by Jeff Skinner
The approval of the changes to the PGA Tour that the Tour has been touting to the players looks like a mere formality. Tim Finchem and his crew have worked hard trying to make life after the major championships more relevant for years.
It started with rolling the Tour Championship into the FedEx Cup Playoffs and it appears to have worked. Previously many of the big names (meaning Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson) were seldom seen on tour after the PGA Championship in August. Now with the playoffs it is rare not to see all the big names tee it up in the FedEx Cup.
The latest proposed change is even more radical if you ask me as it affects The PGA Tour, The Nationwide Tour, The Fall Series and most dramatically Q-School. First, the tour is stealing a page from the European Tour will start its season with the Fall Series events counting as tournaments in the next season. For instance, this year there are four Fall Series events played during October and November, under the new plan they would actually be on the following year’s calendar and all money and points earned will count towards the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Instead of the PGA Tour season starting in Hawaii in January, it would now start at the Justin Timberlake in October.
It was announced last week that FedEx had signed up for a few more seasons as the main sponsor on the PGA Tour through 2017. But a FedEx Cup executive let it slip that they wanted a year round presence, meaning that if they are spending all this cash they wanted every PGA Tour tournament to wear the FedEx Cup banner. It is understandable that they want to maximize every dollar they spend but who’s calling the shots on the tour?
Also announced in the changes was the way veterans retain their cards. The top 75 players on the PGA Tour that failed to keep their tour cards would be paired with the top 75 money winners on the Nationwide Tour in a three tournament “Fall Series” with the top 50 earning PGA Tour Cards. The players that fail to earn their cards there can then go to Q-School. But Q-School isn’t what it used to be under the new plan.
Before the changes the top 25 at Q-School got the biggest brass ring in golf: a PGA Tour Card. Under the new plan, players would not advance to the PGA Tour, only the Nationwide Tour instead. Gone is the prize of playing on the PGA Tour.
Surviving Q-school had been the ultimate dream or most painful torture, depending on who you talk to but for those that endured the most pressure filled week in golf the reward was well worth it. Now that prize is no longer there, only another chance at proving yourself all over again.
I can understand Finchem’s need to placate the sponsors and it is his job to do what he thinks is the best for the PGA Tour and its members. But these changes relegate Q-School to nothing more than a pass to the minor leagues when it had been the last chance for a golfer to go from nowhere to the big show.
Q-School graduates had an amazing finish this past week. At the Match Play Championship Sang-Moon Bae made it to the final eight golfers. And at the Mayakoba Golf Classic Q-School grad and PGA Tour rookie, John Huh survived an eight hole playoff to claim his first win. Under the new changes those two probably wouldn’t be able to play on the PGA Tour.
Maybe the tour could consider just reducing the number of tour cards earned at Q-School down from 25 to 10 or 15. That way at least there would be a few Holy Grails sitting there for those talented, dedicated few that survive one of the toughest tests in golf.