PGA’s way or the highway
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To earn playing rights on any country's tour, golfers have to play the region's annual Q-school. The PGA Tour of America, the most sought after circuit, has had this qualifying tournament since 1965. However, from this year onwards, qualifying to PGA is no more direct. Those who get past Q-school can only play PGA's developmental circuit, Web.com (formerly Nationwide), which apart from the stigma of being second best, has paltry purses and little sponsor or media attention.
This policy change has made getting to PGA a two-year process — a move which most internationals disapprove of, seeing little practical sense in investing time and money on a second rung tour.
For past winners on the PGA like Arjun Atwal, it removes the safety net of Q-school, which allowed them to get right back despite a bad year. Some also feel that the board is being a big bully.
However, PGA, as the best tour in the world, can afford to be one. It might not be a popular decision but so be it. One of PGA's agendas is to promote its lower-rung tours and by giving Web.com's top 25 players guaranteed PGA cards for the following year, it will lure the world's most talented pros to take the chance. As someone committed to get to PGA, Gaganjeet Bhullar, ranked 89 in the world, feels Web.com could actually become the next big thing for overseas golfers as it gives them a year to acclimatise to American conditions.
Web.com's new model of a four-series finale, which will also include 75 PGA players, will give an additional 25 cards — a move that will revive PGA's fall season which was otherwise on the verge of sponsor pull-outs because of watered-down fields.
PGA's changed policy is also designed to reward consistency over a year rather than a great performance over one week of Q-school. It's invariably a performance filter: you're welcome on the PGA if you are good enough to sustain yourself on Web.com.
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