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Tour Life

PGA Tour pro voices frustration over what's 'wrong or unfair' about the new fall season

October 10, 2023
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Jonathan Bachman

Sitting in an economy seat, Dylan Wu could finally relax a little following a hectic 48 hours. After shuffling his schedule around—and his wife barely getting his golf clubs to the airport in time—the PGA Tour pro was about to fly to Las Vegas carrying some luggage and hope that he'll get into this week's Shriners Children's Open after being moved up to first alternate. It still begged the question: Why is Dylan Wu an alternate in a fall event to begin with?

The 27-year-old Northwestern product finished 86th in the 2022-2023 FedEx Cup standings, not missing the playoffs by much. Yet he spent Monday trying to qualify for this week's tour event after not receiving a sponsor exemption into 144-man event. Make that 144-person event with LPGA star Lexi Thompson set to make her PGA Tour debut. So again, how does a top 100 player not automatically qualify for an event with 144 spots? Especially with most of the tour's big names not in action this week?

It's tricky, but essentially, the tour decided to stick with the categories golfers played under for the entire 2022-2023 season. Which means Wu is still playing out of the 126-150 category. And he took to Twitter to call changed made to the tour's new fall season "wrong or unfair."

Wu was happy to explain the situation in more detail over the phone to Golf Digest.

“It’s basically all the big guys who don't really care about this,” Wu said of the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council that voted on the changes. "Like we already played a whole season. We played a fall last fall and this entire season and another, this is gonna be another fall. So it's like a year and a third. So guys already had a year to play decent and play enough events where they should just fill the full events based off FedEx [rankings]."

The tour announced significant—and seemingly abrupt—changes in April that impacted both the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the fall. The number of golfers qualifying for the postseason was cut to 70 from 125 and the wraparound season, which had been around for a decade, was done away with. Instead, those events remaining on the fall slate would be mainly used to determine which players would keep their tour cards for the next season.

"You're saying the fall is supposed to be like fighting for the top 125, that's like the slogan for the tour," said Wu, who got into the field in Vegas on Tuesday night when Brandon Matthews, ranked 192nd in the FedEx Cup, withdrew. "It's like if you're gonna have this slogan, anybody who's in the top 125 should be in the field, right?"

The fall is also a chance for golfers who didn't finish in the top 50 to qualify for the first two designated events of 2024 by finishing the fall in the top 60. That's Wu's goal since he will safely finish in the top 125 no matter how many events he gets in the rest of the year.

Wu also believes the tour underestimated how many top-50 players would play in these events, thus taking spots from guys battling to keep their jobs. For instance, Sahith Theegala finished 31st in the FedEx Cup standings, but won the first fall event in Napa. Not that Wu blames them.

"If guys are playing well, they want to play like everything, they might skip a few, but everyone loves going to Vegas, people want to go to Japan," Wu said. "Golfers want to make money and want to play."

Where it gets weirder is that Wu says his FedEx standing from this season got him into next week's Zozo Championship in Japan, the fall's only limited-field event. The three final official events after that are the World Wide Technology Championship, the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, and the RSM Classic.

Between a handful of top guys playing, events decreasing spots this time of year due to less daylight, and the tour continuing Monday qualifiers, Wu believes the fall events aren't a true respresentation of what's been portrayed as a battle for players trying to keep their status. And he's not alone in that thinking. At least one PGA Tour veteran, Jimmy Walker, has been pretty vocal about the situation as well, calling it "total bulls--t" in an interview with Golfweek last month.

"They changed the rules. It’s been 125 forever. Then it’s like, no, it’s 50, or is it 70? It’s definitely not 125. It’s total bulls--t, that’s what I think of it," Walker told Golfweek. "I’ve been working for 11 months to finish 124 and it’s like, nope, keep playing. So, I’m going to give it all I’ve got. That’s all I can do."

Wu is approaching the rest of the year with a similar attitude—even if he wishes things were different.

"I can tell you the last 72 hours has been very humbling," said Wu, who is coming off missing the cut by one at the Sanderson Farms Championship. "But yeah, you just got to keep on grinding."