The rules have changed for 2003, as the top 20 players on the season-ending money list (top 15 in 2002) will graduate to the PGA Tour next year. Only $8,542 separates number 20 from 25th on the money list, as Kyle Thompson holds down the 20th position. Players who finish 21-55 are exempt for the 2004 season on the Nationwide Tour.
Last season, weather played a key role in determining the champion, as the event was shortened to 54 holes. When it was all said and done, Patrick Moore came out on top, as he posted a two-shot win over Steven Alker, Mike Heinen and Jeff Klauk.
With the victory, he earned the automatic Battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour. Earlier in the season, Moore won the Richmond Open and Lake Erie Charity Classic. He became just the fifth player in history to receive the promotion. For the first time since 1993, a player in the top-15 on the money list entering this event wasn't bumped out.
Klauk is once again in need of a top finish, as he ranks 36th on the money list and must win or place second to gain his PGA Tour card for 2004. Among the notable players who won this event are: former British Open champion David Duval, who titled in 1993, Allen Doyle in 1995, who is once again having a sensational year on the Champions Tour and former U.S. Ryder Cup player Stewart Cink, who earned the title in 1996.
There has never been a wire-to-wire winner of this event. The first two years, Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon played host to this tournament while the event was held at Settindown Creek in Georgia in 1995-96. The 1997 event was held on the Lake Course at Grand National Golf Club in Opelika, Alabama, while the 1998 tournament was staged at Magnolia Grove outside of Mobile, Alabama. The 1999-2000 events were held at Highland Oaks, part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which has hosted this event since 1997.
This is the third consecutive year in which the Senator Course at Capital Hill is hosting the tournament. The state of Alabama is hosting the tournament for the seventh time in 11 seasons.
There have been two playoffs in event history, the last coming in 1999 when Bob Heintz defeated Marco Dawson. The 2001 winning total of 284 was the highest in event history, bettering the mark of 283 set in 1995 by Allen Doyle and John Maginnes, Bob Burns in 1998 and Heintz and Dawson in 1999.
The only two players who were outside the top 15 heading into the Tour Championship and jumped in by winning the event were: Bob Heintz and Steve Flesch. Flesch captured the event in 1997 and gained his PGA card after beginning the tournament 24th on the money list.
Heintz, who won in 1999, started the event in the 16th spot and shot up to sixth on the money list. The purse was increased by $25,000 from last year. Heintz is the only past champion of this event in the field this week.
The hottest player on Tour has to be Jason Dufner, who has surged into the top-20 with three consecutive top-five finishes. Dufner, who ranks 10th on the money list, is the only player in the top 19 without a win.