The PGA Tour will be making two major changes on tour starting in 2013. First, the PGA Tour will be adopting a new calendar year starting three months earlier in Oct. known as the Fall Series and ending in Sept. with the FedEx Cup series followed by the Tour Championship. Second, there will be a new system for awarding the 50 available tour cards each year to those who weren’t able to stay in the top 125 or those looking to advance from the Nationwide Tour.
In essence, these two changes will attempt to make the flailing fall series more dramatic for Tour fans as well as make the Nationwide Tour, a developmental stepping stone, more visible and attractive for sponsorship.
The PGA Tour in 2011 seemingly never ended. Spoiled is the word for the golf enthusiast who never wanted for golf on the television. But the current system needed a finish line and a break to reset and to create the itch for the start of the next season.
There are currently 4 majors, the Tournament of Champions, 36 regular season events, 4 FedEx playoff series events, 4 fall series events and finally 3 World Golf Championship events for a whopping total of 51 events.
This doesn’t include the Asian swing or European tour events. These fields include many Top PGA Tour members due to global popularity, enormous purse sizes and appearance fees paid to top tier players. Golf really is a yearlong sport with a growing global audience.
With all this golf and no real feel for a “season”, Tim Finchem, the leadership of the PGA Tour and the policy board is attempting to make all parts of the season dramatic, meaningful and distinct.
The beginning of the season beginning in Oct. will now feature the fall series as a fight for tour eligibility. This will include the bottom 75 players on the PGA Tour who didn’t make the FedEx Cup Playoffs against the top 75 finishers from the Nationwide Tour in a seeded format, three tournament series. The top 50 golfers based on performance will be awarded PGA Tour eligibility eliminating Q-school as a pathway for Tour Access as well as making the PGA developmental tour far more important; something vital for sponsorship!
Q-School will still occur, but only for qualification into the Nationwide Tour. The PGA has determined that the most productive and accurate predictor of tour ready talent is through the developmental tour. There are exceptions; Ricky Fowler, Kyle Stanley, Gary Woodland, Sang-moon Bae, John Huh and others.
Statistically, the majority of rookies who earn their card through tour qualifying school will fail to retain their card for the following year, while Nationwide graduates have substantially higher success in card retention.
The PGA will also be looking for a new sponsor of the Nationwide Tour since the current sponsorship will end after the 2012 season.
Ostensibly, Tournament of Champions will be the first tournament followed by the new year and full field tournaments. The 36 PGA Tour sanctioned tournaments, three WGC events and the four majors will make up what will be the middle or regular season and will determine the rankings for the finale of the PGA Tour season, the FedEx Cup Series.
Using the current system, the top 125 from the regular season will compete in the FedEx Cup Series starting at the Barclays where 25 players are cut. The Deutsche Bank fields the top 100 players; the BMW top 70 players; The Tour Championship top 30 players where a champion is crowned and presumably a money list winner as well since this will be the end of the PGA Tour season.
This is a great step forward; something the tour has needed for years. Next challenge: unscramble the system for the FedEx Cup point system and make the Player’s Championship the fifth major!