classic last fall. "What you figure out eventually is, hard as it is to get through a Monday, it's just a beginning, not an ending.
"You have to take a deep breath after you make a Monday and then tell yourself, OK, now it's time to get STARTED."
Cook was as good as anyone at taking advantage of Mondays. He finished T-13 at Memphis in 2014, T-11 at Houston in 2015 and T-6 at Barbasol later that year—which got him into Canada—where he finished T-7.
"You learn a lot about not relaxing during a round playing Mondays," he says. "But one of the best things about winning is knowing I don't have to play Mondays again."
That's because a win guarantees a two-year exemption on tour. But it doesn't guarantee you won't ever play on a Monday again.
Atwal has entered a few Mondays this year, as have many other past winners, including Stuart Appleby, who has nine PGA Tour victories. "It was nice when they put the nickname, Mr. Monday, on me," Reed says. "But I prefer my current nickname—Captain America [based on his play in the Ryder Cup]—more. A lot more."
Vogel certainly understands that. He has been labeled The King of Mondays this year. He missed the cut at The Greenbrier by one and then had to play the Monday qualifier at the John Deere with borrowed clubs after an airline lost his set. He shot a solid 68 but missed qualifying by two shots. That meant he had four tournaments left to four-spot and earn the roughly 30 FedEx points he still needed to take the next step in his career—ultimately to no avail.
The end of Seiffert's quest might have been even more frustrating. Three times he missed playing off for a spot by one shot. He missed by two shots in Canada and, finally, clearly worn out, he didn't come close in Greensboro, shooting 72 when 66 played off.
Seiffert had the memory of Hartford and the $189,000 check to comfort him. Vogel knew he was now part of PGA Tour lore. For both men, 2018 was a year of clear progress.
It was also an experience neither wants to live through again. Like everyone else who plays on Mondays, they don't want to see a golf course on that day for a long, long time.