PGA Tour: Big Changes Coming?

Is Q School dead as we know? Could the Tour year start before January? Could top amateurs, reinvigorated veterans and top foreign player be forced to play a year on the Nationwide Tour before being able to play on the PGA Tour? Might we see the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tours merge with a new sponsor for the “development series”?

The answer for 2012 is NO, but after that it is less certain.

The PGA Tour has wisely floated some trial balloons to gauge public opinion and get feedback regarding the following:
• Have Tour Year end after the FedEx Cup Playoffs
• Have the current Fall Series be the start of the new Season
• Have 126-200 join the Nationwide Top 75 in a 3 event series to hand out 50 Tour cards for the following season
• Have Qualify School only determine NW eligibility

Players, Golf Fans and Tour Officials have raised the following Issues:

1. Less Drama/Interest in Q School when it doesn’t result in a tour card.
2. Stuck on NW Tour for a full year. Top Amateurs, foreign pros, reinvigorated former Tour Members and Q School grads might have to put a full year in on the NW to get (back) onto the Regular Tour.
3. Merging of the Two Tours/Short Season Jim Furyk said: “I’m worried about blending the Nationwide and the regular Tour together. The first year we do this, the rookies and first-timers get an extremely short season.”
4. Need to find a lead sponsor of the current NW Tour.

Potential Solutions:

1. Hand out some cards at Q school, but fewer cards and/or for a limited number of Tour events/missed cuts. You would want to coordinate timing so that those failing to get cards at the 3 event series still have a chance to compete in Q school. Helps solve the first issue.

2. Less distinction/More Free Flow between Tours has a lot of advantages and helps solve issues 2-4. Lots of ways this could be done including:
• Combined Fed Ex Cup Points list that gives everyone a chance to qualify for the Playoffs
• Calling the former NW Tour the “_________ Series”
• Having some or all Reg Tour members play 1 (or more) events on the NW Tour
• Giving NW winners entry into the Tournament of Champions in January
• Giving top NW Players a chance to play in regular Tour events mid-year
• Drop NW Grads, Q School Grads (and others?) down to the NW Tour if they are not in the Top 175 of either the $ or Point list after their 10th(?) missed cut

3. Offer an extension, similar to the medical, to 2012 Q School graduates who are affected by the short 2013 season.

To understand the issues and merits of potential changes/solutions, it is worthwhile to consider the mission of the PGA Tour:

The mission of the PGA TOUR is to expand domestically and internationally to substantially increase player financial benefits while maintaining its commitment to the integrity of the game. The PGA TOUR events are also committed to generating revenue for charitable causes in their communities.

Hopefully, they have clearly defined their goals and are employing sound analysis to get the details right to achieve goals without any unintended consequences.

One rational for no longer giving Tour Cards at Q School is that Nationwide Tour graduates have enjoyed more overall success on the PGA Tour than their counterparts who came from the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School.

While some players got eligibility via both methods (meaning overlap), my calculations for the last 5 years has the NW graduates only holding a slight advantage over Q School graduates during the next season on the PGA Tour:

Graduate Comparison- Next Year

2006 to 2010 Total Graduating Top 125 126-150 151+ Ave Earnings
Q School 151 47 16 85 $600,419
    32% 11% 57%  
Nationwide 122 40 19 63 $666,410
    33% 16% 52%  

As the above numbers suggest, more cards have actually been given out at Q School than the NW Tour. This is mostly due to the fact that ties for the last (25th spot) frequently happen at Q school, but are very unlikely on the money list. Also, there were only 22 spots allocated to 2006 NW grads before the Tour balanced it out the next year. The other thing that contributes to more Q School spots is that they don’t count NW Top 25 guys trying to improve their ranking against the Q School cards.

A quick look at the numbers does not suggest such a strong difference as to necessitate completely eliminating the Q School to Tour route. Why not even up the total spots given instead by either upping the NW to 26 or 27 and Q School to 23 or 24 plus ties. Alternatively, you make both exactly 25 and force players who are tied for the last spot(s) to have a playoff- now that would be EXCITING!

In either case, I would favor having some sort of in season cut (or reset) to weed out the guys who are not playing up to Tour standards and give a chance others that are playing better. My analysis shows that virtually all Q School graduates who are in the top 125 the next year are at least in the top 175 after their 10th missed cut of the season. The most extreme example I could find of a late season charge by a Q School grad outside the top 175 was Tommy Gainey in 2008. After missing 16 of his first 19 cuts and winning only 30 K, he made 3 of his final 5 cuts including a solo 2nd in the final event of the year to finish #148 on the money list. The next year, with conditional status, he won 128 K in 15 events with only 2 finishes inside the top 45 on the Regular Tour while making 11 of 13 cuts on the NW with 8 top 45 finishes.

The PGA Tour has acted intelligently in the past tweaking things to give more cards to those more likely to enjoy Regular Tour success, and I think it is likely they will ultimately make more improvements going forward.

Look for future posts for more on this. Happy Holidays!

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One Response to PGA Tour: Big Changes Coming?

  1. Vixion says:

    Slatts you have to rebmmeer that Greg Norman’s Company is who first proposed a “World Tour” concept to Finchem and the PGA Board back in the late 90′s. They told him and the Media, at that time, they did not want to persue it but as time evolved, it might be a feasible concept…….KABOOM….. 3 months later, it is born as the “new tour” for the world and I also bet my last dollar, that IMG and Tiger’s Company are shareholders.Funny how that worked out for Greg so I cannot blame him for his stance on not promoting the PGA anymore but at the same time, he is “cheating” himself out of competitive golf years and the Fans that still line up to watch the Shark do his thing.Chuckwagon

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