ORLANDO, Fla. -- The pressure-packed, lore-filled qualifying procedure known as "Q School," which has offered a grueling but direct path to the PGA Tour, is being scrapped. Starting in 2013, the only way into American golf's version of the major leagues will be through the Nationwide Tour.
Q School will be replaced by three weeks of playoff-style tournaments involving the top 75 players on the Nationwide Tour (or whatever it might be called, if a new sponsor is found) and the golfers who finish the season in 126th through 200th places on the PGA Tour. Those 150 will compete for 50 PGA Tour cards, and the chance to join the 125 exempt PGA Tour players.
It is one of the most pronounced overhauls the tour ever has made. It also marks the end of one of the most intriguing and dramatic traditions in sports. Q School has been widely written and talked about because careers have ridden on as little as one putt, especially in the tense six-round final stage. The process has proven compelling for its Cinderella stories, such as Ty Tryon winning his tour card as a 17-year-old in 2001.
"There are going to be plenty of good stories," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a news conference at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He pointed out that most PGA Tour players now come through the Nationwide ranks and asserted that the new system will feature a year-long buildup. He added that Q School still will exist as a means to qualify for the Nationwide Tour.
Finchem also announced that, starting next year, the regular season will end in September and the following season will begin in October before a hiatus for the holidays. That is a major departure from the current calendar-based schedule, which begins each January in Hawaii. The tour sees the new schedule as adding prestige to tournaments that make up what is now known as the Fall Series.
Players were involved in discussions on both changes. "I can see how people don't like it and I can see how people do like it. But I think, you know, speaking without any bias, Tim Finchem is so smart, he knows what he's doing, and I think guys are starting to buy into it a little bit," said Webb Simpson, a Q School graduate who finished second on the FedEx Cup and PGA Tour money lists last year, and a member of the tour's Player Advisory Council.
In making the moves, Tour officials cited the success of the relatively new FedEx Cup playoffs. That series begins with the Barclays, which will be held this year at Bethpage Black. "Ticket sales are very strong, hospitality sales are progressing very strongly," said Andy Pazder, chief of operations for the tour. "Obviously, the fans of New York cherish Bethpage."