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PGA Tour approves qualifying and schedule changes

Tim Finchem
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AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 11: Kenny Perry plays his second shot on the first hole during the final round of the 2010 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2010 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)  - 

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s official.

The PGA Tour is radically revamping how its season will begin and end, and how it will award PGA Tour cards.

The PGA Tour’s policy board announced Tuesday that it had approved a major restructuring of its fall schedule, including a Q-School overhaul that will officially end one of the game’s unique traditions.

Beginning in the fall of 2013, the PGA Tour will have its new ending and its new beginning.

The 2013 PGA Tour season will end with the FedEx Cup’s final event, the Tour Championship, in September. Instead of the traditional Q-School format staged since 1965, the PGA Tour is creating a three-event series that will merge PGA Tour pros and Nationwide Tour pros in a competition to see who wins PGA Tour playing privileges. The new series will be played as the new ending of the Nationwide Tour schedule and will partially overlap the FedEx Cup playoffs. The final event of the series will be contested during the FedEx Cup bye week. The exact details of how players will be seeded in the new qualifying tournament series are still being determined.

In another major change, the 2014 season will actually begin in October of 2013, following the FedEx Cup finish and following the conclusion of the new three-tournament qualifying series. The new fall start to the 2014 PGA Tour season will feature events with FedEx Cup points, though the PGA Tour has yet to decide whether the fall events will be awarded full FedEx Cup value in points or something more limited.

Also, the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China and the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic late in the year will become official PGA Tour events with FedEx Cup points and official money.

“We would argue, particularly importantly, this provides a singular and more impactful conclusion to what a PGA Tour season is,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.

Under the new qualifying system, instead of 25 PGA Tour cards being awarded at Q-School and 25 more at the conclusion of the Nationwide Tour Championship, there will be 50 cards awarded from the new three-tournament series.

Q-School will continue to be staged, but it will now be limited to determining who wins Nationwide Tour access.

The new qualifying series for PGA Tour cards will merge the top 75 Nationwide Tour pros and 75 PGA Tour pros (Nos. 126-200 on the money list). The exact nature of seeding and how cards will be won in that series is still being ironed out by Tour officials and the player board.

“I think this process clearly makes the Nationwide Tour the primary path to the PGA Tour,” Finchem said. “And in doing so, it will tie the Nationwide Tour, in the minds of fans, particularly, much more strongly to the PGA Tour, to the PGA Tour brand and to what the PGA Tour is all about.”

The new qualifying series will save room for collegians trying to earn PGA Tour cards. Under the new system, any fledgling pro or non-member can earn access to the series. Such a player must win enough money in sponsor exemptions or through other alternate access to rank between 126th and 200 on the PGA Tour money list.

Over the years, the traditional staging of Q-School has launched some notable careers. Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, J.B. Holmes and Rickie Fowler are among young players today who advanced straight from the collegiate ranks through to the PGA Tour through Q-School. So is rookie John Huh, who last month won the Mayakoba Classic.