Friday, March 23, 2012

The PGA Tour, like it's never been before

If the PGA Tour's adoption of the interesting but hard to calculate FedEx Cup playoffs a few years ago seemed borderline revolutionary, the tour's next step may be more dramatic.

Q-school? Going away, at least as we've known it.

Starting in January? Too late. Think October.

Surrendering the fall to football? Not anymore.

Good ideas?

Yes and no.

It's tough to summarize in a couple of sentences what the PGA Tour intends to do starting next year but here goes:

Under a new model, the PGA Tour season will still end with the Tour Championship at the end of the FedEx Cup playoffs in late September, points having been accumulated as they have in recent years. Somebody will still pocket $10 million for winning the playoffs plus their Tour Championship booty.

That will end the 2013 PGA Tour season. Players who finish 126 to 200 on the tour money list will move into a three-event 'mini playoff' with the top 75 players from the 2013 Nationwide Tour. They will play for 50 PGA Tour cards over those three events.

That will be decided concurrently with the FedEx Cup playoffs. When the Tour Championship is over, the 2014 season will begin although it will still be October, 2012.

See what I mean about complicated?

What are now the fall series events will stay in the same basic spots on the calendar but be the start of a new tour season, awarding FedEx Cup points (but perhaps only half as many as other regular events). The idea is to keep sponsors of fall events happy. You'll sense a theme here.

Qualifying school will be turned into a path to the Nationwide Tour. Forget someone like John Huh showing up at Q-school, earning his card then winning a PGA Tour event in February. It won't work like that anymore.

Why is this happening?

One reason is Nationwide's tour sponsorship ends after this year and commissioner Tim Finchem and his associates are desperately seeking a new name for their second-tier tour. The new model is intended, among other things, to raise the profile of what is now the Nationwide Tour.

"I like it," said Johnson Wagner, who played his way onto the PGA Tour via the Nationwide Tour. "I don't think six rounds at Q-school is the best test.

"It's unfortunate for the select few who would make it all the way to the tour without having any Nationwide status but it's good for the guys who have played the tour for a while and maybe a had a down period. A three-tournament set is better."

There are, as you might expect, many details to be finalized.

What to do with a guy who wins two Nationwide events and finishes first on the money list? Does he go into the mini playoffs with no advantage over a guy who finished 70th on the Nationwide Tour? How will players be seeded?

What about the guy who is 126th on the PGA Tour? Does he have any advantage for coming, perhaps literally within one stroke of keeping his tour card?

What about the admission when the FedEx Cup playoffs were created that golf can't compete with football in the fall? Now it wants to start its season in the middle of football season?

Again, why all of this?

"Any time you make a change, human nature is , why are we changing?" Finchem said in his announcement Tuesday. "You know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. There's another way to look at things that when things are going pretty well, that's the time to get better. That's the philosophy we have embraced."

As we know, change isn't always easy nor pretty.

In this case, it didn't seem necessary. But here it comes.


Anonymous said...

I did not understand one thing though Ron. So then the race to the 125 automatic exemption is over at the same time. Unlike last year when Luke Donald came back to play Disney to be the number one money winner on the US tour as well as the European Tour and DJ Trahan had to make a birdie on the 17th hole to get into the 125?