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By Kevin Currie, Golf Editor - Archive - Email
Change coming to PGA qualifying system
Starting in 2013 there will be zero PGA Tour cards awarded.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The long talked about changes to the PGA Tour qualifying system finally came to fruition earlier this week.

All the minor details haven't completely been hashed out, but the basic outline of the changes is finalized.

The PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, better known as Q School, has been around since the late 1960s. Early on, as few as five PGA Tour cards were awarded per year through the event.

That number has grown to the top 25 and ties. With the changes put forth, starting in 2013 there will be zero PGA Tour cards awarded. The top finishers at Q School will earn full status on the Nationwide Tour.

The system doesn't seem to be broken, so was this change really needed? The tour thinks this will make both the Nationwide and PGA stronger in the long run.

"I think all of you are aware that since 1990, we have studied year-in and year-out the comparative performance of players off of the Nationwide Tour versus players off of the Qualifying School," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem stated on Tuesday. "And this is a reaffirmation that we have great confidence based on this many years of history what the Nationwide Tour does to prepare a player for the competitive challenges of the PGA Tour."

The 50 places that were available - 25 spots from Q School and 25 from the Nationwide Tour money list - will now come through a three-event series that will combine members of both tours, plus some non-members to fill out the fields.

"The final events will be positioned on an off week on the PGA Tour so that we can command good television exposure, and we can bring the atmosphere and the drama of that competition to the fans," Finchem explained.

This three-event series, which will be played around the time of the FedEx Cup playoffs, won't have as dramatic an impact as Q School in the short-term, but stories will grow from it.

The changes, which were voted on and approved by the PGA Tour's Players Advisory Council, will take place starting in the fall of 2013. A cynic might say the players on the council came through the current system and it worked for them, so why change?

As Finchem said, the Nationwide Tour provides players a glimpse of what is to come on the PGA Tour. Q School graduates have plenty of PGA Tour wins to their credit, but it pales in comparison to the 300-plus wins that former Nationwide Tour players have accumulated on the PGA Tour.

One person this new system could hinder is the hot-shot college star jumping right to the PGA Tour.

Rickie Fowler left college early and gained his PGA Tour card via Q School in 2009. After a plethora of amateur and collegiate wins, Fowler is still searching for his first PGA Tour win.

While Fowler still needed Q School to reach the tour, his 2009 Walker Cup teammate Bud Cauley didn't.

Cauley, a PGA Tour rookie, earned enough money at the end of last season in his six sponsors exemptions that he finished the equivalent of No. 116 on the tour's money list.

Therefore, Cauley joined the likes of Gary Hallberg, Scott Verplank, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Ryan Moore and Tiger Woods as those who avoided Q School and went right to the PGA Tour.

It seems this path will still be open for collegians, but can the same be said for rising international players? What would have become of Rory McIlroy if he spent a year on the Nationwide Tour, and played poorly? Maybe he never wins the U.S. Open.

Which path works better? Those at the PGA Tour headquarters will tell you that playing your way up through the Nationwide Tour is the best way.

Who are we to argue? They might be right, but the coming changes seem to make it harder to get on the PGA Tour.

That may strengthen the tour in the long run, but, hopefully, the changes don't adversely effect superstar collegians, such as Jordan Spieth or Patrick Cantlay, or international stars such as Asian Amateur champ Hideki Matsuyama from realizing their dreams and competing on the PGA Tour.

GET READY FOR MORE MICHELLE WIE

Michelle Wie has been in the public eye for more years than most people realize. She first appeared in an LPGA Tour event in 2002.

Yep, 2002! And she was only in grade school way back when.

Fast forward to the iPhone and Twitter generation and Wie is graduating from Stanford. She finished her final exams last week and will graduate in June.

What does this mean for the LPGA Tour? Wie will be playing more golf.

"I kind of feel like a weight is lifted off my shoulder and I can really use the extra time to focus more on my game. I think that it was something I'm so proud of what I've done," Wie said of finishing her school work at Stanford. "But after I've seen all my friends graduate last year and being the last one to graduate, I was kind of ready for it."

Wie currently stands 20th in the world, and you'd have to think she'll start to climb even higher now that she can focus solely on golf.

With her degree requirements completed, Wie is already giving back so others have the same chance.

According to the LPGA Tour, "Wie and Kia Motors announced Wednesday that they are donating $50,000 to Operation Hero, a non-profit program run by the Camp Pendleton Armed Services YMCA, which provides free tutoring and counseling to more than 375 children that live on base."

The 22-year-old Wie is quickly proving she is wise beyond her years.

MINI-TIDBITS

* Ernie Els has yet to qualify for The Masters, but his fans have created a twitter account (@Ernie4Masters) hoping to get the Big Easy a special invite to the season's first major at Augusta National.

* Changing sports real fast: how can the NFL suspend a general manager and a head coach? Are they not allowed to email/call/text in personnel options or game plans? Not saying the moves were wrong, I just need more details to understand the breadth of suspensions.


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