Neil Johnson | Tour Stage 2 Q-School | Final Round

EWA BEACH, Hawaii -- By the end of another challenging day in paradise Monday at Hoakalei CC, Neil Johnson found himself as close to a gig on the PGA Tour this week as the River Falls native got this time a year ago at the Sony Open in Hawaii. This close.

Johnson birdied three of his first four holes during open qualifying for the first full-field PGA Tour event of 2018, but didn’t make another the rest of the day. His 2-under-par 70 left him two shots out of a 2-for-1 playoff for the last of four spots in the 144-man tournament field.

A year ago, Johnson shot 70 on the same course and missed a 4-for-2 playoff for the final two spots in the Sony Open field. The rounds were nearly identical -- he birdied three of his first five holes a year ago -- but Johnson said that was were the similarities stopped.

“On paper, it looked similar to last year, but it played out quite differently,” Johnson wrote in a text message to Wisconsin.Golf. “My game didn’t feel good coming into this week as opposed to last year, when it felt great.  I’ve been trying to get my swing figured out, but I haven’t yet.  (Sunday) was a very tough 73 (in the pre-qualifier at Hoakalei), but I was able to keep it together mentally and not let the tough conditions get the best of me.”

As it did Sunday, the wind started to pick up in intensity during the middle of his round. That made club selection difficult and legitimate birdie chances few and far between.

“The golf course starts out easy on both sides, then finishes tough so I knew I would have to get some birdies at the start,” said Johnson, who began his round on the back nine with birdies at Nos. 10 and 11 and another at No. 13. “(The wind) started to blow on my sixth hole and I knew the final 12 holes would be a challenge. I hit a lot of good shots (Monday), but didn’t hit it close enough and left myself too many 15 to 20 footers for birdie.”

Johnson said he had 87 and 88 yards into the green on the par-5 first and par-4 second holes, respectively. He walked off with a pair of pars and, after a bogey at the par-3 fourth hole, was not able to get to the 4-under magic number required for a spot in the playoff.

“(Monday), my swing felt better, but not great,” Johnson wrote. “If my swing was in a bit better shape, I would’ve had a bit more confidence and maybe I would’ve been able to fire a mid-60s round. But instead I was fighting hard for whatever chances I could get.”

It was much the same story for Madison native Maxwell Hosking, who was bogey-free and 3-under through his first 12 holes only to falter late, shoot even-par 72 and tie for 29th. It was his first competitive round since the Nebraska Open in mid-September where he finished tied for 19th — 12 shots behind Johnson, who shot 68-65-64 to win by two.

Hosking, who started on the front nine, birdied No. 3 to go along with eight pars and made the turn in 1-under 35. He birdied the par-5 10th and par-4 12th holes before trading a bogey at the par-3 13th hole for a birdie at the par-4 15th to get within one shot of the playoff with three holes to go before finishing bogey-bogey-bogey to miss his chance.

“My iron striking is what kept me around all day,” Hosking wrote via text message to Wisconsin.Golf. “(I) struggled a bit with the driver and putter (and) missed a handful of 10-15 foot putts due to speed. (But I) felt extremely confident every time I had an iron in hand. (Nos.) 16 and 17 are some tough finishing holes and I hit two poor tee shots (and) trying to be aggressive out of the Bermuda rough out here doesn’t really work.

“I would say the driver is a big reason why I wasn’t able to get where I needed to be.”

Hosking, who said he has been battling “tendon problems” in his foot in recent weeks, is planning to spend a week in Hawaii with his mom Debbie, who recently retired to “The Big Island” and was able to watch her son’s quest for a spot in a PGA Tour event. After that, Hosking said he’d return to his winter home in Tucson, Arizona, where he said he is going to “work on gathering sponsors and getting a big more healthy before I tee it up again."

As for Johnson, he will return to his home in Phoenix and prepare for the upcoming PGA Tour Latinoamerica Qualifying School, which is Jan. 16 through 19 at Mazatlan, Mexico. The first session of qualifying for that tour begins Tuesday at Howey-In-The-Hills, Florida, where Platteville native Joshua Udelhofen is among those seeking exempt status.

1Steve Allan-7F65 
2Ricky Barnes-6F66 
3John Oda  Honolulu, HI-5F67 
4Gunn Yang  San Diego, CA-4F68 
5Benjamin Corfee  El Macero, CA-4F68 
6Zahkai Brown  Golden, CO-3F69 
7Ted Purdy-3F69 
8Sebastian Vazquez  Addiso, TX-3F69 
9Ken Duke  FL-3F69 
10Rico (Richard) Hoey  Rancho Cucamonga, CA-3F69 
11Parker Mclachlin  Scottsdale, AZ-3F69 
12Zachary Blair  Orem, UT-3F69 
13Daniel Obremski  Irwin, PA-3F69 
14Neil Johnson  River Falls, WI-2F70 
15Eric Meichtry  Murrieta, CA-2F70 
16EWard Olson-2F70 
17Brent Grant  HI-1F71 
18Michael Schoolcraft  CO-1F71 
19Katsumasa Miyamoto  Honolulu, HI-1F71 
20Y.E. Yang  Carrollton, TX-1F71 
21Derek Barron  Lakewood, WA-1F71 
22Tadd Fujikawa  Honolulu, HI-1F71 
23Derek Fribbs  Thornton, CO-1F71 
24Kyohei Nomura  Honolulu, HIEF72 
25Franklin Corpening  Fort Worth, TXEF72 
26Sang Shin  Honolulu, HIEF72 
27Spencer ColeEF72 
28Genki Tamashiro  Torrence, CAEF72 
29Max Hosking  Madison, WIEF72 
30Nicholas Mason  Ewa Beach, HI+1F73 
31Jared Sawada  Mililani, HI+1F73 
32Austyn Karle+1F73 
33Matthew Daniel  Vancouver, BC+1F73 
34Martin Trainer+1F73 
35Byron Meth  Tempe, AZ+2F74 
36Juan Rodriguez  Waikoloa, HI+2F74 
37Mark Anguiano  Hacienda Heights, CA+2F74 
38Remington Hirano  Honolulu, HI+3F75 
39Kyle Suppa  Naples, HI+3F75 
40Ryuichiro Iwama  San Diego, CA+3F75 
41Jordan Holifield  Kaneohe, HI+3F75 
42Jack Newman  Clearwater, FL+3F75 
43Ryan Williams  Phoenix, AZ+4F76 
44Jake Byrum  Scottsdale, AZ+4F76 
45Larry Correa  Lompoc, CA+4F76 
46Alex Chiarella+4F76 
47JoshuaRoland DeFreitas Jr  HI+5F77 
48TJ Esaki-Kua  Honolulu, HI+5F77 
49Jason Jakovac  Ewa Beach, HI+5F77 
50JT Griffin  Lyndhurst, OH+6F78 
51Justin Keiley  Haiku, HI+6F78 
52Dalen Yamauchi  Hilo, HI+6F78 
53Kevin Lucas  Folsom, CA+6F78 
54Matt Pridey+7F79