Ridings, 38, back on Tour full time

Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Tag Ridings, pictured in this 2009 photo at the Fort Smith Classic, qualified Monday for the PGA Tour.
Photo by Michael Woods
Tag Ridings, pictured in this 2009 photo at the Fort Smith Classic, qualified Monday for the PGA Tour.

— Tag Ridings is headed back to the PGA Tour.

Ridings, a former Arkansas Razorback, shot a 3-under-par 69 on the PGA West’s TPC Stadium Course during Monday’s sixth and final round of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament.

That left Ridings, 38, in 20th place, solidly among the top 25 finishers and ties who earned their PGA Tour cards for the 2013 season.

Ridings opened the tournament Wednesday by shooting 1-over 73, one of only two players who shot over par in the first round to earn a card.

Australian Steven Bowditch (73) was the other. He ended up tied for 10th at 21 under.

Ridings followed his opening 73 with rounds of 69, 66, 70, 67 and Monday’s 69 to finish at 18 under and earn PGA full exempt status for the sixth time (2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011).

Ridings is among 26 players earning a spot on the PGA Tour, led by medalist D.H. Lee of South Korea.

Lee birdied his last three holes for a 5-under 67 on the Stadium Course to win the tournament, which gives him the highest spot on the pecking order of the 25 players who earned cards, along with a $50,000 first-place check.

Also earning a card was Erik Compton, who only four years ago nearly died of a heart attack while driving himself to the hospital. He made it in time to survive and get a second heart transplant.

“This is hell week,” said Compton, who said he slept only two hours each of the last two nights. “There was a sense of urgency for me. I don’t know if my health is going to hold up. If I could only go to the Tour, I probably would beat myself up.”

In 2012, Ridings played in only one PGA event - missing the cut at the Shell Houston Open in April - but he made in 18 cuts in 25 starts on the Tour, earning $122,410 and finishing 48th on the tour money list. He last played full-time on the PGA Tour in 2011, when he made 15 cuts on 28 starts and earned $382,760.

His best career PGA Tour finish came in the 2004 Michelin Championship at Las Vegas, when he finished second following a career-best, 11-under 61 in the final round.

For his PGA career, he also has two third-place finishes - the 2007 Children’s Miracle Network Classic at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and the 2005 Chrysler Championship at Palm Harbor, Fla. - totaling 11 top-10 finishes. He has played in 182 PGA Tour events, earning $3,739,536.

Ridings, a native of Tulsa now living in Keller, Texas, was a second-team All-SEC selection at Arkansas in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

Little Rock’s Ron Whittaker finished the Q-school tournament at 11 under to finish tied for 64th place to secure a spot on the Tour for next year.

Glen Day of Little Rock entered Sunday’s fifth round two strokes out of the qualifying bump. But he finished with rounds of 70 and 76, finishing tied for 95th at 8 under.

Former Razorback Brenden Pappas also finished at 8 under.

The heartbreaking story of Q School went to Edward Loar, who hit two shots into the water on the last two holes to deny him a card by two strokes.

It took the former Oklahoma State star 13 years just to reach the PGA Tour, and he was in good shape to return going into the final day of Qschool, just three shots out of the lead. But he showed some nerves early, began dropping shots and found himself only one shot inside the cutoff when he stood on the tee at the par-3 17th, an island green. His 9-iron came up short and went into the water, leading to double bogey. Needing a birdie on the last hole to get his card, his approach drifted left and into the water. He missed by two.

“It’s obviously a hard day for everyone. What else can I say?” Loar said. “I tried hard.We all know how cruel the game is. I can learn from it. I persevered for 13 years, so hopefully, this won’t set me back too much.”

Ross Fisher of England, who won two matches at the Ryder Cup two years ago in Wales, was among those who finished one shot behind Lee.

Fisher has played plenty in America, mostly the majors and World Golf Championships because of his world ranking. But when he heard about the PGA Tour’s change, he skipped the season-ending European Tour event in Dubai to get ready for Q-school.

“This game can go high and it can go low,” Fisher said. “Last year for me was not great. This year has been a work in progress. But it was the last year of Q-school, and it was nice to create a bit of history to be one of the guys at the last one.”

Sports, Pages 17 on 12/04/2012