The PGA Tour Drops Q-School

The PGA Tour Drops Q-School

Good or Bad?

Precision-Golf_PGA Tour Q School_Tim FinchemThis week the PGA Tour announced they were scrapping Q-School in favour of a more Fed-Ex Cup like end-of-season set of tournaments on the Nationwide Tour to decide who gets the elusive 50 Tour Cards for that following season. Argued by some as being solely designed to encourage sponsors to get involved in the re-invigorated format, the changes have sparked debate as to whether or not it’s really a good thing for aspiring tour pros, not just across the pond but worldwide too.

On March 20th the PGA Tour released a statement explaining that Q-School as we know it is changing and the routes for players to get onto the PGA Tour would now be controlled by who does well on the Nationwide Tour.

Under the new plans to go live in the 2013 season, the only main route [there are a few exceptions for certain niche groups] to now gain access to the PGA Tour is by coming in the top-50 of the final three Nationwide Tour events at the end of the season, which means to get on tour you need to in theory play the majority of a season on the Nationwide Tour. Prior to this, Q-School allowed the likes of YE Yang and Rickie Fowler to roll up to Q-School having played limited/no Nationwide Tour golf and then pick up a card (and notably go on to win tournaments – a major no less for Yang). But under the new system they’d be looking at a season on the Nationwide (if they made it through the initial Nationwide Q-School) before they even got a crack at any of those tournaments (excluding invites etc.), so Rickie wouldn’t have played a Ryder Cup and YE might not have won a major.

Here’s the PGA Tour’s description of what will be happening:

The Nationwide Tour will become the main road to the PGA TOUR with its final three events determining all 50 cards awarded. Previously, the top 25 money winners on the Nationwide Tour and the top 25 and ties from q-school got TOUR cards for the following year.

The fields for the final three Nationwide Tour events will include the top 75 players on the Nationwide Tour money list and those players who rank between 126-200 on the TOUR’s FedExCup list. Non-members who meet certain yet-to-be-determined eligibility will also be included.

This whole system change raises a number of questions for those at the tour who still, it would seem, haven’t finalised details of how it’s all going to work for the varying niches of players all vying for a card (e.g. the position of amateurs playing in the finals; the ‘pay-cut’ for under-performing players switching mid-season to the Nationwide to boost their Q-School chances; and the side-effects of boosting the Nationwide tour but lowering the importance of other linked tours (e.g. Canadian Tour)).

Not least of these issues is the effect of the system changes on international players – when presented with the choice of going to Q-School in Europe to get a full European Tour card afterwards, or going to the states to get a card on what is effectively the “minor-league” [Michael Fitzpatrick’s words, not ours] and hopefully play well after in the final three week period of the Nationwide Tour to get on the PGA Tour after another season, we wonder just how many players will want/be able to slog it out speculatively.

We asked our Fans and Followers and they didn’t disappoint in giving their opinions, Colin Johnson (@CGJ1973) shared his thoughts:

Precision-Golf_Tweet Colin Johnson Q-SchoolThis has always been something that arguably holds great players back meaning they miss their shot at the tour even if they are good enough – so forcing players to spend a season on the lower-level tour will likely rule out a good number of players who will be struggling to play enough tournaments to get into the top ranks.

So there’s certainly some issues to iron out when it comes to the nuts and bolts of how players will progress up through the tours, however, what does this mean for us Internationals? As already described there may well be a negative feeling toward having to go through an extra season to get onto the PGA Tour, when anyone can qualify through Q-School in Europe. But what about the example this sets to the European Tour and the Nationwide Tour’s equivalent in Europe, the Challenge Tour?

Precision-Golf_European Tour Q SchoolUp until now both systems have been similar if not identical – players work their hides off to get a place at Q-School and then battle it out over 6 rounds in what some call the biggest test in the sport, and then those that come out on top after that tournament get their cards for the next season, and it’s their job to then work as hard as they can to keep the golden ticket. But what if the guys at European Tour HQ in see this new American process take place successfully (as undoubtedly it will work – whether people like it or not) and then copy it to keep in line with their American cousins? Is the journey to the main tours not long and arduous enough, without needing to introduce another level?

What are your thoughts on the PGA Tour’s decision to remove Q-School entry to the PGA Tour? And do you think the European Tour might follow suit? Leave your comments below, tweet us @PrecisionGolf, head to PG’s Facebook Page, or drop us an email at info@precisiongolf.co.uk!

Further Reading on the changes to Q-School: