It's Official: Q-School No Longer Automatic Route to PGA Tour


Not unexpectedly, the PGA Tour has announced that an earlier plan to significantly change the current eligibility standard of becoming one of its members has been ratified by the Tour's Policy Board. Also involved is a change to the traditional start of the Tour's season.

Instead of the top-25 finishers in the annual Q-School - a grueling six-day, 108-hole test - being automatically eligible for the following year's PGA Tour, those finishers will now join the Nationwide Tour, the PGA's developmental tour. The top-50 finishers on the Nationwide Tour - currently, the top-25 automatically earn a PGA Tour card - will become members of the bigger circuit.

In addition, the 2014 season will start in October of 2013, two weeks after the Tour Championship ends. The current 2012 season will proceed as usual without the changes, which were announced by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem at Bay Hill in Orlando, site of this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Starting in 2013, the PGA Tour's Fall Series will consist of four to six tournaments that will begin awarding FedEx Cup points, although the percentage of those points haven't been determined.

The current Nationwide Tour is seeking a new sponsor. The PGA Tour believes that after a season of traveling and playing in tour-like competitions on the developmental circuit the graduates will be better prepared for the big leagues.

Policy board member Davis Love III agreed with the changes. "Well, a lot of work needs to be done, a lot of decision need to be made. But we're heading in the right direction," Love said Tuesday. "It will certainly strengthen the Nationwide Tour and the Fall Series and the FedEx Cup. Change is hard. When we did the FedEx Cup we wondered why we'd change something that was working. But to get where you need to be, I think this will all be good."

An early critic of the possible changes, Brandt Snedeker, said more support is needed for the Nationwide Tour. "I think everyone out here is opposed to change. We kind of look and see how it affects us on a small scale. But five, 10 years down the road, this is what the Tour needs to do," he noted.

"The Tour thinks the changes will bring more stability, more stature, to the fall events, and that will be a good thing. It will be a completely different Tour season, a new product, but Tim Finchem has done an unbelievable job during his tenure and he sees this is a way to make our Tour better."

Snedeker added that he hopes that the three-year period it took to finalize the FedEx Cup Playoffs won't be repeated with the new changes. "With this overhaul, there are a lot kinks that need to be ironed out," he said. "With the FedEx Cup, by the fourth year we had it figured out. This time out we can't take that luxury. You are messing with people's lives and careers. We have to get it right the first time."

Finchem sat down with reporters and discussed the changes with the media and players. Here's what he had to say during Tuesday's announcement.

MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, we'll have the Commissioner open up with a few remarks and we'll take some questions.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. Before I get into talking about what happened in our board meeting the last couple of days, I would like to thank Arnold Palmer for his continued contribution back to the PGA Tour and hosting this event every year. I'd like to thank everybody involved for putting the tournament together as we get into another great Arnold Palmer Invitational and we give Martin Laird the opportunity to defend, and we are looking forward to a great week. We have had a great start to the season, and we don't anticipate anything less interesting this week here at Bay Hill.

As you are aware, the PGA Tour Policy Board has met the last couple of days. I wanted to brief you on one particular matter that is newsworthy coming out of those meetings, and I want to give you a little bit of detail. So I'm going to refer to notes, which sometimes I don't do, as I talk through this. I think the fundamental thing coming out of the meetings clearly is that our policy board has approved a restructure of the Nationwide Tour and indeed a restructure of our entire qualifying process, setting forth the Nationwide Tour as the pathway to the PGA Tour. And a lot of the detail here as been reported during the course of the last 14 months as we have looked at this development, but I'll share with you some of the detail, and a couple of details that are yet to be determined.

But I think the most important thing is that all 50 cards that are awarded to non members through a qualifying process will be awarded through an expanded Nationwide Tour. We will add to the normal schedule of the Nationwide Tour three final events, if you will, that will combine PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour players at the end of the Nationwide Tour season to determine the next year's PGA Tour membership. The annual qualifying tournament, which we know as Q School, will award cards to the Nationwide Tour going forward. This process will begin in 2013. The top 75 players off the Nationwide Tour will continue on into the finals, and they will be joined in those three final events by the players who represent the 126 to 200 category on the PGA Tour at that point in time in the season.

In addition to those two groups, any non members who also would be included in those lists, that they appear in the listings based on their money. I think that the only remaining things in terms of that qualifying process, there are a number of little details, but the one thing that has been something that's been discussed a lot, but we are not quite ready to make a final determination, is the method by which those two groups will come together in the competition. I think a lot of you are aware that there is a couple of different seeding scenarios that have been looked at in terms of seeding within those, say, 144 players, or roughly that number. How that process works out, exactly where we end up on, that is going to go back to our Player Advisory Council for additional comment. Also, there will be additional discussions with the other sponsors on the Nationwide Tour and other stakeholders in the Nationwide, in addition to the players, and we will make a decision on that later in the year. But the fundamentals of what we are doing here, other than that, have been determined and we'll go forward in 2013.

I think that on that new process, I'll just say that we believe strongly this is a very exciting moment for the Nationwide Tour, and for the PGA Tour, as well. I think the decision by the policy board is a recognition of the historical performance of the Nationwide Tour in player development; developing elite players to the PGA Tour level. I think all of you are aware that since 1990, we have studied year in and year out the comparative performance of players off of the Nationwide Tour versus players off of the Qualifying School. And this is a reaffirmation that we have great confidence based on this many years of history what the Nationwide Tour does to prepare a player for the competitive challenges of the PGA Tour. Secondly, I think this process clearly makes the Nationwide Tour the primary path to the PGA Tour, and in doing so, it will tie the Nationwide Tour in the minds of fans, particularly, much more strongly, tie them much more strongly to the PGA Tour, to the PGA Tour brand and what the PGA Tour is all about. Thirdly, we think that the three final events create an exciting and dramatic finish to the season; and I'll come back and talk about that in a couple of minutes.

The second part of the announcement has to do with something that developed during the course of analyzing this qualifying process. Because the further along we got into analyzing how this would be structured, the more compelling it became to look at restarting the season in the fall and including all of our official money events in the FedEx Cup. And so I'm pleased to announce that the board has approved a system whereby we would do just that. We would continue to conclude the season at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. We would begin the next season a couple of weeks later in October. All of our fall official money events would receive FedEx Cup points. Here again, there is one lingering question that will be determined later in the year, and that is the distribution of FedEx Cup points among those events that have not been included in the FedEx Cup thus far; but the decision to include them in the FedEx Cup is final.

In addition, our events in Asia will award FedEx Cup points and official money, as well. The season will continue after the break for the holidays with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and eligibility for the top 125 going forward will be FedEx Cup points as the primary eligibility category. If you take these two things together and look at the fall calendar now, the changes that have been made in the qualifying system, the restructuring of the FedEx Cup, I think that we were persuaded, and our board agreed, that there were a number of very strong advantages to moving down this road. I'll just tick off a handful. There are some other smaller ones. One is, we strongly believe that we will have a better qualifying system because this qualifying system will include season long, Tour like playing conditions with at the end, the intense pressure of a playoff type series. Secondly, I think those people in this room, because you follow the sport very closely, and a good number of our fans have been excited over the years to watch the conclusion of the Qualifying School, because of the pressure on the players and the results of that pressure.

The second advantage we see here is that we feel will much more effectively communicate the drama of that unique competition of the Qualifying School, because there will be a year long buildup. It will be promoted on television during the course of the year. The final events will be positioned on an off week on the PGA Tour so that we can command good television exposure, and we can bring the atmosphere and the drama of that competition to the fans. Third, we think these changes significantly enhance the Nationwide Tour overall and from a lot of different perspectives. Fourth, with restructuring the season and including events under the FedEx Cup, we are able to build the value for our fall events to sustain those fall events into the future.

Fifth, and I think after last fall, we would argue particularly importantly, it provides a singular and more impactful conclusion to what a PGA Tour season is by pulling together both the awarding of the FedEx Cup with the determination of who wins the Arnold Palmer Award for leading money winner; leading right in to a vote by the players for Player of the Year. If you look back to last fall as an example, with Webb Simpson and Luke Donald battling it out for the Arnold Palmer Award weeks after the FedEx Cup was concluded, and confusion about the relationship of the voting for Player of the Year as it relates to what segment of the season, all of that is behind us now, because all of that will conclude on that weekend in Atlanta. The voting will commence immediately, and all of those things will be tied together, which we think from a standpoint of relating to our fans, is a huge advantage.

Finally, we think these changes create a stronger FedEx Cup. It means that the PGA Tour competition is the FedEx Cup. We like that, and we like what it does for those tournaments involved and for the sponsors involved. So we are very pleased with the decision by the board to move forward next year. We had a lot of work to do to prepare for the execution of this next year. There are some smaller things not worth mentioning that need to be resolved. If you ask me about one, I may respond to it because it is a detail that is not on my list. But the two big things to be determined really are the question of pulling those players together and how that competition is organized; a number of questions there to be answered. And then the distribution of points to the events in the fall that are official money events. Be happy to take your questions. And as you are about to ask that question, I have with me today Andy Pazder, who is runs the operations and sponsorship and competition on the PGA Tour; Bill Calfee does the same on the Nationwide Tour and I may flip a question to them depending on the nature of it.

Q. Clarifying the last part, the two biggest questions, the seeding of the players in the three event series, is that what you meant by that, and the points in the fall?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: There have been a number of quote, seeding proposals, on the table during the course of the year; that is an open question; and then the distribution of points in the fall, those are the only two things. I think there are some smaller changes in the regulations that relate to, but those two things need to be resolved in the next few months.

Q. What avenues for the hotshot college players coming out of school and trying to get to the big dance by avoiding the one year internship, what means are they going to have?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, there's two: The traditional way that a player comes out of college, he goes around the Qualifying School; Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods, etc. That's unchanged. What's changed is that the degree to which you can manage that is expanded, because in today's world, to manage that, you've got to get sponsor exemptions and get into the 125. In this new arrangement, you have to get sponsorships, but you only have to get into the top 200. And then you have a shot in the finals. So that's the first part of my answer.

Secondly, I would just point out that the number of players on average the last ten years who have come out of college, gone to Qualifying School and got their card is about 1.4 per year. So we'll see how that expanded access through the finals works, but it may be zero change. But certainly there is an avenue there. It's just a different kind of avenue.

Q. Could you give us a time line? This is going to begin with the Tour Championship in 2013, or 2012? This year or next year?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: In 2013, we will have a normal season. We'll start at the normal point in time. However, toward the end of the season, we will initiate these changes. Which means that in 2013 and 2013 only, we will have a shorter than normal season from the standpoint of eligibility and qualification, because we'll start in January, and we'll conclude our final events, will conclude at the same time the Playoffs conclude, followed by a Qualifying School for the Nationwide Tour in 2013.

Q. So the three tournaments are the next thing that happens. And what is now the Fall Series is the next thing that happens on the calendar?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Under the new, there won't be a Fall Series. We will start the FedEx Cup two weeks after the finals, and that will run - it's a 50-week - roughly, depending on most years, a 50 week year long process. Think of it in terms of the NBA and NFL, they cross two years. We just cross a longer period of time.

Q. So time line, Tour championship, 2013; new qualifying process next; 2014 season begins in October?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: October. Correct.

Q. Tournament of Champions, normally the first event of the next year -

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we are always looking at the dates there, but assuming it stays in its same date, which we anticipate it will, it will be the leading event in the calendar year of 2014 but it will obviously not be the start of the season.

Q. So players who win after the first of October will not be eligible then?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, and anybody wins during the course of the year is eligible year to year. At least that's our plan at the moment.

Q. From a timing perspective, would the three tournament final series be concurrent with the FedEx Cup Playoffs?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Would the three events be what?

Q. The finals, would it be concurrent with the FedEx Cup Playoffs?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Generally, although two of them would be right now in our first year, on open weeks, and then definitely the final of the three would be on a bye week in the playoff event. So it will have its own weekend for television.

Q. Would the HSBC be considered a full fledged World Golf Championships, or is that still partial status?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Our plan is it would be included as a full blown World Golf Championships.

Q. And lastly, I hope this is more philosophical than detail oriented, if you are making the Nationwide the pathway to the PGA Tour and a guy completes the Nationwide season in the Top 20 or 25, what would preclude him from just getting his card without having to go through? Hasn't he done all the work at that point?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, you're talking about if we end up with a seeding process that guarantees a player a card early without competing, is that what you're talking about? Well, if we end up there, you're still incentivized to play, because you're in the reshuffle. So you want the highest possible finish.

Q. Is there some discussion, even though you have not figured out the season, is there discussion of protecting some players, say, the Top 10 on the Nationwide or 15; is that part of the discussion?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes.

Q. And secondly - well, maybe I ought to follow up on that.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: There's a lot of different opinions on that, but yeah, certainly part of the conversation.

Q. So in essence then, again, it would fall back to Doug, saying those guys would still have an incentive to play, even if they were protected, in terms of earnings and their reshuffle numbers, etc.; right? Even if they were protected and didn't really have to play, they would be playing anyway.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: One would assume they would play, yeah, because finish position is pretty important for access.

Q. Is there a process of discussion with Augusta National as to, would those FedEx Cup events then be eligible as automatic berths in the Masters?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Not yet, no. No need to talk to them until we are finished here, but we'll be talking to them about the way they see that. We have not really been able to give them anything yet in terms of what we are going to do. Those conversations will be down the road.

Q. The Nationwide Tour Championship, that will come a little earlier obviously than it does now, the final Nationwide Tour Championship?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes, it will come at the end of September.

Q. So are you going to fill in some of those weeks in February and March that have been off weeks? Are you going to start -

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: On the Nationwide?

Q. Yeah.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we are assuming up to 25 events in that range, and then three final events. So how that plays out, in terms of the scheduling, I think what we'll start with is finalizing how the finals are going to be positioned geographically, and then we'll work back from there. But the frequency of weeks I don't think would be that different than it is now. Is that a fair statement, Bill?

BILL CALFEE: Yeah.

Q. What type of venues are you looking at, geographical areas, for those three events?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: In that time frame we have pretty strong flexibility nationally weather wise. We are not precluded from playing, I don't think anywhere, which is good, and had something to do with the thinking here. The players, as you would expect, want to see some variety in the kind of golf courses we are going to play, and we'll try to generate that. I think you're probably wear that on the Qualifying School side, very strong feeling that West Coast/East Coast provides some advantage one way or the other, so we are going to try to balance it. Now that we know, we actually have something to work with, during the course of the year, we'll be working on the details for that kind of rotation.

Q. And as of now, the fall events that would begin the FedEx Cup season, are those going to be an evolution of Fry's, McGladrey, Disney? Are those going to become - are those just going to change definition and become FedEx Cup events? Are those the ones you're looking at?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Generally. Generally. I would say we may have some movement in there. We may have a new event or two in the mix. But generally speaking, most of those are fairly strong events.

Q. What do you see as the opener?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We have not decided yet. We have some models. Here again, while we have been talking to tournaments and sponsors a lot over the last year, in terms of the and including some discussions about the out year scheduling, but until we get to a point, it's kind of something we'll get to this year.

Q. I think this is what Steve may have just asked; have you not determined what the exact event will be that will start the 2013 FedEx Cup schedule in October?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We have not.

Q. Secondly, you talk about this significantly enhancing the appeal of the Nationwide Tour. How much of this decision, if at all, is being driven by selling a potential title sponsorship?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, it's certainly helpful in that regard. I think all of this conversation started a year and a half ago with Bill Calfee and some of our other team, believing strongly; it really is, candidly, this is a conversation that goes back to 1990. In 1990, there were five cards awarded on the, then, Hogan Tour. As the years have gone by, a continuation of the pattern of players playing better, who come off - rookies playing better who come off of the Hogan Tour, or the Nike Tour, or now Nationwide Tour, out performing players who come off the Qualifying School.

During those years, fairly consistent attitude on the sponsorship of the Tour itself and the tournaments on that Tour, that there should be a more aggressive approach, because clearly players were getting developed to be able to compete better. So this whole thing started, really, awhile back with a discussion about, if you're going to change it, how you would change it; how you would make it more exciting. During the course of that, a number of things evolved that led to a discussion of other advantages. But there was never any question that from the get go of this discussion, anything you do to make the competition drive more of the access through that tour is going to drive more value to the sponsor.

So that's certainly an advantage. I don't think it's the reason we got into this, but it's certainly an advantage. And we do need sponsorship. I don't think that that's enough reason to do these kind of changes. We've been going down one path for a long time, but it's certainly an advantage, and there are a number of advantages, and that's one of them.

Q. Are you close on a title for the Nationwide?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We are in discussions with several different companies, and close might not be the right word.

Q. Kind of a twofold question, but there was a report in Golf World Magazine, you mentioned this, as well, about basically the amount of points that a fall start would get. Why wouldn't you give full points?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we may. We may give them full points. We are looking at it from the standpoint - when we started looking at this initially, which was halfway through the discussion period about the restructure and looking at the calendar, it just became evident that there was a time we could do this. It really had to do with every year that we have had the FedEx Cup, there is a growing amount of interest from tournaments that are not part of it, to be part of it. After the third year of the FedEx Cup, fourth year of the FedEx Cup, it got increasingly important to tournaments to be viewed as part of the FedEx Cup. So a lot of the decision here had to do with, you know, creating more continuity with tournaments to be able to satisfy that need. The number of points and the way you do points has not been a leading part of the conversation until recently. And there are different ways to look at that, and we have just determined that we will evaluate it and we will make a decision downstream a little bit.

Q. Leading into, with a fall start, are you concerned at all about how this will affect the West Coast Swing?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You know, I might have been three years ago if we were having this conversation. But watching the player - we had a lot of player movement in the fall of 2011. We had the players go down and play the Presidents Cup in Australia. We had a lot of members playing in the HSBC. We actually had a number of members playing in Singapore. We had a sellout in terms of, somewhat smaller field, but not a tiny field, in Malaysia. And then we came right in and had probably the best West Coast we've ever had.

So I think things have changed. I think the fans clearly are demonstrating that what they want to see and be covered are good, young players, because like what they are watching, and that's what's driving the interest we are seeing in the tremendous ratings bump we have had this year. And it's not about this young player or that young player; the research we have done is, it's about the young players coming up. That's really a change from a focus on a small number of players. So a couple of things. I think players are playing in the fall, anyway. When we started the FedEx Cup, we were worried with players who wanted to take the entire fall off, and some of them still do. Most of them are playing some golf in the fall, and our field quality has held up quite well on the West Coast. But you know, you never know about these things. We'll see how it goes. But right now, we are not too concerned about that, no.

Q. Talking to some players, they see the three tournament type thing that you are talking about, Nationwide, they say, well, we already have a three tournament thing, we have first, second and third stage of Q School. Could you explain why you could not do it in that current setting and why you had to make this type of change?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, it's an awkward system, but we are not changing the Qualifying School. The Qualifying School is staying there. It just means something else. It means Nationwide Tour. I think the real question is, why would we be comfortable with that, and the reason we are comfortable with that is that we, the PGA Tour, benefits a lot from a player going to the Nationwide Tour. He's a better player. He's better able to compete. If he's a player with personality and other ways to contribute, he's going to have a better chance to stay out here for a longer period of time.

It does measure the better player, because you are playing PGA Tour -type competition week in and week out over a good period of time. It also educates the player about what the PGA Tour is all about, what the volunteers are there for, how our charitable focus works. So when they come to the PGA Tour, they are more knowledgeable about the things that are important, whether it be sponsors, charities, whatever. So that's really the question.

So we are very comfortable with the Qualifying School identifying players for the Nationwide Tour. We really like the system we have for identifying the 50 cards to the PGA Tour for exactly the reason that I indicated, which is it combines both a performance over a good number of events, whether some on the PGA Tour, some on the Nationwide Tour, with a lot of drama and pressure in those three events. If you look at the Playoff events, you've seen it in Chicago, you've seen it in Boston where it impacts the play of a player. It's a tremendous process to put that player through. We think that will be the process here. And the drama that you see, but not many people do see, it's currently in the Qualifying School, we'll be able to highlight that drama in a three week series which we think is going to be terrific.

Q. One other thing, the schedule in the fall, can you give us a minimum/maximum, how many events you are planning for once the season starts?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, I think - no, because we have not decided that yet. I would anticipate, we start the schedule early October, and we will run well into November. We will probably be dark from just before or at Thanksgiving through the rest of the year, probably a six week break, something like that. Then we'll be back in Hawaii at Hyundai. We will give you more definition on that as soon as we have worked with - now, the tournaments generally know this is happening. Until today, they are not aware that it is definitely going to happen; now they know, so we will be in a more focused position and talking to tournaments about dates and schedule, etc.

Q. Two separate questions. First, you talked about the Asia events becoming FedEx ex cup points and full money, does that include Malaysia? Do you have plans to change that to a full field events or will it remain a limited field?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, that's one of those little details I mentioned earlier that maybe you will would about. Malaysia will be restructured. And we have some work to do on that one because of the weather pattern there, the ability to get it in; when you have international travel, it kind of - it's very similar to if you've watched at all the tournament in Singapore that gets delayed every year. So we have to pay attention to that a little bit. But it will be restructured, and then we'll take a look at HSBC, too. But we anticipate HSBC, if it changes its structure, it would mean it's more inline with the other WGCs.

Q. A little bit of hypothetical or philosophical question, but do you think the new system, qualifying system, encourages or might encourage college players to leave school earlier?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Maybe. It's hard to tell. We just have a hard time understanding or guessing how sponsor exemptions will work in that environment. But we do know that if a player is successful, a good player coming out of school, if he's successful in getting a few, and he's only got to get to the 200 mark and he's a good player, it significantly - if you just look at it to that point - now he's still got to go through the finals. But getting to that point will be much easier for him than it is currently to get to the 125. We'll just have to watch that and see. But it's kind of hard to project. So we just don't know. But there may be some of that. We are certainly not trying to encourage that. But we have a little bit of that now, so, we'll see.

Q. Do you see any reason to suspect this might crimp the flow of internationals coming over here to try their hand at Q School? You had two pretty high profile Koreans gave it a shot this time and would be facing a year in the developmental circuit. And secondly, similarly, there's a lot of romance that has surrounded Q School over the years with the Cinderella stories, I remember one year you had Luke Donald and Ty Tryon and Boo Weekley all making it the same year all in their first shot. Part of you regret losing some of those great stories we have seen over the years?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, you know, it depends on how you look at it. If a player, a lot of the players in the mix here, it will be their first shot. You know, a lot of these players in the mix will be in their first year on the Nationwide Tour making it to the finals. Some of them will be rookies who are finishing up a season trying to keep their card. Now, there's going to be plenty of good stories. And then on the - there may be just as many; as I say, there's not that many players that come out of college and earn their card. So we'll see. That may be a non factor.

On the international side, we seem to have no end in the pipeline of players who are prepared to come and play the Nationwide Tour for access to the PGA Tour. Just look at the number of Aussies, for starters, on the Nationwide Tour. In addition, a player who has won internationally is in a little different position sponsorship wise, sponsor exemption wise, and most recent example is Ishikawa. So a player who is a good player, a player that would come to the Tour and make an impact; when I say make an impact, be good enough to become exempt and be good enough to be in the Top 50 and be good enough to generate interest at home playing over here; that access has not changed really. If you are going to come as a successful non U.S., successful player on any of the other major tours, you're going to have access here, or the ability to have access. So I don't see that changing.

Q. Again, to the exemptions for young men coming out of college, so they would have seven opportunities between the end of their NCAAs or whatever they play in the spring until the start of the FedEx Cup series, basically, to get into seven tournaments, so that really compress that time window for them.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: That's correct.

Q. And the number, you haven't thought of increasing the seven to ten or anything?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Not at this point no.

Q. What do you say to people who charge that the PGA Tour is becoming a closed shop?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The data doesn't support that. I mean, our best guess is that you might have, might have, a slight increase in cards, the 50 cards that are being awarded, slight increase compared to the current system to current rookie players or current players. But we don't see a significant movement in that regard. Plus the fact that, and that assumes that there is no change on the Nationwide Tour in terms of where players are coming from. So if you count the Nationwide Tour, maybe, but we don't care about that because we like that. We like the fact that a player is going to play on the Nationwide Tour first. That doesn't trouble us. We think that's a benefit, generally to the player, and to the Tour.

But in terms of where the cards are coming from, we don't see based on the research we have done, we don't see a sea change. We see maybe a mild adjustment, if that. But four years from now, we'll be talking about what's happened, and that will be an interesting thing to watch and to track and to measure. In the meantime, all of these other advantages we are talking about will happen, and we think that outweighs any concern in that regard.

Q. This might be better suited for Bill, I'm not sure, but when you have a Nationwide Tour card, I don't know how that exempt status works comparatively with the PGA Tour. Will there be any changes made to a guy who starts the year with a Nationwide Tour card in terms of giving him a full year of starts?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Bill can answer that.

BILL CALFEE: No, I don't think there will be. I think we'll still - we have got to look at the eligibility on the Nationwide Tour but we'll still have some number off the Money List like we do now, 26th to 60 prior year is fully exempt. The number nearest 50 after the qualifying tournament would have some exempt status through the first two shuffles, so that would be consistent with where we are. So I don't see a sea change in terms of the structure of eligibility. And also, as part of this, it's another point that we are not taking any eligibility away from any player currently. So a player on the PGA Tour, 126 to 150, maintains that eligibility status on the PGA Tour; a player 151 to 200 on the PGA Tour still has status on the Nationwide Tour and so on. So we are not affecting any current eligibilities on either the PGA Tour or Nationwide.

Q. Was the hard work getting to this point, or is the harder work coming now?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, there's an awful lot of time and energy that went into evaluating a lot of the things you all have asked about. So I would say that's hard work. But, you know, we have a job to do. I think we have to communicate effectively to our fans what this is all about. We have to create good events for these finals. We have got to do all of the normal things you would do to build good tournaments. We have got to do all of the things we had to do when we started the FedEx Cup, and probably more in the context of communicating how this works, what it means, getting people interested and excited. But that's kind of one of the reasons we did this, because it gives us a framework to go to fans and try to get them more interested in the process whereby a player gets to the PGA Tour.

And we think this vehicle allows us to do that; whereas we had a compelling vehicle with the Qualifying School, we think this is a better vehicle. But even with a compelling vehicle, we just struggled to make it all work. Again, I think bringing the season to a conclusion and then setting, reloading quickly, and going out with players just having earned their card is a great way to do it. Because we just turned the corner, we got the fans' interest, we finished the season, Player of the Year is named, we are off and running two weeks later. We have a bunch of rookies in the hunt and down the road we go. So I think all of this, the flow of it is going to help us, but we have got a lot of work to do. But I think it's going to be fun. I think it's going to be interesting and exciting to do.

Q. There was a message that came from the players out of San Diego, that unlike the FedEx Cup details, this has got to be done right the first time; there can't be any tweaking and it has to be done right first time.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think that we intentionally spent a lot more time here. Any time you make a change, human nature is, why are we changing. You know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. There's another way to look at things that when things are going pretty well, that's the time to get better. That's the philosophy we have embraced. But we were very careful and we continue to be careful, which is why we wanted the players, and I think the player directors felt, that in a couple of these remaining things that need to be worked out, a lot of times it's easier to get everybody focused when you know it's going to happen.

So this is going to happen, and now we have got a couple of things that we have got to make sure we do right. So that will help us in that regard. So I feel very good about where we are. I'm delighted with the work our people have done in bringing us this far. I'm appreciative of the players; you know, the players, when we started off, there was a lot of that, why are we doing this, we have always had the Qualifying School. It will be in golf - it takes, everything we have tried to do new in golf, it doesn't take a month, it doesn't take six months; it takes a few years to get people into it and get to a point where you can really get some energy. We got off to a great start with the FedEx Cup and we want to get off to a great start here, and we have got some lead time to do that and we have just got to make sure as we enter into it that the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed appropriately, and we are off to the races.

Q. First of all, the Nationwide Tour schedule, will that remain on a calendar year basis?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes.

Q. And then I recall when we established the FedEx Cup four years ago, five years ago, it was to create a little bit more of a defined season and give players more of an off season. But the players have gone to Malaysia, gone to China, gone to wherever; is this kind of an acknowledgment in scheduling whereas, we are going to give you the five weeks around the holidays, you figure out the rest of your off season from there?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, yeah, I mean, generally. I think as I answered the question earlier, I don't think there's a year - I've been at this 25 years now; that the number of good players as a percentage of the players on the PGA Tour hasn't gone up. We are at a point where anybody out here can win a tournament any given week. Any field we have is a good field. And the fans are reacting to that. So again, here we had a lot of movement in the fall of 2011, players playing around the world, and the last eight weeks have been outrageous in terms of performance. I think we have to build on that and know that that's going to happen, and we are just really excited right now about our future. Thank you.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


CBS Sports Official Partner