Change Coming?

March 21, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The PGA Tour is considering a change to the end of its season in which players who don't make the FedEx Cup playoffs would compete for their cards in a series of tournaments against top Nationwide Tour players.

PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw confirmed the policy board has given preliminary approval to the concept, although it is in the early stages of discussion. The tour began informing players by memo late Monday afternoon.

Another change being contemplated is Q-school at the end of the year providing access only to the Nationwide Tour.

"There are still a number of steps," Votaw said.

The tour has been looking at ways to strengthen the Nationwide Tour, its developmental circuit. It is looking for a new umbrella sponsor, because Nationwide has said it would not renew its contract after 2012.

Under the preliminary plan, the top 125 on the FedEx Cup standings after the Wyndham Championship would advance to the playoffs and compete for $35 million in bonus money, with $10 million for the winner.

Those who don't make the top 125 would have the option of playing a series of three tournaments along with top Nationwide Tour players. Those tournaments also would have a points structure, and it would determine who gets PGA Tour cards the following season.

Among the numbers being mentioned for the three-tournament series is 75 players from the FedEx Cup standings and the top 50 players from the Nationwide Tour money list, with the top 50 players from that series earning their cards.

"The number from the Nationwide that goes to the three-tournament series hasn't been determined yet," Votaw said. "And the question of how many cards has not been, either."

If the plan goes through, that means players could no longer go straight from Q-school to the PGA Tour. If a player doesn't make the FedEx Cup playoffs and doesn't make it through the three-tournament series, he still could compete the following year on limited status as a past champion or depending on how high he finished beyond the top 125. That part wouldn't change.

The PGA Tour over the past several years has been awarding more cards through the Nationwide Tour money list than those who make it through six rounds of Q-school. It feels players are more prepared for the big leagues after going through an entire season of traveling and trying to make cuts in the minors.

Such a change, however, would eliminate dreams of long shots who go make it through Q-school, some of them fresh out of college, others who have toiled through mini-tours.

J.B. Holmes and Dustin Johnson are among those who went straight from college and made it through Q-school, then won in their rookie season. A year ago, Rickie Fowler went from Q-school to a spot on the Ryder Cup team.

Some tour officials feel those players are exceptions, and that the quality of fields would be strengthened.

It also would add a layer of drama to the end of the year - PGA Tour players who struggled and Nationwide Tour players who performed well, meeting in a cutthroat series of events.

Still to be determined is how the Fall Series, which typically is held after the FedEx Cup, would be effected.