2005: U.S. Open - Nationwide Tour players face Open dilemma

Pinehurst, N.C.

Jason Gore smiled. He won over hearts. He flirted with stardom and handled final-round adversity with humor and honesty.

The one thing he didn’t do at the 105th U.S. Open, however, is move a dime closer to his goal of finishing inside the top 20 on the Nationwide Tour money list and returning to the PGA Tour.

Gore, like the five other regular members of the Nationwide Tour who qualified for a spot at Pinehurst, skipped the developmental circuit’s event in Knoxville last week.

What’s not so easy to understand is why these players, who claw all season to finish inside the top 20 on the season-ending money list and earn a 2006 PGA Tour card, don’t receive some credit for playing the national open.

“If it hadn’t been at Pinehurst, I probably wouldn’t have tried to qualify,” said Brandt Snedeker, who missed the cut after rounds of 79-75. “It’s hard to take a week off out there and let people pass you up. Every dollar counts out there.”

Gore, for example, began the week 58th on the Nationwide money list, but because the $20,275 he earned for his 49th-place finish at Pinehurst didn’t count toward that total, he dropped to 64th.

“It’s a heck of an idea,” said Gore, a three-time winner on the Nationwide Tour. “They can count 10 percent of the total purse. Very easily.”

Adding money earned at the U.S. Open and British Open to players’ Nationwide totals is a water-cooler idea that has been debated for years.

Most players and officials agree at least a portion of Open winnings should be counted. How much that portion should be remains unclear. The Knoxville purse ($475,000) was about 7 percent of the U.S. Open ($6.5 million) payout.

“It sounds pretty simple, but the other side is, when your competition is about guys playing the same day on the same course, it’s hard to say what’s right,” said Nationwide Tour senior vice president and COO Bill Calfee.

A schedule with plenty of holes early in the season also gives the tour the option of rearranging events so the secondary circuit does not play the week of an Open. That, said Calfee, is probably the easiest fix.

“I certainly understand the argument, and maybe we can come up with a system that includes (Open earnings),” said Calfee, who plans to have the players advisory council consider the issue but does not foresee any major policy shift in the near future.

Until a change is implemented, it’s likely fewer players will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open and British Open.

Last season, Mathew Goggin qualified for the British Open, a process he says cost him three weeks on the Nationwide Tour. The Australian struggled the rest of the season and finished 24th on the money list, $8,000 behind No. 20 Gavin Coles.

“I could have pinched a few (dollars) by not playing the British Open. It was a tough decision,” said Goggin, who chose not to attempt U.S. Open or British Open qualifying this year because of what happened last season.

Calfee warns, however, that counting Open money toward Nationwide totals could lead to players wanting to include earnings from regular PGA Tour events which they’ve Monday qualified for or entered on sponsor exemptions. That’s an option many players already would like to see.

“If you earn the right to play in a PGA Tour event then, yeah, it should count,” Gore said. “That’s what we’re all trying to do. We’re all trying to get on Tour.”

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