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Friday, December 9, 2011

Thoughts on Possible New Q School Format

It seems like every few years, the PGA Tour wants to tinker with the format of how many players become full time PGA Tour members through the Nationwide Tour and how many become members through Q School.  The Nationwide Tour has steadily become more and more of a factor and it seems like every 5 years or so the PGA Tour takes 5 spots away from Q School and adds them to the Nationwide Tour. 

There is an article on The Golf Channel's website outlining a new format that would essentially blend the lowest tier of the PGA Tour after the FedEx Cup with the top 75 players of the Nationwide Tour for a 3 tournament playoff where all 50 cards would be awarded.  Here's the link to the article by Doug Ferguson http://www.golfchannel.com/news/doug-ferguson/new-q-school-plans-starting-to-take-shape/ .

I get what the "pro's" are to this plan, and it's being sold that it will allow 150 very strong players to compete for 50 cards.  It also allows three tournaments of play to accomplish this, so one bad tournament wouldn't eliminate an otherwise good player. 

I smell a rat though.  The thing is, I'm not sure the current system is broken.  I haven't poured through the stats for the last decade or anything like that, but I know last year the number of Q School grads and Nationwide grads that kept their card were the same.  To the best of my memory the Nationwide Tour grads probably do a tad better most years, but it's not lop sided.  I'm not sure if this is the PGA Tour's way of making the Nationwide Tour more relevant, finding a good excuse to do away with the Fall Series / spice up the Fall Series in a different way or what, but I don't buy the thought that the PGA Tour really cares about the last few guys getting their cards all that much.  Brian Harmon running the table to get through every stage versus a guy who finished 70th on the Nationwide Tour money list getting through in this new format does nothing to change the PGA Tour.  Instead, I see this turning into a cycle that keeps the same 80 to 120 guys on a three year on again off again PGA Tour / Nationwide Tour rotation.

Here are the cons:
  • What happens if a guy wins two tournaments early in the Nationwide season and gets hurt in July and can't compete in this 3 tournament finale?  He would have had plenty of money to have gotten through otherwise.
  • What about past champions who aren't in the "next 75" after the FedEx cut off?  They can't try to earn a PGA Tour card now?  Len Mattiace isn't exactly a top tier player now, but he's earned the right to try and qualify for the PGA Tour every year.
  • What's the harm of a couple of guys a year running through all three stages and qualifying out of nowhere?  If they stick, good for them.  If they flame out, then more money for the better players the Tour really cares about anyway.
  • Every year, Q School "catches" some guys who were in the top 75 of the Nationwide Tour money list anyway.  They also catch some of the guys in the 126 to 150 status, so this classification of player probably takes about 1/2 of the 25 Q School cards anyway.
  • Players schedule tournaments on both the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour that fit their style of play.  It seems like the 3 courses selected for these tournaments could wind up being particularly penal or rewarding.  I'm not sure how you determine the courses.
If the Tour's interested in changing something; here are a couple of ideas:
  • How about let all of the guys who finish outside the top 150 on the PGA Tour have at least partial Nationwide status instead of going from the pent house to the out house.
  • What about let all the Nationwide Tour players who make the cut in an event into the next event instead of just the top 25?  As expensive and hard as Monday Qualifiers are, it's got to be frustrating to shoot a 65 on a Monday, win a 5 people for 3 spot playoff after that, make a cut and finish T36 just to try and do it all over again the next day.

At the end of the day, I'm not convinced the process to getting a PGA Tour card is broken, so I don't understand the motivation to try and fix it.  Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker have each made similar comments and they know a heck of a lot more about it than I do.

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