Finchem Proposes Changes to PGA Tour Schedule & Membership Qualifications

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has proposed getting rid of the annual Q-School as a means to get a tour card and starting the official season in October instead of at the beginning of the calendar year.

Finchem presented the basics of the plan Tuesday night during a mandatory meeting with the players at Torrey Pines. The course will host the Farmer Insurance Open, which starts today.

Instead of Q-School - an annual ordeal that involves six rounds with the top-25 finishers earning their cards, Finchem has proposed that the top 75 players from the Nationwide Tour and the top 75 players who failed to keep their cards play a three-tournament series.

The players would be seeded based on the rankings on the two tours' money lists. The top-50 players emerging from the tournament series would earn cards for the upcoming year. The rest would have the option of going to Q-school, but the top finishers there would only qualify for the Nationwide Tour.

The 16-member Player Advisory Council will convene in three weeks at the Northern Trust Open in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The earliest the board would approve the proposals is in March, though it could also be later.

Based on some players' initial reactions, there isn't much impetus to change. Dustin Johnson said on Twitter, "Just left the player meeting here in San Diego!!!! I don't like any of the ideas about changing the tour!!! There is NO reason to!!!!!!!!!"

According to The Associated Press, total compensation to PGA Tour players - including their pension plans - amounted to $205 million in 2010. That figure increased to $319 million in 2011 and is expected to be $377 million this year.

"If everything is so good, why risk change?" asked Brandt Snedeker.

"I quite like the way it is now," said Geoff Ogilvy. "But I quite liked the way the Tour was before the FedEx Cup was, and I actually like the Tour better now with the FedEx Cup. I thought it was ridiculous having the FedEx Cup, but now it happened and I'm like this is pretty good. Every year it's gotten better, and I really like it. So the Tour hasn't made that many missteps in the last 20 or 30 years. They've put in a lot of work and time and thought into this. It's probably going to end up the right thing to do. It's not really going to affect most guys who - the bunch of guys who stay on Tour every year and play. It's not going to affect them too much.

"It's going to be interesting to see how people get on to how they choose to get on the Tour and is everyone going to have to do that stepping stone through the Nationwide Tour? Or is there realistically a way to get to those playoff events without doing all of that? And how the Europeans choose to - if less of them choose to come and play here because it might be more difficult for them too, I don't know. But as I said, the Tour has a history of making pretty sensible decisions about the big structure changes. So I'll probably just go with them and trust them on it."

Ricky Fowler said he's on the fence about possible changes. "It definitely seems like they're leaning for the switch. Not so much change. I know that the Nationwide Tour is a definite concern. It needs to stay around. It's definitely a breeding ground for PGA Tour players in a way. Not that everyone comes through there, but you see guys play well out there and they come on to the Tour and have success here.

"I mean, Jhonattan Vegas last year came out and won pretty quickly. But for me it's a tough situation because you want the Nationwide Tour around and you want to have the title sponsor. At the same time, you want to have that open door for the local club pro to be able to make it into the final stage and have his chance of making it on the PGA Tour.

"It's a tough situation," Fowler added. "I think that Commissioner Finchem is trying to do his best and has done a great job with all of the decision that's he has made as commissioner. The Tour is definitely in a great spot. Hopefully we can figure things out going forward. It's tough. I mean, he's not in an easy spot, and we're trying to work it out."

Phil Mickelson has yet to formulate an opinion. "I don't know if I really have an opinion either way. I don't really see that as being the issue. I didn't know anything. I went to the meeting last night just to hear and listen to what's going on. But I see something different. I don't see that being the issue. What I see being the issue is trying to start the new season in October. I think the only way to do that is to have Q school not be part of the Tour. You can't have Q school in that one wee if you end the Tour Championship and start the following year in that one week.

"So it looks like to me they're wanting to have a non calendar year, which means you've got to change the Q school," Mickelson added. "You want to make the Asian tournaments FedEx Cup events, and I believe they're going to add another couple in the short term to try to have four or five in Asia. I think all of that to make those events the Fall Series and the Asian events FedEx Cup tournaments, they have to alter the Q-school, so that's what I see."