No Q-School? No Problem!

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 09: Tim Finchem, Commissioner of the PGA Tour, speaks at the trophy presentation during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship held at THE PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 9, 2010 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

PGA President Tim Finchem will eliminate Q-School as a way to earn a tour card. But this might not be such a bad thing.

PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem just made a lot of people angry.

After months of speculation and waiting, Finchem finally pulled the proverbial plug on Q-School as a means for TOUR hopefuls to earn their player cards. Instead, a new system will be implemented in 2013 that includes steps to make playing on the Nationwide Tour the primary avenue to earning PGA TOUR status.

Quite frankly, I don’t see why everyone is so upset.

First and foremost, I’ll acknowledge that Finchem’s rationale for implementing the change is a tad confusing. Anyone who has ever worked with a group of people knows that change is often viewed as a dirty word, and people are going to resist. Finchem acknowledges this fact, but then gives his weird alternative view on the subject of resistance to change:

“Any time you make a change, human nature is, ‘Why are we changing? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ There’s another way to look at things,” Finchem said. “When things are going pretty well, that’s the time to get better.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about constantly looking at ways to improve your product. That shows dedication to your craft and – in the case of the PGA TOUR – shows a commitment to providing fans and players the best system possible. Perhaps Finchem could have said “We’re always looking to improve what we have” instead, but the message remains the same. To-may-to, to-mah-to.

In a nutshell, the new qualifying system will look (somewhat) like this:

After the FedEx Cup regular season ends in August 2013, the tour will take the top 75 players from the Nationwide Tour money list, along with the players who finished No. 126 through 200 on the PGA TOUR money list, and have them play three tournaments. The top 50 will receive PGA Tour cards for the following season.

In the past, the top 25 Nationwide players would receive their cards along with another 25 or so handed out at Q-School. This method not only rewarded players who sustained a high level of play for months (Nationwide qualifiers), but also opened the door for the “Cinderella story” players who fought their way through Q-School. The system worked out fine for its purpose; but did it ensure the best possible players were on TOUR to begin a season?

Finchem’s new qualifying proposal seeks to address that question. As commissioner, Finchem’s job is to protect the quality of the TOUR while simultaneously promoting its growth. By allowing the top players from the Nationwide Tour to play with PGA TOUR pros who failed to keep their cards in an end-of-the-season format, only the absolute best players from the group earn their cards and are allowed to play the following season on TOUR. Nationwide players must contend with PGA pros in the same format to earn their cards. In a way, Finchem has established a “survival of the fittest” format, thus ensuring the highest quality possible for his roster of PGA players.

This move also helps the Nationwide Tour. At a time where the tour’s sponsorship future is in jeopardy (Nationwide Insurance is rumored to be withdrawing from the tour as a sponsor), more attention and participation in the tour is definitely a positive. Under Finchem’s proposal, Q-School will now be the primary means for golfers to earn their Nationwide Tour card, which automatically boosts that tour’s talent roster.

Many of the details in Finchem’s new plan remain to be seen, however the framework is in place. With proper execution in rolling out the new system, this move should benefit the PGA TOUR by filling its roster with the best golfers possible while also instilling a renewed focus on a struggling Nationwide Tour.

Was the current system broken? Absolutely not. Will the new system benefit the PGA TOUR more than ever before? That remains to be seen.

Has Tim Finchem done his job as commissioner by improving his product? With this move, I don’t see how he hasn’t.

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