Medical extensions: How exactly do they work?

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Chris Couch

When a player is approved for a major medical extension, he is granted a specified number of events (the greater of the following: average number of his starts in the three previous calendar years; or the average played by the players in the top 125 the previous year) and subtracts the number of events he played during the year of his injury. He has that number of starts to earn enough money in the current season that when added to his earnings the year of his injury would have placed him 125th or higher on that year’s money list. If a player was injured and missed less than four months the previous year, he can be granted a minor medical extension. (This category follows the Nationwide/Qualifying tournament category in priority for tournament play.)

For practical purposes, take Chris Couch, who is playing this season on a major medical extension after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery in 2008. To calculate his three-year average, Couch’s 2005 season was excluded because he was a nonmember that year. He averaged 28.5 starts for 2006 and 2007, which is rounded to 29 events and is greater than the three-year average of the top 125 (26). He was granted 29 starts since he played no Tour events in 2008. At press time, Couch had earned $754,695 in 17 events this season and eight tournaments last year, leaving him four events to win an additional $41,392 more – a sum equal to the 125th-place finish on the 2008 money list, and retain his card. It’s important to note that reaching this target sum earns Couch full exempt status for only the remainder of the season; he still must finish in the top 125 to stay exempt next year. That’s a lesson Shane Bertsch found out the hard way.

Bertsch figured he was set for 2009 after surpassing his money requirement in 2008, but he missed the cut at the final event and fell from 124th to 126th on the 2008 money list. Compounding his error, Bertsch never signed up for Q-School that year.

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