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Why you should watch the Tour Championship this week

September 17, 2014

Think the FedEx Cup is confusing? Try the Tour Finals. But luckily, with the 2013-14 PGA Tour season in the books, you can fully concentrate on the developmental tour's season finale. Oh, and we're also here to help explain it all. Here's what to watch for at TPC Sawgrass' Valley Course.

So, what is the Tour Finals?

It's a series of four events that's comprised of the top 75 players on the Tour's 2014 money list and Nos. 126-200 (another 75 players) on the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup points list for 2013-14. These 150 golfers are essentially playing for their 2014-15 PGA Tour cards, although the top 25 players from the regular season money list have already locked up a card.

Wait, so why are those 25 guys still playing?

At the end of the Tour Finals, 50 PGA Tour cards are awarded based on a priority list. That list is a mix of the 25 players who have already earned their cards and the other players and affects what type of status the players will have on the PGA Tour next season. The higher you are on the priority list, the better chance you have of getting into the tournaments you want.

Do the PGA Tour guys dominate this thing?

Not really. Bud Cauley won the first playoff event, but the next two were won by guys who played full-time on the Tour this season: Adam Hadwin and Justin Thomas. In 2013 -- the first year of this four-event series -- the results were also pretty split, with Trevor Immelman (PGA Tour), Andrew Svoboda (PGA and Tours), Seung-yul Noh (PGA Tour), and Chesson Hadley ( Tour) winning and John Peterson ( Tour) claiming the overall title for the Finals despite not winning a playoff event.


Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer's grandson, is closing in on a PGA Tour card.

Oh, so it really is like the FedEx Cup?

Yes, except the winner doesn't get a $10 million bonus. He does, however, earn fully-exempt status on the PGA Tour the following year, including a spot in the Players. The player with the most combined money earned between the regular season on the Tour and in the Finals is also fully exempt. Carlos Ortiz already locked up that spot with his three Tour wins this season.

So, what Tour names should we expect to see big things from next year?

Again, Carlos Ortiz won three times this year, earning more than $500,000 in the regular season. That's a lot of money on the Tour. Ortiz is 23 and played his college golf at North Texas. Then there's Justin Thomas, who just won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship, the third leg of the Tour Finals. A former standout at the University of Alabama, the 21-year-old Thomas impressed many when he and Jordan Spieth took down Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in a U.S. Open practice round at Pinehurst.

Who are some of the other intriguing names to keep an eye on?

Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer's grandson, has all but locked up his PGA Tour card for the first time. Saunders has finished T-4, T-16, and T-12 in the first three playoff events and will enter the Tour Championship at No. 13 on the priority list. John Peterson and Colt Knost are former college stars who have already locked up their return to the PGA Tour next year, but are trying to improve their status. Finally, Patrick Rodgers, the bubble boy this week at No. 50 in the standings, has been hailed as a can't-miss prospect out of Stanford.

What happens if guys miss this week?

There's always Q School. Regardless of how they finish in the Tour Finals, Nos. 126-200 on the FedEx Cup points list and Nos. 26-40 on the Tour money list are automatically in the field for Tour Q School in December. The rest can try to qualify for the field. With the switch to the Tour Finals schedule, Q School isn't a direct path to the PGA Tour anymore, but it is the best way to get back to the developmental tour. Do that and a year from now, you could be the next Carlos Ortiz.