From Atwal to Yip: Stories behind the q-school hopefuls

Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PGA Tour

The math is easy: 172 players for 25 spots. Earning one of them? Not so much.

Such is the pressure cooker that is the final stage of q-school, where the top 25 players (and ties) will earn a PGA TOUR card for next season.

Everyone else? Tour status, or worse yet conditional status on that tour.

Adding to the occasion is that this is the final year PGA TOUR cards will be handed out at q-school. Beginning in 2013, players who survive this gauntlet will get only a spot on the Tour.

With that in mind, here's an A to Z look at some of this year's notables in the field (with the exception of the Is, Qs, Us, Xs and Zs since no one with a surname of that letter made it this far).

Arjun Atwal:The 39-year-old got off to a rough start in 2012 with seven straight missed cuts to open the season. He had just one top 10 the rest of the year but did show signs of life with a tie for seventh in the second stage to make it to PGA West.

Joseph Bramlett: After becoming the first African American in 25 years to reach the TOUR via q-school, Bramlett failed to keep his card following the 2011 season. He spent this year on the Tour, where he had three top 10s, including a runner-up in Chile.

Patrick Cantlay: After four top 25s in five starts as an amateur in 2011, the former UCLA standout turned pro earlier this year but didn't have quite the same level of success. Cantlay had zero top 25s in 10 starts on the PGA TOUR, though he did manage two in four starts on the Tour, including a runner-up at the Chiquita Classic.

Glen Day:The 47-year-old journeyman has made nearly $9 million in his career but he hasn't been a regular on TOUR since 2009. He also failed to finish in the top 100 the last two years at q-school after tying for 26th in 2009.

Danny Ellis: A journeyman with 113 TOUR starts on his resume, Ellis spent most of this year on the NGA Professional Tour, where he finished 19th in money before surviving the second stage of q-school to advance to the finals.

Steve Flesch: The bad news: Flesch missed the cut in all 12 starts he made on TOUR this year, failing to break par in any of them. The good news: He still has a chance to get a card this week.

Bobby Gates:A year ago, Gates bogeyed his final hole of the season to finish outside the top 125 on the money list. He didn't get that close this year, missing six of his last eight cuts.

Todd Hamilton: A tie for eighth in Reno was the one-time British Open champ's first top 10 since 2009. It was also his only one in 10 starts as Hamilton finished over par in seven of them.

Matt Jones: The veteran split time between the PGA TOUR and Tour, making three cuts in seven starts on the former and five cuts in 10 starts on the latter. His tie for 10th at the Chitimatcha Louisiana Open was his first top 10 on either tour in two years.

Robert Karlsson:It was a strange year for the 6-foot-5 Swede. He had five top-30 finishes, including a tie for 29th at the U.S. Open, in 17 starts on TOUR. On the flip side, he finished 158th on the money list. He's playing well right now, though, having earned a spot in the field by taking medalist honors at Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Fla.

Danny Lee:The 22-year-old seemed to find his footing in 2012 with two top 25s in five starts on the Tour, including a runner-up finish, and three top 25s in 26 starts on TOUR.

Shaun Micheel: The one-time major champ has been on a slippery downhill slope the last couple of years, failing to sniff the top 125 on the money list. Last year, he failed to break 71 in five of his six rounds in the final stage of q-school. This year, he shot a 73 in the final round of second stage to survive by a stroke.

James Nitties: The fun-loving Aussie spent the past two seasons on the Tour, where he had just one top 10 in 20 starts this season. The good news: In 2008, he tied for second at q-school at PGA West.

Nick O'Hern:The man who once took down Tiger Woods in match play nearly won at Pebble Beach this year but rinsed his tee shot on the final hole. This is his first trip to the final stage of q-school.

Rod Pampling: The Aussie entered the final week of the season 124th on the money list and in position to keep his card -- until he missed the cut to fall out of the top 125. This is his first q-school appearance since 2000.

Patrick Reed:The former Augusta State standout Monday-qualified a ridiculous six times this year, missing the cut just once in those starts. And in his 12 total starts on TOUR he finished in the top 25 four times. In the second stage of q-school, Reed also shared co-medalist honors.

Paul Stankowski: Stankowski, who turns 43 on Sunday, has successfully navigated the final stage three times, the last coming in 2006. Playing on past champion status this year, he made four cuts in eight starts on TOUR with his best finish a tie for 42nd. Stankowski also made nine cuts in 16 starts on the Tour with one top 25.

Vaughn Taylor: The 36-year-old TOUR regular was in position to finish in the top 125 on the money list until a final-round 74 at Disney dropped him to 139th. Last year, Taylor tied for fifth at q-school.

Camilo Villegas:The three-time TOUR winner also was in good shape to finish in the top 125 on the money list following a 65 in the opening round at Disney. Then he failed to break 70 the remaining three rounds and ended the year 144th. This is his first trip to q-school.

Dean Wilson:Playing on a minor medical extension, Wilson made just four starts on TOUR this year and failed to make the cut in any of them. This is his second straight trip to the final stage.

Ryan Yip:In his only other final stage appearance, Yip tied for 30th here last year to earn a spot on the Tour. The soon-to-be 28-year-old made just four cuts in 17 starts, however.