Later this afternoon deep within the bowels of Muirfield Village Golf Club, 16 different personalities – complete with sometimes competing interests – will meet to hash out the details of the PGA Tour’s proposed makeover of the Nationwide Tour/Q-School process.
This won’t be the last meeting for the dramatic change, but we’re getting close. Tour officials hope to have the new system in place by the end of the year but an informal poll of a few Player Advisory Council members last week at Colonial suggests they are still a few doglegs away from a consensus.
There are currently two models on the table for the PAC to consider. The first plan, called the “jump ball” option, would give the top 15 or 20 players from the Nationwide Tour money list a head start heading into the three-event finals series that will decide who earns 50 PGA Tour cards, and all others – Nos. 126-200 in Tour earnings and Nos. 21-75 on the secondary circuit – would begin the series at zero.
The second option would combine the two money lists using a divisor and would feature all players starting the finals series with money commensurate with their regular-season earnings using some sort of divisor.
If your scribe’s poll of a handful of PAC members last week is any indication what comes out of today’s meeting will likely be a combination of the two plans.
“I’m in favor of taking the top 10 guys off the Nationwide Tour and giving them preferred status. Just go ahead and give them their card. Don’t make them play in the (finals series),” said Harrison Frazar, the chairman of the 16-man PAC. “Then have a slightly prorated system for the 11 or 15 and then go down to 30 or 25. After that let it be a jump ball.”
But in a room filled with 16 players from all walks of competitive life, if Frazar’s take seems a tad overly optimistic it’s because it probably is. In fact, some members of the PAC are not entirely sold on the Draconian adjustment to the traditional path to Tour status to begin with, although change seems inevitable.
“They want to make those three tournaments (the finals series) part of the Nationwide Tour to help sell it (to a new umbrella sponsor to replace Nationwide),” said Ken Duke, a first-year PAC member. “Why? Is it going to help sell it? They think it will, but they don’t know that.”
There is also the culture shock of making the new system the only avenue to Tour membership and relegating Q-School, the traditional path to a Tour card, to feeder-tournament status for the secondary circuit.
“I’m a fan of keeping a few spots for Q-School,” said Frazar, but he quickly concedes that option doesn’t seem likely at this moment.
Tuesday’s primary debate will center on how to slot players into a playoff-like system from two vastly different tours, but unless the Policy Board, which will have the ultimate say in the system, uses the “jump ball” model some sort of hybrid money list will have to be created.
“I don’t think you can rank them together,” Frazar said. “It’s comparing apples to oranges, really. Maybe not even that, maybe apples to bananas. The golf courses are completely different, the quality of play is different top to bottom. I don’t think you can ever put a guy who finished 126 (on the PGA Tour in earnings) and No. 26 (on the Nationwide Tour money list) together and say you are even.”
Of course, Frazar points out he hasn’t played the Nationwide Tour since 1997. Duke, who won the secondary circuit’s money title in 2006 and has graduated from the Nationwide Tour twice, had an understandable different take.
“I think you can compare them because some of those guys who are 126 to 150 (in Tour earnings) are probably off the Nationwide Tour the year before,” Duke said. “If you finish in that area you might not have had a better year than a guy who finished No. 5 on the Nationwide Tour. “
While Mark Wilson, something of a pragmatist on the PAC, had a slightly different take which dovetailed with a career that has seen success on the PGA Tour and Q-School, but not on the Nationwide Tour.
“The best way to do that is to convert PGA Tour money into Nationwide Tour money. Figure out what No. 126 was and what No. 26 was,” Wilson said. “But I’m leaning the other way. Should the guy who finished 126 on the money list have an advantage over the guy who was 26th? In the old days they didn’t. The other way is a whole new deal because you’re taking your year with you.”
And you thought you had to travel to Washington D.C., to find political gridlock. The PAC will reach some sort of accord on this, but it won’t be pretty nor will it likely be unanimous.
Everybody loves a good cookout, but few, if any, want to see how the bratwurst is made.
“Ultimately there are going to have to come up with some sort of agreement. The guys who are going to make that decision right now are going to have to get really close because you’re dealing with guy’s livelihoods,” said Frazar, who, as PAC chair, will become one of four player directors on the Policy Board next year. “I’m glad I’m not on the board right now.”