After months of wrangling about how to seed players for the PGA Tour’s new qualifying system, the Tour decided not to seed them at all. Instead, all players trying to earn Tour cards through the Web.com Tour Finals will start at zero, the PGA Tour announced July 10.
The Web.com Tour Finals is a series of events that will debut in September 2013, pitting the developmental tour’s top earners against the bottom of the FedEx Cup points list. The top 25 money winners on the Web.com Tour entering the finals will receive Tour cards for the following season, but will compete in the finals to determine their standing among the 50 card-earners. The 25 players who have the highest cumulative earnings in the finals – the number of events has yet to be determined – also will receive PGA Tour cards.
This is very similar to the current qualifying system, in which 25 players earn Tour cards from the Web.com Tour money list and 25 earn them at Q-School. Beginning in 2013, the finals will replace Q-School.
The purpose of seeding players for the finals was to put an emphasis on season-long performance, a criterion that was said to be a vital reason for this new change. Q-School’s main weakness was that it rewarded players who had a hot week, not a great year, the Tour said.
And so the PGA Tour spent so much time trying to find a way to fairly penalize those who entered the Web.com Tour Finals at the rear of the two lists that determined finals entry: the FedEx Cup points list and the Web.com Tour money list.
With no pre-finals seeding, the new system is nothing more than a drawn-out version of Q-School, lasting several weeks instead of six days. Like Q-School, all players hoping to earn Tour cards at the finals will start at zero. But unlike Q-School, entry to the finals is limited to players who competed on the Web.com and PGA tours in the previous year.
This pre-finals seeding would’ve placed the 200th finisher on the FedEx Cup points list at the back of the pack while giving an advantage to a player who barely missed out on retaining his Tour card. No more. Now No. 126 on the FedEx Cup points list will start the finals on equal footing with No. 200. The lack of seeding actually benefits No. 200 more than No. 126 because, under the old system, No. 200 would have returned to Q-School’s second stage whereas No. 126 would have been exempt into the finals. Now, both players will find themselves in the Web.com Tour Finals.
The benefit to the lack of seeding falls on non-members of the Web.com and PGA tours who can gain entry into the Web.com Tour Finals by finishing in the top 75 on the Web.com Tour money list or top 200 on the FedEx Cup points list. Take, for example, John Peterson, who finished fourth at the U.S. Open. He’d earn entry into the Web.com Tour Finals based on that finish, and start on equal footing with players who competed all year on either tour.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said he wanted the new system to be easy to understand. But so is Q-School. The top 25 finishers earn PGA Tour cards. And it’s open to anyone.
Yes, the Web.com Tour finals will stretch over several weeks, providing a more accurate assessment than Q-School’s six days, but the finals also will lock out the outsiders who provide fresh blood to the PGA Tour. Players will have to earn FedEx Cup points or money on the Web.com Tour to make their way to the finals. This is unlike Q-School, at which an entry fee is the only requirement. That all but excludes the likes of John Huh and Harris English from making an immediate leap to the PGA Tour.
Huh was virtually unknown when he earned his PGA Tour card last December. Now he’s a Tour winner, at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, and 15th on the FedEx Cup points list. English played on last year’s Walker Cup team and has been one of this year’s top rookies after graduating from Q-School. He’s 78th in the FedEx Cup standings.
The Web.com Tour’s leading money winner entering the finals will receive an exemption into the next year’s Players Championship, as will the leading money winner from the finals.
As previously reported, the finals fields will be comprised of the top 75 finishers on the Web.com Tour money list and Nos. 126-200 on the FedEx Cup points list. The metric to determine who retains their PGA Tour cards has been switched from money to FedEx Cup points.
The FedEx Cup will also become a year-round competition, starting with the 2013-14 season, which will begin in October 2013 and end the following September at the Tour Championship.
All of these changes, once promised to be dramatic, are now so watered down that they offer little, if any, benefit over the current system. Even David Brown, the chief executive officer of Web.com, said the changes were “not a fundamental part” of his company’s decision to sponsor the tour. It’s easy to see why. This new system isn’t much better than the one it will replace.