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Colt Knost survives roller coaster

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- To fully understand why PGA Tour Q-school may be the most grueling tournament in the world, you needed to have been outside the scorer's tent Monday afternoon at the Nicklaus Tournament course on the sixth and last day of the 108-hole marathon.

Colt Knost is crying. His caddie, swing coach and agent are trying to comfort him, but with what they have just experienced in the last 20 minutes, it's difficult for them to hold it together. So they try to comfort each other. It seems there had been some confusion about where Knost stood in the tournament. The caddie feels responsible.

Before Knost emerged from the scorer's tent, where he signed for an even-par 72, his caddie, Shorty, is excitedly trying to explain what happened on that 108th hole. "It's going to be OK," said Randy Smith, Knost's teacher since he was in high school. "He's got his tour card."

Knost, a 26-year-old native of Pilot Point, Texas, had stood on the 453-yard, par-4 18th hole of the Nicklaus Tournament course at 10 under par and comfortably inside the number of 8 under to earn his PGA Tour card. Then he hit his drive into the water on the right. His next shot was a hybrid that gave him a short wedge into the green. Smith would later call Knost's 220-yard hybrid one of the best shots with that club of his career. Shorty had told Knost that he needed to get his fourth shot up and down for a bogey to secure his card.

The eyes were already red and watery by the time he walked off that green with a double-bogey to drop to 8 under par for the tournament.

"I thought it was done. I thought I had no chance of getting my card," said Knost, fighting back tears after the round.

The 2007 U.S. Amateur Championship and U.S. Am Public Links winner, who forfeited an opportunity to play in the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open to turn pro that year, had struggled with that tee shot at the 18th hole all week. Even in the practice rounds he was hitting it right, where water runs the length of the fairway. But with the tee up Monday and the wind pretty calm, he thought that he could hit a little cut that would bend off the left side, but he got slightly ahead of it and dumped the ball in the water.

"I thought I was fine all day," said Knost, who started the final round at 8 under par. "I hit a tee shot that I didn't expect to hit. I really didn't know where I stood. I kind of had an idea. If I had known I had a couple shots to play with, I would have just flown it way left.

"I had been hitting it pretty good and that tee shot just came out of nowhere. It was a tough finish, but it looks like I'm going to make it through."

On Monday, Knost was one of 27 players to get their PGA Tour cards through Q-school. At PGA West, all the players who finished 8 under or better earned their cards.

Brendon Todd, a 26-year-old former Georgia Bulldogs golfer, was the medalist with a six-day total of 17 under par. Todd is one of four Bulldogs headed to the tour next year from Q-school. In that group is Harris English, who finished in a tie for 13th after a 74 on Monday. English, 22, who won the Nationwide Tour's Children's Hospital Invitational this summer as an amateur, is probably the best player out of the Q-school this year.

Marco Dawson, who was the leader heading into the final day, shot a 76 on Monday, but held on to get his card. Nathan Green and Sang-Moon Bae tied for the low round of the day -- 6-under 66s -- to fight their way inside the number to also earn their cards.

Richard H. Lee went eagle, birdie, par, birdie, birdie on the Stadium Course to finish in a tie for 24th at 9 under par to get his card.

"I have played on the PGA Tour the last two out of three years," said Knost, who made just 12 cuts in 27 events in 2011 on the PGA Tour to finish 174th on the money list. "So I knew that's where I wanted to be. It's such a big difference between the Nationwide Tour and PGA Tour. It's just a relief that's it over."

At last year's Q-school, held at Orange County National in Florida, 29 players earned their cards. Of that number, only nine retained their cards for 2012. William McGirt was one of those graduates who was back here this week at PGA West, after finishing a 141st on the PGA Tour money list. On Monday, he shot a 3-under 69 to easily regain his card at 11-under par.

"I didn't know how many starts I was going to get on the PGA Tour next year with my conditional status," said the 32-year-old McGirt, who would have been in the 126-150 category from the 2011 PGA Tour money list. "But I know I'll get a whole bunch more in this category and a chance to play more events at the beginning of the year.

"It was very nerve racking out there. I made the worst swing I've made all week on 17 and followed it with the two best of the week on 18."

Asked what he would take from this experience going into next year, McGirt said, "a whole bunch of gray hairs. I'm going now to get something cold and alcoholic and sit on the couch."

After a week that called for endurance as much as it did good play, who can blame any of these players for kicking up their heels until the new year?

Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at evans.espn@gmail.com.