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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Renner surges to medalist honor at Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament

   The Web.com Qualifying Tournament finished up Sunday at Orange County National’s Crooked Cat and Panther Lake courses in Winter Garden, Fla. and while it lacks the drama of the old PGA Tour Qualifying School, or for that matter last week’s LPGA Tour Qualifying School, it is one of the few gateways to the PGA Tour for a pro trying to make it to the big time.
   Let’s start at the top because that part remains blessedly uncomplicated. Jim Renner, a 33-year-old touring lifer, fired a 9-under 63 at the Crooked Cat Course to earn medalist honors and a check for $25,000.
   Renner’s brilliant round gave him a 72-hole total of 17-under 269 total and was three shots clear of runnerup Taylor Moore, who finished up a four-year collegiate career at Arkansas earlier this year. Moore, also playing at Crooked Cat, had a 7-under 65 to finish alone in second at 14-under 272.
   Renner lives 25 minutes away in Orlando, so this was something of a home game for him. He also earned a PGA Tour card at the old Q-School Final when it was held on the same two courses in 2010.
He jumped in front with birdies on four of the first five holes, added a birdie at the ninth, an eagle at 14 and birdies at 16 and 18.
   “That was a lot of fun,” Renner told the PGA Tour website.  “I knew going into today that I had to post a pretty good number. Obviously, I wasn’t really picturing 9-under, but you know being fully exempt and not having to worry about reshuffles and being able to kind of create my own schedule is so huge. Today was a great day, for sure.”
   Ahh, the reshuffles. That’s where it starts getting complicated. It happens on the PGA Tour at certain intervals as well. If you’re not playing well, your number in the pecking order of who does and doesn’t get into tournaments can drop while others who are playing well get to move up.
   Renner is the only player from the Web.com Qualifying Tournament who won’t affected by any of the reshuffles in 2017.
   Finishers 2 through 10, led by Moore, are good through the third reshuffle, which comes after 12 tournaments. Finishers 11 through 45 are good through the second reshuffle, which comes after eight tournaments.
   Moore and the rest of the top 10 each pocketed $15,000 and those who finished between 11th and 45th earned $10,000. With ties, 53 players earned some kind of status on the 2017 Web.com Tour. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.
   Vince India, a former Iowa standout from Deerfield, Ill., had a 66 at Crooked Cat and finished alone in third at 13-under 273. Brock Mackenzie, who stayed with big sister Paige, who does such a nice job on The Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive,” and Puma Dominguez of Argentina finished tied for fourth at 12-under 274. Mackenzie had a final-round 68 while Dominguez had a 71, both at Crooked Cat.
   Another avenue to the Web.com Tour is by finishing in the top five in the Order of Merit in the PGA Tour’s three affiliated international tours, the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latinoamerica and PGA Tour China.
   Moore and Mackenzie had both earned Web.com privileges with top-5 finishes on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada and Dominguez did the same on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. I’m guessing their high finishes at the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament enhanced their status for 2017. Being reshuffle-proof through 12 events probably made it worth their while to tee it up.
   I didn’t follow the Web.com Qualifying Tournament as closely as the LPGA Tour Q-School Final because I am just not as familiar with as many of the guys as I am the gals.
   The LPGA also had that added factor of current collegiate standouts who might not return for the second half of their senior seasons depending on how they fared at LPGA International, as happened in several cases. Plus, I became familiar with so many of the aspiring LPGA players at last summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club.
   I’m not sure that college dynamic occurs as much with the Web.com hopefuls. NCAA individual champion Aaron Wise of Oregon turned pro after helping the Ducks win the team title last spring as a sophomore. He earned status on the Web.com Tour for 2017 by finishing in the top five of the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada, but chose not to play in the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament.
   But the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament is, like the LPGA Tour Q-School Final is and the old PGA Tour Q-School was, a life-changing event for a player trying to make it to the big leagues of pro golf. Some of those guys who grinded it out in Winter Garden, Fla. last week will make it to the promised land. You can bet on that.

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