Tales From the PGA Tour – The New Q-School

Pinehurst's Darron Stiles is optimistic about his start to the 2013 PGA Tour season.

Pinehurst’s Darron Stiles is optimistic about the Web.com Tour Finals.

 

Pinehurst member Darron Stiles is the Web.Com Tour’s all-time career money-winner, which people who don’t know any better would say makes him the Crash Davis of golf. That isn’t accurate, of course, because Stiles has had five seasons on the PGA Tour, and the Web.com Tour success has translated to more than $1.8 million in earnings. Stiles has also earned more than $1.6 million in his six PGA Tour seasons.

Take that, Nuke.

After an up-and-down season on the PGA Tour, Stiles now finds himself a part of the Web.com Tour Finals, a four-tournament sprint to determine the 50 players who will earn their PGA Tour cards for the 2013-14 season. Stiles, a Pinehurst Country Club member, is a regular contributor to the Pinehurst Blog, and will share his experience in the new – and controversial – Tour qualifying process.

BY DARRON STILES

Howdy folks!  I am back after a self-induced hiatus. (Golf will do that to you.) I will be writing over the next few weeks about the new structure for the PGA Tour qualification process.

PGA Tour Q- School as we have come to know it over the last few decades is no more. We are beginning a new process this season to determine the 50 players who will graduate to the PGA Tour.

And I’m a part of it.

The first part of that process has not changed from last year. The top 25 from the Web.Com Tour money list at the conclusion of last week’s event, The Cox Classic, have earned their PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season. That’s the route I took last year to earn my PGA Tour card for the sixth time this season.

Now, on to the changes.

And they are big changes.

 

 

The remaining 25 cards will now be determined by a four-week series of events called the Web.Com Tour FINALS. The events are being held on four outstanding venues in the midwest and the south.  The first event is taking place this week in Ft. Wayne, Ind., at the beautiful Sycamore Hills Golf and Country Club. Week 2 is in Davidson, N.C., just north of Charlotte at River Run Country Club. Week 3 will see us back to Columbus, Ohio, at The Scarlet course at Ohio State.  After a week off – so the PGA Tour can have center stage with TOUR Championship in Atlanta – we head to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., home of the PGA Tour, for the Web.Com Tour Championship on the DYE Valley course at TPC Sawgrass. These four courses will provide a great test for the players and should provide for some great drama on the Golf Channel.

Now for a little back story on how we got to the new system of determining which 50 players will graduate to the PGA Tour.

Something I was also a part of.

Over the last several years behind the scenes at PGA Tour HQ, officials have been trying to figure out a way to better identify the players going to the PGA Tour Q-school. It turns out fewer players going the Q School route would re-earn their cards for the following season. The percentage of those holding onto their cards after graduating from the Web.com, or Nationwide, Tour, was better.

In 2011, the PGA Tour came to the players with this new idea of qualifying structure. I was a member of the Player Advisory Council (PAC) during this time. But when the Tour first proposed this new structure, our first reaction was why? Why change something that has worked well for the last 25 years?

As discussions went back and forth with the PAC on both Tours, though, it became clear that change was happening whether the players liked it or not. Personally, I was in favor of the changes as long as the process remained fair, and I believe it has.

Here is a rundown of some of the changes we as players agreed to for the new qualifying process:

  1. Top 25 from Web.Com Regular season will earn their PGA Tour card, with only No. 1 on the money list being fully exempt. Numbers 2-25 will play the 4 FINALS events to determine their position within the 50 cards being awarded. Long story short, that position is critical. It determines which PGA Tour tournaments a player is eligible for.
  2. The field for the FINALS will consist of numbers 1-75 from the Web.Com regular season money list, numbers 126-200 from the PGA Tour Fed Ex Cup regular season, and also any nonmembers who finished inside those positions on either tour. Max field size of approximately 156 players. (Side note: This week in Indiana for the Hotel Fitness Championship we are at roughly 130 players in the field. I can explain the discrepancy in a later post for those who are really curious about all the little nuances of the system.)
  3. All players will start the FINALS with $0 on the money list. At the conclusion of the four events, the top 25 on the money list will earn a PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season.

Still with me? OK, good.

Here’s where it can get a little confusing.

What happens to the 2-25 guys from the regular season?  Their final position is determined by where they finish on the FINALS money list.  They can improve their ranking with good play, or hurt their ranking with poor play.

For example:  If No. 2 misses all four cuts his position within the 50 cards will be worse. If No. 25 wins an event during the FINALS his position within the 50 card will improve.

Higher ranking, better status on the PGA Tour. Simple as that.

Bottom line?

Even simpler.

FINISH IN THE TOP 25!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For those of you who would like the full rundown of the process, you can go here. I could keep going on about the changes, but it would easier to read for yourself what the Tour has posted. If anyone has a question about a specific issue, I will do my best to answer them. You can reach me via twitter at @dstilesgolf, or through my website www.darronstiles.com, or through Pinehurst Resort. Comment below, and Alex Podlogar can forward the questions to me.

I will get back to you over the weekend as play progresses here in Ft. Wayne.

Time to go low.

Often.

Reservations

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