What a difference five weeks can make on the PGA Tour. Just over a month go Kingstonian Matt McQuillan was struggling his way through his rookie season having made just one cut in eleven events and he had just over $12,000 of official money to his name. By the end of Sunday he had managed to not only add his fourth PGA Tour paycheck in five weeks, he had also chalked up his second top ten of the season at the Reno-Tahoe Open.
The 30 year-old fired the low round of the field on Sunday in Reno, a 66 that included seven birdies. It not only pushed him from a tie for 28th to start the day into a tie for 6th place at the end of it, it also furthered his spot as the best finisher on the PGA Tour. For the season McQuillan has the lowest final round scoring average on the PGA Tour, an admirable 68.20 strokes.
“That’s just the PGA Tour on Sundays when you start well back,” McQuillan told Flagstick after his impressive round yesterday. “You just try to make birdies and shoot as low as you can. You don’t have a choice if you want to make more money.”
As easy as that sounds, it certainly wasn’t at Reno-Tahoe. Despite a final tally of eleven under par and thin mountain air that helped McQuillan propel is drives over an average of 320 yards this week, he says the Montreux Golf & Country Club was a tricky place to play. “The winds come from all directions and change about every thirty seconds so when you finally decide on a shot you better hit quick.” He said he was helped a little on Sunday by the fact that the wind did not really show up until about his 12th hole, allowing him to take advantage of the front nine where he made four birdies and leaped up the board. “I also made some good putts this week. I still missed a few too many ten footers for birdies I need if I want to go really low but overall it was pretty good with the putter.”
McQuillan continues to be happy with his ball-striking after he made some significant changes in his go-to ball fight earlier this year. The new, high, left to right shot seems to be paying off. “The swing still feels good and I found little something else on the range Saturday night that helped as well,” he mentioned but failed to elaborate on.
Despite his satisfaction with his recent weeks of work, McQuillan sounded fairly tired and admitted as much. “I was pretty much beat by the end of the Canadian Open but there was no way to I could take time off with the position I am in,” he said referring to the fact that he was well back of a spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs as he entered the week as well as somewhat distant of the top 125 spot necessary to keep his PGA Tour card at the end of the season. This week’s play boosted his spot on the money list to the tune of $97,125 for a season total of $423, 620. He moves to 137th on the Money List and 141st in FedEx Cup standings. The top 125 players get into the first event in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, The Barclays. “With this and Wyndham as my only two events to play before the playoff start (he is not in the field for this week’s PGA Championship) the goal was a top ten in both. I have the first leg, now I’ll have to play well at Wyndham and hope it’s enough to get into the top 125.”
Should he fail to get a spot in The Barclays, McQuillan might have a month-long gap in his schedule as he waits for the PGA Tour’s Fall Series events but that is not something he is even putting any thought into at this point. His goal is to be teeing it up with the best players on Tour in Plainfield, New Jersey (site of The Barclays) on August 25th. If he can do so he will greatly improve his chances of retaining his PGA Tour card. The purses at Playoff Events are $8,000,000 per event and good play in New Jersey could qualify him for the other Playoff tournaments.
Matt says he is not sure yet when he will head to Greensboro, North Carolina for the Wyndham Championship which starts on August 18th. For now he is focused on an 11 a.m. flight this morning that will take him to Naples, Florida and a much needed break. It will be short one though, as TPC Treviso Bay (Golf Club) sits just around the corner from the condo where he will be staying and in the midst of his current run he knows he cannot afford to let his momentum fade. That TPC course and it’s practice facilities will see a lot of him later this week.
“Yes, I’m a lot happier now than five weeks ago but I can’t really think about that,” he says. “I’ll really enjoy just laying on the beach for the next couple days but then I’ve got work to do.”