A shorter ’13 season means larger fields
A shorter season on the PGA Tour in 2013 will mean slightly
larger fields for as many as nine tournaments.
It’s a move designed to help players who earn their cards
through Q-school or the Web.com Tour. They are at the bottom of the
priority rankings for getting into tournaments, and spots can be
rare in the early part of the season with smaller fields due to
limited daylight. If they didn’t qualify for the FedEx Cup
playoffs, they at least had four Fall Series tournaments to make up
ground to get into the top 125 and keep their cards.
But next year is all about transition. The PGA Tour season ends
with the Tour Championship, and after the three-tournament series
that effectively replaces Q-school, the new season (2013-14) will
start in October. The Fall Series will be the start of the new
”You have four fewer tournaments, and that puts a strain on
playing opportunities,” said Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief of
The PGA Tour’s policy board is asking certain tournaments to
expand their fields for only 2013. Tournaments in March and April
typically have 144 players because of earlier sunsets. Some of them
are being asked to expand those fields to 156 players.
Pazder conceded that it puts the tournaments in a ”precarious
position” to make the cut on Friday. The pace is so slow at some
spots that they can’t make the cut by Friday even without expanding
the fields. Among those expected to be left alone are Riviera,
Honolulu and Pebble Beach, which recently reduced its field from
180 players to 156 players to improve pace of the pro-am
The limited-field events are not off the hook. The Arnold Palmer
Invitational, AT&T National and Colonial are likely to go from
120 players to 132 players. Spared from the list is the Memorial,
run by Jack Nicklaus, which recently agreed to ramp up its field
from 105 players to 120 players.
That’s not the only boost for the Q-school and Web.com
Tournaments typically have eight sponsor exemptions – two
designated for tour members not eligible (such as John Daly), two
for Q-school and Web.com graduates and four unrestricted. The
formula for next year will be only two unrestricted exemptions, and
four exemptions set aside for Q-school and Web.com grads. The tour
is also doing away with the commissioner’s exemption for foreign
players, which is not used very much, anyway.
In all, it should create close to 90 additional spots to help
alleviate not having four Fall Series events at the end of the
RYDER CUP PUSH: The next two weeks will decide the eight
Americans who make the Ryder Cup team, and while there are plenty
of points at stake, those on the outside have their work cut out
Hunter Mahan occupies No. 8 in the standings, but he is $653,522
ahead of PGA champion Keegan Bradley in ninth place. The money (or
points) is double at the PGA Championship, the final week to earn
an automatic spot.
Bradley was left off the Presidents Cup team last year, even
though his two wins included a major.
”I really want this pretty bad, and that can be a negative,”
Bradley said. ”I know that if I have a decent last end of the
year, I’ll be on that team. But this U.S. team is one of the
strongest in recent history, I would say, with all major winners
coming from America, except the British Open.”
Indeed, six of the top eight have either won multiple times
(Tiger Woods, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Mahan) or won a major
worth double points (Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson). The others are
Matt Kuchar, who won The Players Championship, and Phil Mickelson,
who won Pebble Beach, lost in a playoff at Riviera and tied for
third at the Masters.
Missing from the top eight are some usual suspects – Dustin
Johnson at No. 12, Steve Stricker at No. 13 and Jim Furyk, who has
played on every U.S. team since making his debut in the 1997 Ryder
Cup. Even if Furyk were to win the World Golf Championship this
week with its $1.4 million payoff.
Rickie Fowler is at No. 10 and Brandt Snedeker is No. 11.
Snedeker lost about 160 points on the final hole of the British
Open when he made bogey, Woods made birdie and they tied for third.
If Snedeker had been in third place alone, he would be slightly
ahead of Fowler.
A year ago, Snedeker could have made the U.S. team for the
Presidents Cup by closing with a 1-over 72. He had a 74 in the BMW
Championship and missed out.
”This is a position I’m used to,” Snedeker said.
”Unfortunately, I’ve never been on the inside. I’ve been on the
outside looking in. I’ve got to play well, and if I don’t, I have
nobody to blame but myself.”
Davis Love III will announce Sept. 4 his four captain’s picks.
Just like making the team, it won’t be easy.
PGA FIELD: William McGirt was closer than ever to playing in his
first major championship.
In another example of how every shot counts, McGirt missed
getting into the PGA Championship by $11. The PGA of America went
down to No. 78 on its points list to fill the field of 156 players
for next week at Kiawah Island. The points list is based on PGA
Tour earnings from the Bridgestone Invitational last year through
the Canadian Open.
Jimmy Walker, who got the last spot, had $1,189,510. McGirt was
at No. 79 with $1,189,499.
McGirt tied for second in the Canadian Open; finishing in second
place alone (he made bogey on the last hole) or winning would have
sent him to Kiawah. Alas, all is not lost. McGirt is the first
alternate, and two spots are held open in case the winners of the
Reno-Tahoe Open or Bridgestone Invitational are not already
eligible for the PGA.
The PGA Championship fills out its field with special
invitations, which essentially is a way for it to get as many from
the top 100 in the world. But even those who fell out of the top
100 in the last few weeks were given exemptions – Michael Hoey of
Northern Ireland, Thomas Aiken of South Africa, and Robert Allenby.
The PGA of America went down to No. 108 – Thongchai Jaidee of
Thailand – for its invitations.
The PGA Championship has all of the top 108 players in the world
DIVOTS: The seventh hole at Bethpage Black, which played as a
par 4 at 525 yards for the U.S. Open in 2009, will be returned to a
par 5 for The Barclays later this month. That received strong
approval from Phil Mickelson. ”I’ve always been a fan of the
original designer’s interests in how a golf hole is designed to
play from its inception, as opposed to somebody else who comes in
and tries to alter it for their own benefit or ego,” he said,
without mentioning names. … British Open champion Ernie Els has
already said he would return to the Frys.com Open at CordeValle,
part of the Fall Series. … He is friends with Hasso Plattner,
co-founder of SAP, who owns CordeValle. … Every winner of a PGA
Tour event that awards full FedEx Cup points has qualified for the
Bridgestone Invitational except for one – Ben Curtis, who lives 15
minutes from Firestone. Curtis won the Texas Open, which had the
weakest field of the year.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Brendan Steele, tied for the lead going into
the final round of the PGA Championship a year ago, is the fifth
alternate this year.
FINAL WORD: ”I had trouble getting the butterflies to fly in
formation.” – William McGirt, in the final group for the first
time on the PGA Tour at Canadian Open. He finished one shot