Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Money Talks, and the PGA Tour Is Listening

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

That simplistic, seven word phrase is something I've always lived by. My dad told me that years ago when I was taking my first job selling hot chocolate and popcorn to patrons of my small town's Christmas light festival that was much bigger in a 12-year-old boys eyes when he'd barely been past Dallas, Texas.

When things work, go with them.

The problem is, the saying doesn't apply to money. Money changes everything.

Welcome to the PGA Tour, 2013.

Or should I say, the PGA Tour, 2013-14? As of Tuesday, golf has now become a 12-month experience even more than it was before. Tim Finchem announced in Florida that the PGA Tour will never look the same starting next season, with Q-School all but eliminated and the tour schedule reassembled more than Heidi Montag's nose.

The details, via Steve Elling's great post about everything, are as follows ...

Qualifying School, a well-traveled avenue to the tour since the 1960s, has been restructured, although neutered might be an equally effective term. Moreover, future seasons, beginning next fall, will abandon the calendar and morph into a wraparound schedule starting with 2013-14.

It's easy to rip apart change, and I understand that, but everything that is happening just reeks of greenbacks.

Why is all this happening? Simple. Nationwide's sponsorship of the PGA Tour's minor leagues is up this year, and the tour needs someone to drop some bucks and they must give that sponsor more incentive. Being the opening act to a Killers concert is an incredible accomplishment. Being the lead act at a Bat Mitzvah? Not so much.

If the Nationwide Tour, or whatever it will be called in a year, is going to be more relevant, they had to make the stakes higher. Sure, the top 25 players were always given PGA Tour cards, but they wanted to make it more meaningful to players, fans and the brand. Now, with the changes, good players will be playing their hearts out there to make it to the tour with hopes of million dollar checks and lobster buffets. That wasn't the case as much before the announcement.

And Q-School, something that has been around since the 1960s and at one point had two different stages a season, is all but dead. Guys like J.B. Holmes, Rickie Folwer and Kevin Streelman would have never had the type of chance they do now without Q-School, and that is just to name a few of the lesser guys (Streelman my favorite example because in 2007 he was playing in the same money game I was involved in for mini tour practice rounds, had a few good weeks at Q-School, and now stars in commercials with Tom Lehman).

Maybe I'm just nostalgic about something that separated golf from any other sport. Q-School was special. It gave any good player the illusion that they could make the big stage, win the U.S. Open, smell the grass of Augusta. It kept that adolescent dream alive in any of us that have ever had a round of 66 or 67 on a sunny day with friends, and it was a stepping stone in a game that always seems to have something new to step over.

The schedule change seems extreme, but again, money talks, and it's telling us now to make the FedEx Cup a bigger deal and this is the best way to go about it.

For now, it is simply time to mourn the changes in a game that has always seemed a little too pure for this generation. First it was the ball, then it was the clubhead, then the grooves, and now the bottom line.


chris_villasenor said...

I wonder how this will affect the Euro Tour? Seems like in trying to push talent down to the Nationwide, perhaps they're pushing talent across to the Europe.

It would have been nice to have kept Q-school and simple reduced the amount of exemptions to 10 or 15. This is all somewhat disappointing.

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