Having successfully navigated the unique and intimidating experience that is the Qualifying School Final Stage – and the two testing courses over which the six rounds are contested at PGA Catalunya Resort, in northern Spain – England’s Matthew Nixon is well placed to offer some nuggets of wisdom on the trials and tribulations that lie ahead for the 156-man field on the Stadium and Tour layouts.
Nixon was the only amateur to earn a card at the 2010 Final Stage, after which the Mancunian turned professional but was unfortunately forced to return to PGA Catalunya Resort the following year after only making six cuts in the 2011 season.
The 23 year old once again showed his cool under pressure and course knowledge to secure an immediate return to the upper echelons of European golf by taking the 14th card last December, but 2012 again provided mixed fortunes for Nixon, whose best finish came with a tied 23rd place at the BMW International Open in Cologne en route to finishing 191st in The Race to Dubai.
Nixon will be looking to make it three from three this week in Girona, however, as he vies to procure a precious card and a third successive season on The European Tour but to do so he will once again, in the shadows of the impressive Pyrenees mountain range, have to traverse the two stunning but deadly courses at PGA Catalunya Resort.
The key holes (Stadium)
18, par four, 463 yards
“18 has always been a bit of a bogey hole for me, especially in the last round. I made a double bogey there the first time I qualified in 2010 and then bogey there last year, so hopefully I can par it this year! Especially coming to it under the cosh when you know you’ve got to finish the job off, the nerves are flowing and you just want to get it out the way.
“It’s a difficult hole, they’ve moved the tee back there a good ten yards so it’s going to be even tougher now. You’ve got to get a good drive away with bunkers left and right and then the second shot is uphill. And then even the putting, you’re feeling jelly armed so overall it’s definitely a key hole.”
9, par four, 478 yards
“Nine is a very tough hole and can potentially set you up very well for the back nine; really tough drive and an equally tough second shot so if you can get through there with a par you definitely feel like you’ve picked up a shot on the field.”
Stadium vs. Tour Course
“The Tour is known as the easier, but I think they’re both as hard as each other to be honest and I’ve played well on both of them. The Tour course is quite as severe – you can get away with bad shots a little more out there. With it being a bit shorter you go in with a little less club sometimes but there are still some really tough holes out there, especially on the front nine.
“The fifth is a very long par four; I don’t know if we’ll be playing off the back tees but if so it’s almost 510 yards and with a horrible little green too so you’ve got to play well on either golf course to shoot a good number. But that’s the challenge and I’ll look forward to it.”
“The greens are very tricky here. There’s not much grain on them which is quite nice to not have to worry about; they’re not horrendously big or really small, they’re just a nice size and a really pure surface to putt on but they are tricky in the sense that they can get away from you a little bit if you’re not on top of the speed and reads. But they’re very pure.”
The general challenge of PGA Catalunya Resort and Q-School Finals
“Six rounds is a lot of golf to play. If you can keep it out of trouble and not make any daft mistakes and give shots away willy-nilly you will do well. If you can pace yourself and I always think if you can shoot under par for six days then that will probably be good enough.
“There’s been a couple of ten under pars the last two years in the first few rounds, but I think overall if you can just play solid, consistent golf then that’s the key. At the end of the day it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon; six rounds is more than we ever play. You’re not even looking to win it, just trying to get into that top 25.
“I do think it is almost more psychological a test; I think some people get it and some people find it difficult. I’ve been fortunate to get through twice and I don’t know whether it’s a mental thing, or whether the golf course just sets up well for me or maybe I even just played well, but hopefully I can do it again and get through and with any luck not have to come back here next year!”
The Qualifying School Final is renowned as a golfing endurance race as the field is split over the two immaculate courses at PGA Catalunya Resort over the first four days, playing two rounds on each of the Stadium and Tour courses, before a cut at 70 plus ties precedes 36 nail-biting holes on the Stadium Course over the final two days as players strive for the line.
The venue certainly has a special aura and is undeniably visually magnificent. The mist hangs over the undulating and perfectly-formed fairways in early morning, and the low winter sun cuts through the expansive pine forest through which the layout weaves, while the majestic scenery belies the demanding nature of the two courses, a test that ensures only the very strongest progress.
To see more detailed information about the courses, the rough length and the types of grass employed etc. CLICK HERE.