This pro is on a mind-blowing heater, and you’re probably unaware of it
A case of the Mondays? Chris Naegel has never heard of ’em.
At least, not recently.
Naegel, a journeyman pro who hails from Missouri, has begun his week in a consistent fashion of late. He wakes up, drives to an unassuming golf course, makes six or seven birdies and then claims one of four up-for-grabs spots in that week’s PGA Tour event.
Monday qualifying for one Tour event is impressive, but four in a row? That’s almost unheard of. Naegel has been making the feat look routine.
“For me, I just look at it as, I’ve got to make a bunch of birdies if I’m gonna play that week,” he said. “If I do, it’s awesome. If I don’t, so be it. I’ll play again next week.”
To hear Naegel talk about it, these qualifiers seem stress-free, like a Sunday-morning skins game with the boys. But as we all know, they’re anything but. For players chasing the dream with limited or no status, a bogey on a Monday can mean the difference between playing for millions, or coming out in the red for the week.
Speaking of bogeys, Naegel hasn’t made many of them during his recent heater. Over his last 72 holes in open qualifiers, he’s dropped just four shots. In that same stretch, he’s made 27 birdies and one eagle, good for a cumulative 25 under over those rounds — and four Thursday tee times alongside the best golfers in the world.
Before this month, Naegel, 39, had made just six career Tour starts, making the cut three times. One of those starts came at last month’s U.S. Open, which came after a successful qualifier (go figure) in Columbus, Ohio. After that, his game got hot.
Beginning the Monday of the John Deere Classic, Naegel’s Monday scores are 66, 66, 64, 66. It’s earned him spots in four consecutive events (John Deere, Barracuda, 3M, Rocket Mortgage) and nearly doubled his number of career Tour starts.
“I’m not gonna say it’s easy to shoot 66,” he said of his recent play. “But it’s not as difficult as shooting 66 on a PGA Tour setup. So, after playing a Tour setup and then going to a Monday and seeing that setup, it seems a little easier than if I hadn’t seen the Tour setup the week before.”
But while Naegel has been an ace on Mondays, his stellar early-week form hasn’t quite translated to consistent weekend success. He’s made just one cut so far after Monday’ing in — with the Rocket Mortgage still to play — and a T16 finish at the John Deere represents his best result.
That’s not to say the weeks have been unfruitful, though. Thanks to his T56 at the U.S. Open and T16 at the John Deere, Naegel has 52 FedEx Cup non-member points. If he can scrape together another 40 or so points, he should have enough to earn a spot in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals — and a shot at earning his first-career PGA Tour card.
“Week after week, it’s gotten me a little bit more hungry to get out here,” he said. “Seeing it week in and week out — this is definitely where you want to play.”