LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Marco Dawson is why Q-school should never be dumped. Every year a player such as Dawson, who has been on and off the PGA Tour since 1990, uses the event to gain another shot at continuing a dream.
On a brutally windy Saturday at PGA West, Dawson shot a bogey-free 5-under 67 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Skies were sunny with a high of 63, but on the golf course it felt like it was 50 degrees with gusts of wind as high as 28 mph.
The 48-year-old journeyman is making his 11th trip to the Q-school finals. At the end of the day, Dawson was 2 shots back of the leader, Will Claxton, and alone in second place. If the former Florida Southern star can continue his good play for the next two days, he could earn his PGA Tour card through Q-school for the sixth time in his career.
"The wind was blowing harder than it was on Thursday," said Dawson, who is 13 under. "I was thinking at the beginning of the day that even par would be a good score. So I didn't put any pressure on myself to make any birdies or try to hit it close.
"On a day like this you just play to hit certain spots where it's on the fairway or on the green. I let the wind be my friend. I let it push the ball whichever way it's blowing."
The PGA Tour, which is considering changing how players earn their way to exempt status via Q-school, might eliminate the 108-hole annual grind altogether.
On the Nationwide Tour in 2011, Dawson earned $156,067 and finished 32nd on the money list. But he fell about $24,000 short of being one of the 25 to graduate off that tour to the PGA Tour.
"I changed something in my swing earlier this year. But I just didn't putt that well until I went to the belly [putter] at the John Deer Classic, where I finished tied for 18th. And after that I played well the rest of the year," said Dawson, who had a second-place finish in August at the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, Tenn.
On Saturday, Dawson missed two greens all day and made a lot of good 2-putts. He had an impressive birdie at the sixth hole, a 462-yard, par-4 that was playing like a par-5. At the dangerous par-3, 172-yard eighth hole, instead of challenging the water, Dawson hit his ball in the middle of green and had a nice 2-putt from 50 feet.
"It seems easy. But I know that it's not that easy," Dawson said. "I was relaxed. I didn't get uptight. I was expecting to make a bogey somewhere. But I never did."
Dawson's 67 tied for the low round of the day with Ryan Yip, who had his 67 on the PGA West Stadium Course. There were only five sub-70 rounds in all on Saturday.
Dawson, who has twice made it through Q-school here at PGA West, is easy to root for. He's a gray and grizzled old veteran that come Monday might find his way back to the comforts of the PGA Tour. For a golfer, that experience never gets old.
Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.