Punch Shot: Web.com Finals vs. Q-School?

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 30, 2013, 8:23 pm

The inaugural Web.com Finals have come and gone with 50 players earning their PGA Tour cards for the 2013-14 season on Sunday. And while the new qualifying system is here to stay, there is some debate over whether it is better than the old Q-School. GolfChannel.com writers debate which system they prefer.


There were moments on Sunday afternoon at TPC Sawgrass when the Web.com Tour Championship delivered the kind of excitement we’ve come to expect when players face the ultimate opponent – unemployment. But those moments were few and far between, at least compared to the annual drama Q-School produced.

Andres Gonzales’ plight – a missed 18 footer for par at the last hole that cost him his 2013-14 PGA Tour card – was heartbreak in HD; while Brad Fritsch and Andrew Loupe’s final-round charges were the stuff of legend. But it wasn’t Q-School.

One golf scribe summed up the central difference between the old qualifying process and the new – this season’s four-event Web.com Tour Finals – is that at the Fall Classic you play for score, at the Finals you play for money.

Confusion, more so than a climactic finish, ruled the day on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass, with calculators replacing clinched fists as family and friends tried to track the progress of big league hopefuls. Brendon Todd shot the round of the day (a 5-under 65), but he was already exempt for next season via his finish in the top 25 on the regular-season Web.com Tour money list.

And what drama there was on Sunday at the finale was largely absent for the first three Finals events as a byproduct of the new system’s volatility. Consider that Loupe missed the cut in the first three qualifying events yet earned his card with a tie for sixth at the Tour Championship.

The new system is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. 


The Web.com Tour Finals represent a marked improvement, assuming, of course, that the necessary tweaks are made before next fall.

At its core, the Finals better identifies the players that will graduate to the PGA Tour because it is a four-week series, not a six-day marathon. In the old format, with so many good players, with everyone so desperate to secure playing privileges, one poor round could be the difference between competing on the PGA and Web.com tours. Now, players can afford an off-week – or three – and still receive their card.

The tweaks to the current system are obvious: The money breakdown is so drastic that it required players to post only one good finish to lock up their Tour card, and the priority ranking should be skewed more toward the 25 players who earned their card through the season-long money list.

Even so, just like the FedEx Cup, this new series will only get better with age.


After the first implementation of the Web.com Finals, this much is evident to me: It’s a much improved alternative to Q-School.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m neither heartless nor unromantic. I do love the idea that a guy can go from working in a pro shop, then pay his thousands of dollars to play Q-School and be teeing it up alongside the Tigers and Phils of the world a few months later. And really, I wish there were still a few PGA Tour cards – five sounds about right – still handed out at the annual grindfest.

But if the PGA Tour is looking to promote the best players to its most elite circuit, then the Web.com Finals will accomplish that goal. Rather than six rounds in a single location, players are tested during 16 rounds in four different locations. A greater sample size should equal a greater return in talent, too.

This isn’t unique to golf, either. Think about it: If you were running a business and hiring candidates, would you want to promote those who proved their worth over the longer haul or those who showed one brief flash of brilliance? Give me longevity every time.

In golf, many are often reluctant to change, viewing anything new as similarly unsatisfactory. That’s not the case here, though. While the Web.com Finals could use some tweaks, it’s clear that it beats the previous system.


Give me the Web.com Tour Finals with a few tweaks.

And give me Q-School, too.

Hey, if you can have your cake, why not eat it, too?

There was an appeal to the Web.com Tour Finals, though the drama doesn’t build as intensely as it does at Q-School. What drama that exists does unfold with more confusion than Q-School did. That’s where the PGA Tour needs to do some tweaking. How about just giving Tour cards to the top 15 money winners from the Web.com Tour regular season and forego the nonsense of making them play for priority rankings in the Web.com Tour Finals? Give them the top 15 priority rankings from these categories.

After that, stage your Web.com Tour Finals using players who finished Nos. 16-75 on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list with players who finished Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour money list and let them play for 25 Tour cards. Priority rank them behind the top 15 from the Web.com Tour regular season.

And then bring back PGA Tour Q-School but cut the cards awarded to 10.

That’s 50 PGA Tour cards won via three different routes. Doing it this way, the Web.com Tour’s regular season would be more justly rewarded, you would still have the new appeal of the Web.com Tour Finals – and you would keep the romantic notion of Q-School where players (including collegians) can come out of nowhere and win a Tour card.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."