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.
Change is coming to the PGA Tour, and it’s coming fast. On Wednesday commissioner Tim Finchem told the media that the dramatic change to the current Nationwide Tour/Q-School model. Read More
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