The worried look on Brian Dwyer’s face seemed out of place for a man who had just fired a bogey-free 7-under 64.
Then again, Dwyer knows what happens at these PGA Tour Monday qualifiers. He knows it’s either go lower than low or go home.
Especially on a dreary, drizzly, rainy day that turned greens into proverbial dartboards at Blaine’s 6,992-yard Victory Links Golf Course.
“I don’t know if 64’s good enough,” said the 29-year-old Apple Valley native, shaking his head after only 12 of 66 players had posted scores in hopes of earning one of the final four spots into this week’s inaugural 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities.
“You feel you have to make birdie every hole. And I kind of went cold on my second nine.”
At a Monday qualifier, a 3-under 32 coming down the stretch can qualify as a cold spell. At a Monday qualifier, 48 players can break par and six can shoot 65 and still leave disappointed, as Prior Lake’s Justin Doeden discovered.
Heck, at a Monday qualifier, 64 can get you second place in your own threesome.
Just ask Dwyer. The journeyman minitour hopeful, who played collegiately at SMU after moving to Dallas when he was 5, played second fiddle to 46-year-old one-time PGA Tour winner Arjun Atwal in Monday’s second group off the 10th tee.
“It was a good round,” Atwal shrugged.
Good? How ’bout a course-record 9-under 62?
He was 1 under when he sank a 60-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th — his seventh hole of the day. Then he tapped in an 8-inch birdie putt on the par-3 17th, chipped in for birdie on the par-4 18th, made the turn and then birdied three more in a row. That’s 7 under in six holes, folks.
“The mentally tough part is you know the entire field is going to be firing at pins all day,” Atwal said. “You don’t have three days to make it up if you miss a few birdies. Not in a Monday qualifier.”
In the end, Dwyer survived. But he needed three sudden-death playoff holes — all on the 18th — before sinking a 16-foot birdie putt and secure a spot in his first PGA Tour event.
In second was Mark Baldwin of Mesa, Ariz., who posted 63 with former Notre Dame teammate and 2004 Minnesota State Amateur winner Eric Deutsch on the bag.
Dwyer, Nyasha Mauchaza of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Brendon Todd, a onetime PGA Tour winner, went to sudden death with 64s. Mauchaza advanced with a 10-foot birdie on the second playoff hole. Todd and Dwyer parred.
Todd hit his approach on the third playoff hole to 18 feet. But Dwyer stuck his approach 2 feet inside Todd’s ball and got a good read when Todd’s putt just missed.
Three of the four qualifiers — Baldwin, Mauchaza and Dwyer — have so little tour status that they had to play in the pre-qualifier at Victory Links last Thursday. The top 25 advanced to the qualifier. Baldwin tied for 19th, while the other two tied for seventh.
“I have no status and nothing to lose,” said Mauchaza, who has played in two PGA Tour events. “So I just went for it today.”
“I’ve just been chasing Monday qualifiers this year,” Baldwin said. “I had full Web.com status last year, but I lost that. So you have to be aggressive because we all know you have to light it up in a Monday qualifier.”
Atwal has limited status on the PGA Tour and also plays the Asian Tour. The last time he won a Monday qualifier was 2010, when he went on to win the Wyndham Championship. At the time, he was the first Monday qualifier to win a PGA Tour event in 24 years.
For Dwyer, this was his fourth attempt at Monday qualifying for a PGA event this year. He also tried several Korn Ferry minitour qualifiers and has status on Canada’s Mackenzie minitour.
“My first PGA Tour event will mean so much to me,” Dwyer said. “It’ll be so cool because both sides of my family still live here. I’ll be able to share this with a lot of people because I’ll probably have 20 people following me this week.”
Mark Craig is a reporter for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @markcraigNFL