The 2013 season brings significant changes to the PGA Tour, changes that will impact fantasy leagues as well. Gone are Q-School, the Fall Series and more. Say hello to a new schedule and the "Finals," among other deviations from the norm.
PGA TOUR SCHEDULE
In a nutshell, the Fall Series now begins the PGA Tour season instead of concluding it. The hope is to bolster the interest in fall events - by both fans and sponsors - which heretofore little attention was paid. Thus, the PGA Tour made the following changes.
• Beginning in October, the PGA Tour moves to a split-calendar/wrap-around schedule. Essentially, the race to become the 2014 FedEx Cup champion begins in October 2013.
• The season ends in September after the Tour Championship, which means the 2013-2014 season begins just three weeks after the 2013 Tour Championship and two weeks after the Finals concludes (see below).
• Three of the four events that previously comprised the PGA Tour Fall Series will kick off the next season – the Frys.com Open, Shriner's Hospitals for Children Open and McGladrey Classic. Additionally, two other events, the CIMB Classic and World Golf Championship-HSBC Champions, will become official PGA Tour events. Finally, a relocated Mayakoba Golf Classic will serve as the anchor of this series of events to end the calendar year.
• Those calendar-ending six events offer FedEx Cup points, counting toward that season's FedEx Cup Playoffs, which, the PGA Tour hopes, will attract deeper fields.
Additional schedule changes include:
• The PGA Tour event at Walt Disney World could not find a sponsor and will not return for the 2013-2014 season.
In addition to the schedule change, the PGA Tour also re-worked its process for awarding tour cards with the following changes.
• The FedEx Cup points list replaces the money list in determining tour cards. The Top 125 on the final FedEx Cup list retain PGA Tour cards.
• Qualifying School will no longer hand out PGA Tour cards, as it will now act solely as a driver of players to the Web.com Tour.
• The Top 25 on the final Web.com (formerly Nationwide) Tour money list continue to earn PGA Tour cards, but those players, plus the next 50 off the Web.com Tour money list and Nos. 126-200 on the FedEx Cup points list, will enter a four-tournament "Finals" series to determine 25 more PGA Tour cards. Additionally, the Finals determines Reshuffle List placement of the top 25 Web.com Tour players, which is crucial to early season playing opportunities on the PGA Tour.
• The leading money winner in the Finals earns full status and is exempt from the Reshuffle list. Formerly, this was awarded to the top earner on the Web.com Tour money list. That fortunate golfer also gets a trip to The Players.
• The Finals - four Web.com Tour events with fields of about 144 - is comprised of the Hotel Fitness Championship, Chiquita Classic, Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and Web.com Tour Championship. All players will start the series on even footing.
CONSEQUENCES FOR THIS SEASON
With the PGA Tour going to a wrap-around/split-calendar schedule, 2013 will be a shortened, condensed season. There will be five fewer events in which to earn PGA Tour cards, putting a premium on strong play with every start. The PGA Tour, though, took the following steps to ease this issue.
• To give additional opportunities to players, some fields are larger for 2013 only. According to the Associated Press, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and AT&T National will see their fields go from 120 to 132. The Memorial Tournament will be enlarged from 105 to 120. The RBC Heritage will go from 132 players to 144. Several other March and April events will increase from 144 to 156 players, which does create daylight issues, but is a problem the PGA Tour apparently is willing to deal with in to give golfers a fair shot this year.
• The minimum number of events a golfer is required to play is 12 for 2013. The usual 15-event requirement will return next season.
• Sponsors' exemptions are reduced to six per tournament from the usual eight, and of those, only two will be unrestricted (meaning open to anyone), forcing the remaining four to be used on Reshuffle List players. This is also a one-year only fix.
• With 2013 being a transition year to FedEx Cup points as the bellwether for keeping tour cards, the PGA will allow a one-year loophole for those in the Top 125 on the money list to also keep their cards for the following year. As ESPN.com explains, purses vary from event to event, and as a result some players will rank in the Top 125 in points but not in money, and vice versa.
TELEVISION AND ONLINE STREAMING ACCESS
This season is the start of the PGA Tour's new television deal with CBS and NBC that runs through 2021 and brings the following notable changes.
• Starting with the 2013 season opener, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, all rounds will be streamed to the web on GolfChannel.com, PGATOUR.com, CBSSports.com and NBCSports.com, and to mobile devices using apps like "NBC Sports Live Extra" and the official PGA Tour app.
• Spotlight Coverage (specific coverage of notable stretches like PGA National's "Bear Trap") of select events covered by NBC will air on Golf Channel while normal coverage airs on NBC.
And with that, Happy New Year, and let the 2013 PGA Tour season begin!
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