Questions abound about new qualifying structure

By Rex HoggardJuly 11, 2012, 4:33 pm

Give the PGA Tour style points for brevity, if not ambiguity. In some 400 words the circuit outlined the most dramatic shakeup to its qualifying process since professional golf emerged from the “rabbit tour” days.

Tuesday’s release outlining the dramatically reconfigured Tour/Q-School process was vague by design. In broad strokes the secondary circuit will maintain a level of regular-season relevancy, awarding 25 Tour cards to its top money earners, while creating a season-ending “finals series” that appears to be more than a nip/tucked version of Q-School.

By most accounts the Tour and its Policy Board slow played themselves into a winning plan without breaking any major china with players or fans, but to gloss over commissioner Tim Finchem’s “new deal” in a 400-word Cliff’s Notes version ignores how much energy and emotion actually went into the new qualifying system.

Earlier this month at the AT&T National four-time Policy Board member Davis Love III called the plan the most difficult thing he’d ever did as a player director and one official could only laugh when asked if he thought it would have taken so long to reach a consensus, “No way,” the official smiled.

Two-years of debate, endless models and an assortment of scenarios led to Tuesday’s announcement and a late-to-the-dance plan that ultimately merged variations of different options.

“This (plan) came up very recently,” said Paul Goydos, who is serving his first term on the Policy Board. “It was kind of a byproduct of the NASCAR (model). The first thing that went away was the seeding (model). It’s too hard to compare play on different tours.”

The “NASCAR” plan included the top money winners on the Tour playing the three-event finals series although they had already secured their status for the following season; while the seeding model would have attempted to marry the PGA Tour and Tour money lists for the final three tournaments.

“No way that people would agree on (a seeding model),” Goydos said. “Under that type of scenario No. 126 (in PGA Tour earnings) was basically going to get the same money as No. 26 on the Tour. But that means my seeding was going to be impacted by how I played and how someone on another tour played. It was going to be difficult to accept that another player who was playing (on another tour) was going to decide where you were going to be seeded.”

Which led to the NASCAR model and a debate over how many players from the secondary circuit should be awarded Tour cards based on regular-season performance.

“What number on the Tour should be guaranteed cards? It bounced between 15 and 25,” Goydos said. “The idea was that under the old system a player ranked between 18th and 19th on the Tour money list with three tournaments remaining was virtually assured of finishing inside the top 25 and earning a card.”

If the Tour lowered the number of guaranteed cards after the regular season on the secondary circuit, “we would be admitting that (the Tour) was not as strong as we thought it was when I would argue that it’s getting stronger every year,” Goydos said.

The four player directors (Love, Goydos, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk) ultimately settled on the top 25 players earning Tour cards and a “jump ball” model for the finals series which featured Nos. 1-75 on the secondary circuit and Nos. 126-200 on the FedEx Cup points list playing the last three events for the final 25 Tour cards.

Although guaranteed a card the top 25 players from the Tour could hurt their status for the following year with a poor performance in the final series, which in theory gives the secondary circuit’s big finish an added level of drama while maintaining the integrity of the regular season.


You’re not alone.

“To me, at first, I thought it was very confusing, but when they showed it in chart form on a money list it is better visually,” Goydos said.

The Tour’s abridged release also left an assortment of unanswered questions. Why, for example, would the winner of the Tour’s money list, who will be awarded full Tour membership for the following season, play the finals series?

“He doesn’t have to,” Goydos said. “The sponsor would probably like to have him in there playing.”

It also remains to be seen where and when the finals series will be played. Because of cross-over between the two tours officials expect field sizes between 135 and 140 players and all three events will feature 36-hole cuts to the top 60 players and ties.

Under the current scenario but still undecided, the first finals series event would be played opposite the BMW Championship, the third FedEx Cup playoff event which is followed by an off-week. The second finals event would be played during that off-week and the qualifying finale would be held the week after the Tour Championship at East Lake.

All three finals series events would be Tour tournaments and there appears to be an undercurrent of support for a geographic rotation across the country.

But the essential question is how this change will impact a particular player’s ability to earn Tour status. Would a player fresh out of college, like Patrick Cantlay who recently turned pro after his sophomore season at UCLA, have the same chance to play his way onto the Tour without the benefit of Q-School?

“It’s going to be easier for a Patrick Cantlay to earn a card, it’s going to be harder for a Paul Goydos when he first came out on Tour because I would not have gotten the sponsor exemptions,” Goydos said.

Maybe it’s best the Tour opted for brevity to unveil its new qualifying plan – which, by most accounts, deftly bridges the gap between old and new – because the only thing detailed analysis creates is more questions that won’t be answered for at least another year.

Getty Images

McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

Getty Images

Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.