Friday, June 1, 2 p.m. ET

Books -- 'Tales from Q School'

John Feinstein
Author, Sportswriter
Friday, June 1, 2007; 2:00 PM

Sports writer John Feinstein was online Friday, June 1, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss this new book, "Tales from Q School: Inside Golf's Fifth Major," the PGA Tour and Tiger Woods's new D.C.-based event.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

Feinstein spent eleven years on the staff of "The Washington Post" as well as writing for "Sports Illustrated," "Inside Sports," and other sports magazines. He is the author of several best-selling books, including "A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour," "Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL," "Open" and "The Majors."

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Washington, D.C.: Is it fair that one day of Q School determines who gets on the tour and who doesn't?

John Feinstein: Well, it's not "one" day. It's a minimum of six days if you are exempt to the final stage. And for most players, 973 out 1,205 the year the I did this book, it's three stages and a total of 14 rounds of highly pressurized golf to get to the tour, so I would say yes, it is fair.

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Baltimore: John,

True or False -- The harder 10 foot putt on 18 to win is on the 72nd hole at the Masters or the last hole in your final Q round? Thanks.

Dan

PS - Thanks for the Duke article yesterday. Somebody had to say it.

John Feinstein: I would say the harder put is the one at Q School, because if you don't make it, you're spending the next year of your life, at least, back in golf's minor leagues, and you don't know if that chance will ever come again. If you miss the same putt at the Masters, you still walk off with second-place money, of about $600,000, and you get to play again next week.

Glad you liked the Duke column -- a lot of my friends at Duke didn't.

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Washington, D.C.: Shouldn't Claxton, the first million-dollar winner of the Nationwide Tour, be given his card on the PGA Tour because of his outstanding performance on the developmental tour rather than have to qualify through Q School?

John Feinstein: Chances are good he will finish in the Top 20 on the nationwide money list this year. If he does, he will go to the tour without going back to Q School. I guess the Nationwide Tour is one of the few places on Earth you don't want to stick around long enough to win $1 million.

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Chicago: Hi John,

A question from a HUGE fan. In "A Civil War: Army Vs. Navy a Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry", I believe you said that your favorite quote was (roughly) "the hardest thing for most college football players is practice; at Army & Navy, that's the easiest part of their day".

Is there a quote or story from "Q School" that encapsulates the challenges and struggles of Qualifying School?

John Feinstein: That's a good question -- I guess there are a couple. Ron Whittaker describing how he sleeps at night: "Pepto Bismal and Ambien and I sleep like a baby." Donnie Hammond saying that Q School is like "a big 4-5 day funeral, and at the end they just cart the bodies away." And Steve Flesch saying that Q School is like "six straight days of root canal."

Hammond also said -- "When you're at Q-School, there's not a single minute when you're awake that you feel comfortable. And you don't sleep very much."

I think Q School is the most mentally grueling event I've ever covered, because what's at stake, and because, unlike most sports events, there's no crowd, there's no noise. You can almost physically feel the pressure.

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Washington, D.C.: Fantastic book John, I could not put it down. I've always been fascinated by the "fifth major" that is Q School. A friend of mine, Webb Heintzlemann, experienced both the joy and agony of Q School in the late '80s.

My question is why do tournaments like the John Deere keep offering exemptions to Michelle Wie? She can't play on the PGA Tour. She's taking a sponsors exemption away from a legit pro. How do pros like a Jim Carter for example, feel about her taking these exemptions? Thank you.

John Feinstein: Thanks for the kind words about the book, glad you liked it. The answer to your Michelle Wie question is simple -- money. Michelle Wie, even though she never made a cut at a men's tournament, sells tickets and drives up the TV ratings. Although, if she continues to withdraw from tournaments after being 14 over after 16 holes, that aura may start to fade.

Without being there, it's tough to say, but if she was injured, you would think she would figure that out earlier in the round, since she wasn't playing well. With two holes to play, I would have liked to see her finish, just so the questions would not be raised.

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Reston, Va.: I just finished your book and enjoyed it thoroughly. Is there any chance the PGA Tour will schedule a first-stage qualifier at Avenel after it is rebuilt? Weather is usually very nice in October around D.C..

John Feinstein: Oh, that's a good question. I think the problem would be that the members there, as at many clubs, wouldn't mind giving the club up for a week for a PGA Tour event, but might not be so eager to give it up for a first-stage qualifier. It would be fun though. Next time I talk to (commissioner) Tim Finchem, I'll bring it up.

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Oakton, Va.: Besides Len Shapiro, who are some golf columnists that I should read as often as I can?

Also, I'm not sure I've heard your opinion on the FedEx Cup. I like the idea, but isn't a $10 million prize for first place a little excessive... almost like a desperate cry to fans, "see, this is a very very big deal!"

John Feinstein: Besides Len Shapiro, guys who should be read on golf include Dave Kindred and Dan Jenkins in Golf Digest, Dave Anderson in the New York Times and Ed Sherman in the Chicago Tribune. There are others, but those guys come to mind right away.

The FedEx Cup was created to try to get Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the Tour's season-ending event by moving the schedule forward to Sept., and putting so much money into the events. Tim Finchem is hoping that Tiger and Phil will deign to compete.

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Washington, D.C.: I know Tiger has locked in Congressional for the next two years, but is he willing to move his tournament to Avenel? What about RTJ?

John Feinstein: If you saw Tiger's comments at his press conference Tuesday, he clearly wants to keep the event at Congressional, because of the quality of the course and the prestige attached to it. I'm sure the Tour would eventually prefer it moved to Avenel, but it will have to put a lot of money into renovating the course to make it acceptable, not only to Tiger, but to the other players. That might be difficult, esp. when people compare it to Congressional. RTJ is not in the picture.

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Rockville, Md.: Is Q school in becoming less relevant? Players who go through the Nationwide Tour seem to have more initial success than Q school graduates.

John Feinstein: Q School has certainly changed because of the Nationwide Tour. There are now only 30 spots (plus ties) on tour coming out of Q School, as opposed to the pre-Nationwide days, when it was 50 spots (plus ties). And there's no doubt the 20 guys who come off the Nationwide each year have done better, overall, than the Q School guys. But it should be remembered that all those Nationwide guys have gone through Q School, sometimes multiple times, en route to the Nationwide Tour. So I think as a proving ground for both the PGA and Nationwide tours, it may be even more significant than in the past.

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Orlando: Another good Feinstein book. Starts slowly but builds well. It's interesting how well this crop of rookies has done on the tour this year.

John Feinstein: How the Q School guys do varies with each class. Last year, Brett Wetterich and JB Holmes had a lot of success, but 20 of the 32 guys had to return to Q-School. This year, there are more guys (40), because there was a 13-way tie for 28th place. Whats more, they are a more experienced group for most years, which may account for some of their success.

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Richmond Hacker: John:

Love your books and insight.

Do other players genuinely like Tiger or do they view him as pompous? I know they like the $$ he has generated for the game, but do they like him? Who does he hang out with now that O'Meara spends his time (it seems) on the Champ Tour? Why do you have a spat with Tiger (I heard you on the radio saying that Tiger would not be sad that you could not attend the press day last week). Thanks for taking my Qs.

John Feinstein: I don't think anyone sees Tiger as pompous. Perhaps a little standoffish, but that's understandable given his status. I think most players are in awe of him more than anything else. His closest friends on tour now, with O'Meara not out there as much, are probably John Cook and Phil Mickelson (no, just kidding about Phil). He spends a lot of time with his entourage, which generally includes his wife, his agent, his caddy, his swing coach, his Nike rep and his mom.

My disagreements with Tiger, center for the most part, on my early criticism of his father, who I saw as another ambitious sports parent. I understand Tiger disagreeing with that, as a loyal son. But I always believed that Tiger succeeded because of Tiger, not because of Earl.

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Cortez, Colo.: I am not much of a sports fan but I love to hear your cheery voice on NPR and always listen to what you have to say.

John Feinstein: Well thank you. I'm glad to hear that -- one of the reason I like doing NPR is because I know I'm reaching a lot of non-sports fans, who do buy books. Which for me is a very good thing.

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Alexandria, Va.: In your opinion, has mainstream attention to golf and the tournaments increased or decreased over the past two decades and what might be the cause?

John Feinstein: Definitely increased. You look at the number of people playing golf, the number of people watching golf, the number of people, I'm happy to say, buying golf books, that's all gone up. There's two levels of this boom -- the first happened at the same time that tennis's popularity tanked, and a lot of people turned to golf, both for recreation and as fans. The other was the emergence of Tiger, as a superstar and role model for kids. It's worth noting that golf was on the rise before Tiger's arrival. He simply took it to another level.

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Burke, Va.: John -- What is your take on the Open at Oakmont? Can Tiger keep it in the fairway enough to win? Will Phil be able to play? Can Ernie recreate his performance from the last Open at Oakmont? Is there a Johnny Miller out there ready to shoot a 63 in the final round?

John Feinstein: In reverse order -- no one is going to shoot 63, unless it rains very hard and the course is very soft. It would be great to see Ernie be a factor in a major again -- it's certainly been awhile. Wish I knew more about Phil's wrist. And, quite simply, if Tiger keeps it in the fairway, he will win. Because no one is better around the greens than he is.

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"Next Man Up": I think this is one of the best books on any sport I have ever read. As a rabid NFL fan, I only wish you had covered my team instead. Why is it that teams are so secretive when it comes to being behind the scenes? Even if the story comes out after the season teams are still reluctant to allow this. The NFL could tap this curiosity for the sport and turn it into billions, similar to the way they are thinking about the draft.

John Feinstein: The NFL is already making billions, and the reason for the secrecy is very simple -- they can get away with it. The sport is so popular that even if you don't have access to the teams, you still must cover them, and play by their rules. That's why I was so fortunate the Ravens were willing to give me the total access they did. Can you imagine asking Joe Gibbs for that access? You would never get an answer, because he would go into a state of complete shock that you asked the question.

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What Would Red Think?: Hi John,

Having known Red Auerbach like you did, what events in the NBA that occurred this season would, if any, have caused him to come back and haunt David Stern?

John Feinstein: All I can say is, as much as I miss Red, I'm really glad he missed this Celtics season. I think, though it was no fault of Stern's, Red would have been very disappointed that the lottery landed Greg Oden and Kevin Durant in Portland and Seattle. And he would have been very upset by the way the Phoenix-SA series was sullied by the suspensions that Stern had no choice but to hand out after game four.

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Fairfax, Va.: Is it just me, or has the Golf Channel improved by leaps and bounds ever since it got the PGA Tour? The programming and production values have improved (though they still show the informercials) and with a lot more in depth coverage of every tournament. I don't miss ESPN for a second.

Was the deal with the Golf Channel good for the Tour? I think the key criticism was that the golfers playing in the tournament may not even get the Golf Channel in their hotel room.

John Feinstein: Well, time will tell if the deal was good for the Tour, because it's too soon to make judgments on how many people can actually watch. But I agree that the network has worked very hard to upgrade everything it does, esp. with the new deal. Kelly Tilghman with Nick Faldo has worked very well.

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20009: Quick non-Q question.

Love your work, and especially enjoyed the book you wrote with Red Auerbach. Forgive me if my curiosity has led me to ask a personal question, but have the Tuesday lunches continued despite Mr. Auerbach's passing?

John Feinstein: Yes, they have. We go to the same restaurant at the same time, we leave Red's chair empty, the owner pours Red's favorite drink, and at the end of the lunch, I always open a fortune cookie for Red and read it aloud to the table. I think it would make Red very happy that we are all still getting together because of him.

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Avenel/Potomac, Md.: How will the proposed larger dining room and new tee boxes all for $20 million alleviate the problem of a bad layout and design at Avenel? Or am I missing something?

John Feinstein: They're going to have to renovate the golf course if they want the pros to play there. Davis Love has been in, at the tour's request, to look at a new design. Whether it will work, and how much they would have to pay for it, I don't think they know at this time.

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Arlington, VA: After Tuesday's column, have you been taken off the Duke fundraising call lists?

John Feinstein: My name has been off the statues at Duke since 1998, when I called Nan Keohane a "gutless, fifth-rate college president" for her hiring of Joe Aoleva. But they still ask me for money.

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Allison Park, Pa.: John -

During your research and interviews with Q-school golfers, did you ever take the time to ask any of them whether they ever drank underage, hired strippers, patronized strip clubs, urinated in public, or uttered a racial slur?

I ask because - judging by your recent columns and radio remarks - I know how offended you are by such behavior.

John Feinstein: None of them are still underage, and if any of them had been at a party where racial epithets had been tossed, I would have raised the question. If you don't find that behavior offensive, we'll have to agree to disagree.

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Ithaca, N.Y.: Duke Lax: Care to comment on the NCAA cave-in to allow them yet another year to play? These are guys that played eight games last year and the NCAA is giving them a do-over.

John Feinstein: I was very surprised by the NCAA ruling, because Duke made the decision to shut down the season. I don't think it was up to the NCAA to correct Duke's mistake. And, what bothers me the most, the Duke administration still hasn't apologized on any level, nor has it offered to pay the legal costs of the three kids who were charged, which it should do.

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Bethesda, Md.: As a member of Congressional Country Club, I have to tell you that on the one hand, I love Tiger Woods and I'm happy that we are hosting his tournament. We can give back a little bit more to golf and help him give back, too. On the other hand, Congressional is more that a golf club. In fact, we are an all 'round country club with kids' swim teams, tennis, and restaurants and other stuff. Tiger is always welcome and I welcome his tournament from time to time. But speaking only for myself, every year is too much. These tournaments take over the place for weeks. My kids can't go swimming. It's hard to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July. There's no place to park, and we become a golf course, not a family retreat. Please, Tiger, can we just be part of a rotation?

John Feinstein: I'm a member too, and I think you bring up some very good points that the membership will have to discuss, if and when we are asked to extend the contract. I think, in particular, the point about kids' activities being brought to a halt, even if it's just for a week in July, is a significant one.

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Georgetown: If Congreessional and RTJ are not available and Avenel isn't workable for Tiger's tournament, would the tour consider Woodmore, where the Nationwide tour was last week. Seemed like an impressive track that held up to the pro game well, had plenty of spectator space and parking, and the pros seemed to really appreciate the course. Or is PG County just not marquee enough for Tiger's tournament?

John Feinstein: My guess is your last statement is correct, unfortunately, about PG County. I think that they're going to want a "glamor" golf course, and the three you mentioned initially are the ones that come closest to meeting that in the D.C. area, that also have the surrounding amenities, roads, etc., that you need for a PGA Tour event.

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Washington, D.C.: Were you surprised by Billy Donovan's decision to coach in the pro ranks? Who do you think Florida will want to become their new coach?

John Feinstein: I'm not surprised at Billy's decision, because he doesn't have to move his family far, if at all, the money is huge, and if he's going to take a shot at the pros, there's no better time than now. He's won back-to-back national titles, and he's young enough that if he doesn't succeed in the NBA, he can come back to college ball and pick any job he wants, because of his track record. The only surprise to me is I know he would like to spend more time with this four children, and it's unlikely that taking this job will allow him to do that.

It's hard to say whether Florida with do the easy thing, and maybe the most logical thing, and elevate Larry Shyatt, Billy's No. 1 assistant, or if it will go looking for a big name. This time of year, it might be difficult to get someone with a long-term contract to walk away. But in college basketball, you never know.

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John Feinstein: Thanks for all your questions, and I hope you all will keep "Tales from Q-School" in mind as Father's Day approaches.

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