SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — To someone who didn’t know any better, the driving range at sunny McCormick Ranch Golf Club didn’t look any different Monday. Each hitting space was occupied with golfers slowly working their way through their buckets of Pinnacle practice balls.
A player in his 60s showed his friend his new driver head cover featuring Cartman from the animated TV show South Park. A younger golfer in his late 20s practiced in a black hoodie and camouflage joggers.
But this wasn’t any other Monday, as just feet away was Harrison Endycott, a PGA Tour pro from Australia. Fellow Aussie Aaron Baddeley was on the practice green with his two kids, hair as long as their dad’s.
Harry Hall, a 25-year-old Englishman who played at UNLV, had a Trackman stuffed in his Callaway Paradym tour bag on a brand new push cart.
“I know I’ve got a PGA Tour schedule for the rest of the year and I’m a rookie and I’ve got tournaments I’ll definitely be in so this would be a perk,” Hall said. “I’m a Vegas boy so I like the desert, I enjoy the crowd and that’s why I’m here.”
Another Tour rookie, Ben Griffin, who’s 30th in FedEx Cup points, was at the qualifier because he doesn’t yet have enough status to already be in the Phoenix Open field.
But it’s not just rookies in the qualifier field. Grayson Murray, Martin Trainer, Kevin Chappell, DJ Trahan, Bo Van Pelt and Robert Garrigus were there, too.
SCORES: WM Phoenix Open Monday qualifier
In all, 96 golfers took to the Pine Course to vie for one of the final three spots in the 2023 WM Phoenix Open. The qualifier was first likened to an opposite-field event a couple years ago but this year in particular it makes sense that there’s so much interest as it’s the first full-field designated event and features a $20 million purse with a $3.6 million first-place prize.
Baddeley is a past champion at TPC Scottsdale with more than $25 million in career earnings. He has made six cuts in eight outings in 2023, including two top-10s but didn’t snag one of the five coveted sponsor invitations. As he put the finishing touches on his pre-round warm-up, a fan noticed him, told him good luck and added: “Maybe next time you won’t have to put up with this.”
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Baddeley, whose 12-year-old daughter, took it upon herself to write a letter to the Thunderbirds, who run the Phoenix Open, asking them to offer her dad a spot. That plan fell through so a day after finishing tied for 37th at the weather-plagued AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Baddeley slept in his own bed at his Scottsdale home and drove to qualifier.
“I was disappointed not to get in for sure,” he said. “My game’s in a good spot, and being up there in the FedEx [60th], I thought I had a good chance, past champ. Already have two top-10s, the game is really good.”
The qualifier might have had even more golfers but the Monday finish at Pebble Beach altered a lot of plans.
There were 19 pros on the original entry list who withdrew from the qualifier, including Nick Hardy, the Phoenix Open’s first alternate.
At least two golfers who wanted to play the qualifier couldn’t. Eric Cole, T-15 at Pebble, and Sung Kang, T-29 at Pebble, scrambled from the Monterey Peninsula and landed at Scottsdale Airport about six miles north of McCormick Ranch about 30 minute before their 1:40 p.m. local tee time. But they were too late.
The Monday qualifier will spill over to Tuesday, with play resuming at 8 a.m. If there’s a playoff, and there’s a good chance there will be, those still in contention will play No. 18 repeatedly until three golfers remain.
With any luck, they’ll get to TPC Scottsdale for an afternoon practice round before the Phoenix Open starts Thursday.
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