MADISON, Miss. – Unfortunately the PGA Tour has devalued a Tour card yet again. Camp Ponte Vedra’s closed shop has tightened the door even more.
For years, Q-School and Nationwide Tour graduates have had a hard time getting into the tournaments on the West Coast swing. Now, believe it or not, they’ve having a hard time getting into events on the Fall Series, a collection in effect designed for bottom-rung types.
Last year, virtually all graduates got into each of the seven Fall Series tournaments. This year has been much different. This week’s Viking Classic is the first Fall Series event in which the entire Q-School/Nationwide class has gotten into, even though the field shrunk from 144 to 132.
Several of them weren’t able to get into the Turning Stone, Las Vegas and Frys.com events. And the season-ending Disney event figures to exclude because the field is only 128 players.
Playing opportunities are down for the rank-and-file for a couple of reasons. The Tour lost two events, thus a shrinking of the fall season. Plus, more top players played in autumn.
The upshot is that many Q-School/Nationwide guys won’t even get 20 starts this year. And the starts they do get come with smaller purses.
I walked onto the range Tuesday at the Viking Classic and players were squawking about this left and right. And they’re right. Grads are running uphill into a stiff wind.
Camp Ponte Vedra needs to fix the problem, pronto. The solution is simple: Pump more playing opportunities back in. Raise the fall fields back to 144. And make a simple rule: The grads get in the fall events. Period.
Put a little value back into a Tour card. That way the so-called “Chase for the Card” in autumn won’t turn into Chasing Kids Around the House for many players.
• The buzz of the Fall Series comes in 5-foot-9, 135-pound body. Small frame, big talent. Long hair, baby face. Attacking swing, rare results.
In just two PGA Tour starts as a professional, Oklahoma State phenom Rickie Fowler has finished seventh and second, earned $553,700 and turned heads. He needs about $115,000 to become the seventh player since 1980 to get full Tour status without going to Q-School. He’d join Gary Hallberg, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods, Charles Howell III and Ryan Moore. A top-5 finish at this week’s Viking Classic should do it. Plus, he’s waiting to see if he’ll get the fourth and final sponsor exemption into the final Disney event.
“Playing well solves a lot things,” Fowler said here.
Golf’s new “it” kid with the fearless style is but 20. He can’t rent a car or buy a drink, but he can step on the accelerator on a golf course. His Tour time has been charmed. In his brilliant fortnight, Fowler made a hole-in-one in each of his two starts and last week had three other eagles on his way to a Frys.com Open playoff.
“Yeah, I’d say I’m a little surprised,” Fowler said. “I knew I was capable of doing it, but to actually do it for eight straight rounds was pretty cool.”
• Interesting how the stars were aligned on Sunday, Oct. 25. As in ex-college stars.
Three former college players of the year played off at the Frys.com Open: winner Troy Matteson, Jamie Lovemark and Fowler.
The same day, another former college player of the year, Matt Every, won the Nationwide Tour Championship.
What does this mean? It means if I’m Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Ryan Moore and any other POY type, I make sure I’m competing on Oct. 25 every year.
• A bit more than a decade ago, the late, great Payne Stewart didn’t have a club or bag endorsement deal. So he bought a blank bag at Edwin Watts for about $125 and borrowed some Mizuno blade irons that were in a friend’s closet. Armed with said equipment, he won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Later that year he won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst using the same irons.
One never knows when an equipment change might lead to greatness. The latest example involves Troy Matteson.
After opening with a 72 last Thursday at the Frys.com Open and being disgusted with his putting, Matteson went into a Scottsdale Bass Pro Shops and bought a used Odyssey putter for $114.
Best purchase he’s ever made.
The next two days he shot 61-61, a Tour record for consecutive rounds, and went on to win.
• John Daly changed his mind. He’s not done for the year. And so he’s one of nine major championship winners playing this week at the Viking Classic.
• Low major winner this week? All my cash, which stacks up a couple of inches, is on David Toms.
• Michael Whan, good luck. The new LPGA boss will need it as much as a Michelle Wie winning streak and a recovering economy.