Mar
23
2011
Possible Change for Journey to the PGA Tour
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

The PGA Tour is pondering a change to the end of the season where the players that don’t finish in the top-125 and to make the FedEx Cup playoffs would vie for their cards in a series of tournaments against the top Nationwide Tour players, according to the AP.

The other revision on the table is only granting Nationwide Tour spots for golfers trying to fulfill their dreams in Q-school. Under this proposed system, Rickie Fowler, who got his tour card via Q-school and then earned a spot on the Ryder Cup team, would have earned a spot on the Nationwide Tour last year instead.

Via the AP:

Under the preliminary plan, the top 125 on the FedEx Cup standings after the Wyndham Championship would advance to the playoffs and compete for $35 million in bonus money, with $10 million for the winner.

Those who don’t make the top 125 would have the option of playing a series of three tournaments along with top Nationwide Tour players. Those tournaments also would have a points structure, and it would determine who gets PGA Tour cards the following season.

Among the numbers being mentioned for the three-tournament series is 75 players from the FedEx Cup standings and the top 50 players from the Nationwide Tour money list, with the top 50 players from that series earning their cards.

My first reaction? I don’t like it. So, there are two proposed changes. The first is basically to spice up the Fall Series — or to try and make what was the Fall Series more exciting and boost ratings. Maybe I’m being cynical, but as long as it’s football season, the ratings for golf are going to hurt — even with the NFL lockout, there’s college football, which arguably is more popular.

I also don’t think it’s fair that No. 126 in the FedEx Cup standings (or money list, however they do it) misses by just a point and gets thrown in the same category as No. 200. It’s debatable that the top ten on the Nationwide Tour had just as good seasons as No. 126, but I’m waiting to speak to Jerry “Mr. Natonwide” Foltz on the subject for his take.

Let’s realize what these proposed changes are really about: $$$$ (TV)

Now for the second part, which is explained best via the AP report:

The PGA Tour over the past several years has been awarding more cards through the Nationwide Tour money list than those who make it through six rounds of Q-school. It feels players are more prepared for the big leagues after going through an entire season of traveling and trying to make cuts in the minors.

Such a change, however, would eliminate dreams of long shots who go make it through Q-school, some of them fresh out of college, others who have toiled through mini-tours.

Some tour officials feel those players are exceptions, and that the quality of fields would be strengthened.

It also would add a layer of drama to the end of the year — PGA Tour players who struggled and Nationwide Tour players who performed well, meeting in a cutthroat series of events.

Still to be determined is how the Fall Series, which typically is held after the FedEx Cup, would be effected.

Like I said, the Fall Series is as good as gone. My main problem is with how this would affect the stars coming out of college, like the Rickie Fowlers, JB Holmes, Dustin Johnsons and Gary Woodlands. Holmes was a very good college player, but he wasn’t as much of a “sure thing” as Rickie Fowler. Meanwhile, Holmes earned his card through Q-school in 2005, and two months later, he won the Phoenix Open. Similar story for Dustin Johnson, who went through Q-school in 2007 and then collected his first victory during his rookie year at Turning Stone. And of course, Woodland, who went through Q-school twice, just won last week.

More important, what I enjoy most about Q-school are those feel-good stories of the guys that toil through the mini tours and show up year-in-and-year-out with the hopes to make it to the PGA Tour. Watching a very good friend, Andres Gonzales, achieve that dream last December will always be one of the most rewarding and poignant moments I’ll always remember. I’ll never forget the look on his face and how happy he was — and especially when he broke down after receiving a text from his friend, PGA Tour player Bill Lunde, saying, “Your dad is smiling today.” (Andres’ dad passed away in 2007 from a brain tumor.)

There’s something really special about the egalitarian nature of Q-school that no other sport can boast. Every year the Tour gives the opportunity for Joe Golfer to be discovered and to make it to the bigs. Which, to me, feels very American and something golf and the Tour should preserve. In a world where the Tour has become more and more driven by corporate, big-money interests (of course, partly out of necessity), Q-school is arguably the purest bastion left.

Maybe that’s just me being idealistic…again. What are your thoughts? Should Nos. 125-200 compete with the top NWT players for their cards? Should Q-school grads only receive NWT cards?

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)