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The 2009 season on the European Tour might be remembered as the official year of creation of 'The Yo-yo Golfer'. Who is this? Well, it will take a bit of explaining.
Firstly, let's start by admitting that the European Tour is becoming a tougher playground every year and, if further proof were needed, then take a look at this year's School. Yes, Q-School Final Stage starts this weekend and check out the 156-man field because it is truly jam-packed with good players. Sure, it's tough to win on the Tour, but simply trying to get on the money-laden circus in the first place now feels as hard as trying to hit a perfect 1-iron cack-handed from the worst Carnoustie-style rough.
Just take a look at who fell at Second Stage of Q-School last week: Simon Wakefield, Zane Scotland, Sven Struver, Stuart Davis, John Mellor, even Walker Cup hero Stiggy Hodgson. Now Struver might be the only ex-champ in that line-up, but these other guys can play.
So now let's peak at some of the Final Stage contestants: Philip Archer, James Kamte, Lee Slattery, Jarmo Sandelin, Santiago Luna, Benn Barham, Joost Luiten, Gary Murphy, Robert Dinwiddie, Simon Khan, Michael Lorenzo-Vera, Olly Fisher, Scott Drummond, Andrew Coltart, Emanuele Canonica, Stephen Gallacher, Anton Haig, Miles Tunnicliff...I could go on. That's 18 experienced players who probably should be on Tour and there are only 30 Tour Cards available. Add the likes of Golf Monthly's touring professional Sam Hutsby, Jamie Moul and American Ryan Blaum who won his Second Stage tournament with a score of 20-under and it's not difficult to rate the 2009 School as the toughest ever.
Yet, these guys could also be the Yo-yo Golfers of the future. They all have talent, but they don't have a Tour Card - sometimes the two things don't go hand in hand every year.
Take Philip Archer, a top 30 player on the Tour only two years ago; he really should have won the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre but lost to Brett Rumford in a play-off. Archer had two other second places that year; plus this is one of the handful of guys to shoot a 60 on the European Tour.
Archer even won his Second Stage event, but if he misses a Tour Card next week then when might he return to regularly jousting with the best? Even he won't be able to answer that.
You see, the increased amount of cash offered in the Race To Dubai this season has changed golf - not just at the top, but also at the Q-School end of the chain. A small but significant group of extra players have travelled to European Tour events for the first time (Boo Weekly and Anthony Kim are good examples) while a few others have played more events than ever before - Rodney Pampling and Robert Allenby plus a host of Asian Tour regulars like Thongchai Jaidee.
So expect there to be more Yo-yo Golfers on the European Tour in the next few years - these are guys who make good money one year, miss their Tour Card the next, earn a pittance on the lower Tours for the next 12 months while they sort out their game and then finally get their confidence back plus a Tour Card after three years away!
I know it's not how I would like to earn my living (and Philip Archer has no intention of following this path either!), but it could be a regular career pattern for many extremely capable European Tour pros over the foreseeable future. We should wish them all good luck.
Ross Biddiscombe will be covering the 2009 Q School Final Stage in Catalunya all next week with blogs for Golf Monthly while, for more details about the event, go to golfontheedge.co.uk (opens in new tab)
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Ross is a Q-School expert.
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