Keeping Score

‘Mr. Monday’ intends to be busy this weekend

You know that terrible feeling on a Monday when a blaring alarm across the night table jolts you awake, and the stark realization strikes that another joyous weekend has departed and another long work week is about to commence? It greets you like an icy shower. It’s enough to send a person back under the covers.

T.J. Vogel cannot relate. Mondays are when he shines, when he does some of his best work. “I wish every day was Monday,” Vogel said. 

Who says that sort of thing? Well, maybe a guy who has earned a reputation on the PGA Tour as “Mr. Monday.”

Vogel, 27, has spent his Mondays in 2018 bouncing all over the country attempting to get through 18-hole qualifiers for PGA Tour events, and he has performed impressively. When Vogel shot 6-under 65 on Monday at Glade Springs Resort’s Cobb Course in West Virginia to pace a field of 70 starters playing for four spots into this week’s A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, it marked the seventh time this season that he had earned his way into a PGA Tour field. Seven starts through Mondays? That's legendary.

T.J. Vogel, aka ‘Mr. Monday,’ plays his way into a 7th PGA Tour event via Monday qualifying.

T.J. Vogel, aka ‘Mr. Monday,’ plays his way into a 7th PGA Tour event via Monday qualifying.

Vogel was asked on Wednesday how the reaction he receives from players on the practice tee has changed since his first few successful Mondays. 

“It’s pretty funny,” he said. “The first few times, it was, ‘Hey, good job getting in.’ By the seventh time, they’re not so shocked. They’ll say to me, ‘You’re a savage!’ It’s cool. It’s been a fun year.”

Vogel will head off the 10th tee at Greenbrier’s Old White TPC at 8:50 a.m. Thursday alongside Jonathan Randolph and Adam Schenk (tee times)

Some Monday qualifying background: Roughly half of the PGA Tour events offer four spots via Monday qualifying. Those who have PGA Tour status from this or the previous year, current members of and Champions tours, top 100-ranked players, PGA Section exemptions and players who have made a cut on the PGA Tour this season are among those eligible to qualify. Fees can range from $0 for PGA Tour members to $450 for past members and those going through pre-qualifying just to get to the Monday event. At Greenbrier this week, 70 golfers played in the Monday qualifier. Earlier in the season, participation is greater. At the Honda Classic, 360 players took part in pre-qualifying at three courses just to get to the 128-man Monday qualifier. Vogel shot 7-under 64 to win it, and 66s got three players into a playoff for the fourth spot.

Vogel played consistently on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada last summer (12 starts, no missed cuts), but at 27, he wants beyond the dues-paying levels and has been gripped by an urgency to get to the game’s biggest stage. His breakthrough arrived earlier in the season at the Valspar Championship, outside Tampa. Not only did Vogel make his first cut in what was his sixth PGA Tour start as a pro (he’d made two starts in 2013 and one in 2015), but he settled down over the weekend to shoot a pair of 69s and earn a life-changing payday of $77,295.

There was reason to exhale. He finally would have the financial security to execute his plan to land enough Tour starts via Mondays to either secure his status outright or earn an opportunity to play for PGA Tour status this fall. 

Vogel’s goal, basically, is to jump right over the Tour, a place where he has had conditional status for years, but not a great deal of success. His initial goal in competing in PGA Tour events was to earn enough FedEx points to finish in the top 200 to become eligible for the Tour Finals that begin next month, when 25 players will earn PGA Tour cards. Currently, Vogel’s 51 points as a non-member would rank him about 195th (Mackenzie Hughes is 200th, with 44 points). 

More importantly than the points and the money, Vogel finally has a sense that he belongs, and that he can compete against the best players in the world. That revelation came just in time. His bank account was getting low.

“Valspar was a big one for me,” he said. “I really didn’t know how much longer I was going to be able to go.” 

At Valspar, where he tied for 16th, he had meaningful conversations with old friends Patrick Cantlay and Tony Finau, two players who also took their time in getting to the big stage. Both are PGA Tour winners. They told Vogel, the 2012 U.S. Public Links champion who played at Florida, that he had plenty of game to be competing where he was. 

“You just have to believe,” he said. “I was putting the PGA Tour and the players, because it’s the highest level, I was putting it up on a pedestal. I was looking up to them instead of believing that I’m just as good as a lot of guys that are out here. Once I started to believe I was capable and on the same level, I started to relax.

“The belief is there. I was 27, and it was taking me longer [to get to the PGA Tour], and I was like, Am I ever going to get out there? Am I ever going to make it? You doubt yourself.”

No longer. Vogel feels more confident over the putter since he began working with Stan Utley about 18 months ago, and his ball-striking has been excellent as he Monday qualified for, and made the cut, at the Wells Fargo (T-59) and AT&T Byron Nelson (T-66). Vogel said he always has been a momentum player, and at Greenbrier this week, he thinks he has it on his side. 

There is no question that he has the capability and mental strength to go deep under par on any golf course. His scores in his seven successful qualifiers: 64, 64, 63, 65, 66, 66 and 65. Vogel has learned that when he’s playing well, making putts and getting deep into red numbers, there is no need suddenly to get conservative. No need to change anything at all. Just keep making birdies. 

“I thrive on a couple good weeks in a row,” he said. “That’s kind of the thing with me. If I can get a few good starts under my belt ... it’s just tough when you don’t know when your next tournament is going to be.”

Vogel played junior golf against Patrick Reed, who competed in six PGA Tour events in 2012 via Monday qualifying, then earned a card through Q-School. Austin Cook earned his way into five PGA Tour events through Mondays in 2014-15, and in November captured the RSM Classic, which delivered a two-year exemption. 

Vogel knows the numbers and knows where he wants to be playing full-time. The destination isn't cloudy at all. He’ll keep trying to get there one Monday at a time. Good thing it's his favorite day.  

Jeff Babineau is a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America who has covered golf since 1994, writing for such publications as The Orlando Sentinel, Golfweek and Golf World. Email: Twitter: @jeffbabz62 

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