Analysis of PGA Tour Season Changes

(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) Feb. 4, 2012 — Here’s quick analysis of Tim Finchem’s plan to reshape the PGA Tour season and eliminate Q School as an immediate launch pad to the PGA Tour:

Vertical product integration: Finchem’s plan makes the Nationwide Tour (or its name successor, if it’s not called the Nationwide Tour in a future year) the only gateway to the big tour.

De-Democratization: No longer will a golf phenom be able to shoot lights out over the course of six rounds of PGA Tour Q School and step directly onto the world stage. Under the Finchem plan, if you don’t have PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour status, you must go to Q School to get status on the Nationwide Tour first, then play your way onto the big tour from there.

No fall layoff: While the top 125 players will advance to the fall FedEx Cup playoffs like they do now, the other 75 will no longer be idle. Instead, they and the top 75 players on the Nationwide Tour list will basically begin a combined three-event fall Q school. Of these 150 players, only the 50 top finishers will get PGA Tour cards for the new season.

Play well or go home: The 100 players who don’t advance to the PGA Tour through the three-event fall series must go to the December Q School to retain Nationwide Tour status, play well there and win their way back to PGA Tour status.

Start the season in the fall: Instead of January events in Hawaii and California marking the start of a new PGA Tour season in terms of points and rankings, Finchem wants the season to start in the fall, right after the FedEx playoffs conclude. This lets several late fall events become part of the Fed Ex Cup race.

It also may serve as a disincentive for PGA Tour players who travel overseas in late fall for appearance money — because they’ll lose out on earning points back at home as the new FedEx Cup points season is starting up.

“So the fall events would apply toward the following year in terms of Player of the Year, FedEx Cup points, Arnold Palmer Award and those kind of things,” Finchem said in late January.

Reading between the lines: Finchem’s people apparently have tracked the success (or lack thereof) of PGA Tour Q School grads, especially repeat Q School grads, who keep going back and re-qualifying over and over again and then doing nothing on the PGA Tour year in and year out. He’s essentially saying the seasoning that occurs on the Nationwide Tour may eliminate the two-tiered PGA Tour we have now — the guys at the top who win or place most often and the guys at the bottom tier who miss cuts, who don’t make money and who aren’t really competitive week in and week out.

Timing: Fall of 2013.

The impact in Finchem’s own words: “It has the effect of strengthening the Nationwide Tour, and it has the effect of strengthening the fall events, as well. It also has the effect of strengthening the FedEx Cup, and it has the effect of bringing to a tighter conclusion what a season is of the PGA Tour competitively. This year we had the FedEx Cup champion, then six weeks later we’re still talking about the money title, and it would bring all that together, and then the votes for the Player of the Year would come right on the heels of the end of the actual season.”

– Dan Vukelich

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