New questions arise from Q-School changes

By March 21, 2012, 1:52 am

The PGA Tour announced Tuesday changes the Policy Board has approved to alter both the tour calendar and the nature of Q-School. Though the foundation for those changes has been given the nod, a number of key questions still have to be answered ' including these top five.

1. What will determine the fully-exempt top 125 players going forward: FedEx Cup points or money earned?

The delineation between qualifying for the PGA Tour Playoffs and the soon-to-be-former Nationwide Tour Final Series is FedEx Cup points. The top 125 get into the Barclays, while the next 75 drop down to the developmental tour for three tournaments.

There were 13 players last season, however, whose status could be in limbo without further details. Seven players outside the top 125 on the money list qualified for the PGA Tour Playoffs. Another half-dozen did not get into the Barclays but were in the top 125 on the money list.

It may wind up that the PGA Tour will have to choose one or the other ' points or money - to determine status. FedEx Cup points would likely win.

2. How will the 150 players in the Finals Series be seeded going into the trio of events?

The idea of throwing 75 PGA Tour players and 75 Nationwide Tour players into the same cauldron has led to conjecture about how the two will be blended and seeded before the Finals Series. Comparing the quality of competition and money earned on the two tours has been a point of contention.

Perhaps a solution would be to offer FedEx Cup points to Nationwide Tour players at a drastically-reduced rate ' perhaps one-fourth of the total for a normal PGA Tour event. Top Nationwide Tour players typically win twice, so they would net 250 FedEx Cup points for the win. The 126th player in FedEx Cup points last year earned 328 points.

Under this idea, a Nationwide Tour player could earn enough FedEx Cup points to get into the top 125, avoid the Finals Series entirely and compete in the playoffs instead. Besides, they would likely otherwise be a lock for a PGA Tour card.

3. Will there be an avenue for amateurs, newly-minted pros and non-members to earn a place in the Finals Series?

Nationwide Tour President Bill Calfee has said a proposal has been made to allow all three niche groups to gain entry if they earn enough points in their limited starts to finish in the top 200 in FedEx Cup points.

If that ultimately is true, amateurs could earn points for their starts on the PGA Tour ' a conundrum unto itself. If an amateur does qualify, it is unclear if such a player must turn pro to compete in the Finals Series or be able to pull a Peter Uihlein and play as an amateur.

The current situation for non-members is clear: if they earn enough money to get inside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list, they earn full membership for the next season. In the future, this path may fall under the debate to use points or dollars for status.

4. Will PGA Tour players drop down to play Nationwide Tour events to help their chances in earning a PGA Tour card?

If it becomes clear to a PGA Tour player that they will struggle to make the FedEx Cup playoffs, it is conceivable for some that they could choose to play on the Nationwide Tour in the final weeks of the season. By making Nationwide Tour starts, a player could earn enough money to assure a card regardless of the outcome of the Finals Series.

Whether those dollars earned on the Nationwide Tour would be treated as a separate ledger from their FedEx Cup points on the PGA Tour, is also a question ' for players on both tours.

5. Can Nationwide Tour players expect to play for higher purses under the new system?

For PGA Tour players in the Final Series, it could feel like a dip in an ice bath to play for Nationwide Tour purses. In a given week, the difference can be as low as a factor of five and as high as a factor of 10.

How much the players will compete for in the trio of events is still to be determined. The Q-school medalist currently earns $50,000, and the case could be made that earning a PGA Tour card is payment enough.

With more PGA Tour veterans likely taking a detour to the Nationwide Tour, however, they may expect a bump in pay as compensation for their inability to earn back their PGA Tour status through Q-School.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.