PGA Tour cards up for grabs at Tour Finals


While the FedEx Cup Playoffs take a break, another postseason is set to begin.

The Tour Finals kick off this week with the Hotel Fitness Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind., where 133 players will tee off with the hopes of securing one of 50 PGA Tour cards available during the four-event series.

Half of that allotment is already spoken for, as the top 25 players from the season-long Tour money list are guaranteed a promotion next season. That group is headed by Patton Kizzire, who already had the top spot before a pair of late-season victories. It also includes former PGA Tour winners Dicky Pride and Rod Pampling, former U.S. Amateur champ Kelly Kraft and Michael Kim, who was the No. 1-ranked amateur during his career at Cal.

Those players will carry their regular-season earnings into the Finals, and their PGA Tour priority ranking for next season will be based on their total earnings across the entire year.

The remaining field battling for the other 25 cards includes Nos. 26-75 from the Tour money list, as well as Nos. 126-200 from the final FedEx Cup points list. While the former group includes an expected mix of player profiles, pitting veterans like Tommy Gainey and Brad Fritsch against recent collegiate standouts like Trey Mullinax and Cody Gribble, the latter contains plenty of household names.

D.A. Points, Michael Thompson, John Merrick and Derek Ernst all won on the PGA Tour in 2013, and all four are now fighting to maintain status after exhausting the two-year exemption that comes with a victory.

Robert Allenby has played a full PGA Tour schedule since 1999, but the Aussie will need a strong performance in the Finals to keep that streak alive. So too will former U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, the lone major champion in the field, and Stuart Appleby, who heads into the Finals equipped with a medical extension.

In a change from previous years, players who are already exempt for next season on the PGA Tour are not allowed to participate in the Finals even if they qualified based on their FedEx Cup standing. That group includes the likes of Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and, of course, Tiger Woods.

But it also includes Patrick Rodgers, who finished 24th on the Tour money list. Because Rodgers wasn't a full PGA Tour member for this season, he was prohibited from playing in the FedEx Cup Playoffs even though he would have qualified on points. But because he already has his card for next season based on that FedEx Cup point accrual, he can't compete in the Finals, either.

The field also features non-members who earned the equivalent amount of points to crack the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. That means a chance at a Tour card for Anirban Lahiri, the lone Presidents Cup member playing in the Finals. Lahiri made 12 PGA Tour starts this season, notably a T-5 finish at the PGA Championship, and will play the first three events before joining the International team in South Korea.

This also serves as an opportunity for 24-year-old Austin Cook to earn his card. Cook began the year with no PGA Tour status, but thanks to a series of successful Monday qualifiers and subsequent top-10 finishes, he racked up $537,648 in non-member earnings.

The events will be played across four consecutive weeks, concluding Oct. 1-4 with the Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Cards will be handed out, and priority ranking determined, based on cumulative earnings across the four tournaments, with the top earner from the Finals receiving a full exemption for next season and a spot in the 2016 Players Championship.

While not all of the card recipients will maintain their status next season, recent results show that graduates can hit the ground running. Four players who participated in last year's Finals - Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Daniel Berger and Zac Blair - are still competing for the FedEx Cup and will be among the 70-man field next week at the BMW Championship.