Golf, the slowest-moving game, is soon going to require the fastest turnaround in pro sports. The PGA Tour will conclude its 2013 season with the FedEx Cup playoffs at the Tour Championship in September, take a break of two weeks or so and then open the new season.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced the change last week, a departure from the traditional calendar-year schedule, along with a makeover of the Tour's qualifying process.
The scheduling switch borrows from the European tour, and also eliminates an embarrassing contradiction. As the Tour's own website bleats, "At the end of the season, the winning player will be crowned the FedEx Cup Champion." Except the season isn't over when the FedEx Cup race ends—there are still four Fall Series tournaments to play, plus a World Golf Championship in China. One of those tournaments (yet to be determined) will kick off the new season. The Tour will award either full or partial FedEx Cup points to fall events, which currently get none.
Meanwhile, the Tour reconfigured its qualifying procedure, changing to a three-tournament race between the top 75 money winners from the Nationwide tour (golf's primary minor league) and players ranking 126--200 on the PGA Tour's final money list, competing for 50 spots on the big tour. The traditional Q school grads will no longer have a chance at the PGA Tour but will earn spots instead on the Nationwide. This means that the days of a top amateur or college player jumping right to the Tour—the way Rickie Fowler went through Q school and made the 2010 Ryder Cup as a rookie—are over. The next Rickie Fowler will almost certainly have to serve an apprenticeship on the Nationwide tour first.
MIKE EHRMANN (FOWLER)
WAITING GAME Fowler went from Q school in 2009 to the Ryder Cup the following year. Under the new format, he'd have had to go Nationwide.