Before we consider the 2013-14 Reshuffle List, let's take a moment to review just what it is we're talking about as there were significant changes this season to the Reshuffle List and process for awarding tour cards.
THE RESHUFFLE LIST - A PRIMER
The Reshuffle List is a priority list for golfers who are not fully exempt to play on the PGA Tour - it's how golfers on the bubble get into tournaments. Technically, Reshuffle List players are in exemption category 25 of 36. Put better, they're some of the last golfers to get into events.
Their entry into a tournament depends on how many fully exempt players enter that event - Reshuffle List players do not control their own destiny. The Reshuffle List determines the order these golfers will be picked for an event when/if a spot opens.
Five times during the season players get "reshuffled" (thus the name) according to their earnings. The better a golfer plays, the higher on the list he'll rank, and the more events he can enter. Likewise, golfers who play poorly move down the list.
So, with limited tournament spots available, the closer a golfer is to the top of the Reshuffle List, the greater chance of entry into that week's event.
Here's where things get interesting.
Beginning this season, entry to the Reshuffle List changed significantly.
In previous seasons, in addition to awarding tour cards to the Top 25 from the Web.com Tour, 25 tour cards also went to the top finishers at Q-School. Those 50 golfers would alternate Reshuffle List positions between Web.com and Q-School card winners.
However, a new process, the four-event Web.com Finals, replaced Q-School this season. And now, on-course play at The Finals determines the Reshuffle List order.
The Finals, comprised of Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour points list and the Top 75 from the Web.com Tour money list, offered PGA Tour cards to the Top-25 finishers for the 2013-14 season. But the PGA Tour decided to continue to award tour cards, as usual, to the Top-25 Web.com Tour money earners, meaning those golfers did not have to play The Finals - they already had secured their cards.
However, to incentivize those 25 golfers to play The Finals, the PGA Tour put their Reshuffle List positions on the line.
Here then are the winners, losers and those who suffered misfortune at The Finals.
2013-14 TOUR CARD WINNERS
The following players earned tour cards for 2013-14 thanks to strong finishes at The Finals, earning spots on the Reshuffle List.
Brad Fritsch -
Simply put, one week made all the difference. After barely failing to retain his card on the PGA Tour - he finished 129th in FedEx Cup points with the Top 125 keeping their cards - Fritsch went to The Finals where he promptly missed the cut in three of the series' first four events. However, he tied for second at the Web.com Tour Championship after shooting a Sunday 66, cashed a check for $66,000, and gets to call the PGA Tour home for another season.
Bobby Gates -
Gates' PGA Tour season was not very good at all. Outside of a tie for fourth at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans that netted him the majority of his earnings, he missed the cut 15 times in 20 starts, and those four other finishes in the money were all outside the Top 25. But as we saw with other players in The Finals, if you got one solid finish, you basically clinched your card, no matter what you did in the other three events. That rang true for Gates, who missed the cut in two of four events, but got a T7 in the Hotel Fitness Championship that gave him $30K for the bank and his PGA Tour card for 2013-2014. Still, his inconsistent play of the regular season transitioned into The Finals, and that has to be a concern for fantasy owners.
Jim Herman -
After struggling in the early part of the season with 10 missed cuts, Herman turned it on late in the year, getting two Top-10s and a tie for 11th over the season's final two months. But that wasn't good enough to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs (he finished 139th in points), so he went to The Finals where his good play carried over. A Thursday 64 led to a tie for seventh at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship that clinched his card. Herman is someone to watch this season.
Scott Gardiner -
Gardiner needed The Finals to save his year. After earning just $219,645 during the PGA Tour regular season, he turned it up in the Finals' four events, finishing T3-T47-MC-T2 to earn a return trip to the PGA Tour. As with Herman, momentum can exist now from season to season, and as a result, Gardiner is also someone to watch this fall.
Lee Williams -
Williams had the highlight moment of the Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass, as he made a 60-foot birdie putt
on the 72nd hole to clinch his card for 2013-14. It was a stunning turn of events for Williams, who had no Top-25 finishes during the PGA Tour regular season and missed the cut in two Finals events.
It was that kind of volatility - from nothing to something - that made The Finals exciting, but also that which angered some players and could be changed next season (see below).
2013-14 TOUR CARD LOSERS
The following players failed to retain PGA Tour cards for this season and don't have a place on the Reshuffle list for 2013-14.
Doug LaBelle II
Andres Gonzales -
Gonzales, who barely got into The Finals (he needed a Sunday 64 at the final event of the regular season to do so), was the unfortunate recipient of Lee Williams' fireworks on the 72nd hole. That putt took away a PGA Tour card for Gonzales, who had finishes of MC-T39-T43-T8 in The Finals. Now it'll be a return trip to the Web.com Tour for Gonzales, in addition to hoping sponsor's exemptions allow him entry into some PGA Tour events.
Luke List -
All golfers know the phrase "drive for show, putt for dough," and that was true for List in 2013. The longest hitter on the PGA Tour at more than 306 yards per drive, List was 180th in driving accuracy, 149th in greens in regulation and 149th in strokes gained-putting. All that resulted in 13 missed cuts and two withdrawals in 24 PGA Tour starts with just two Top-25 finishes. He also never saw contention at The Finals. So now it's back to the Web.com Tour for List, where he'll need to rein in his aggressive style a bit if he hopes to earn a return trip to the PGA Tour.
Fabian Gomez -
Gomez has to be one of the most frustrated golfers on this list. Gomez, as some may remember, was in position to win the Puerto Rico Open and be exempt through the 2014-2015 season until a bogey on the 72nd hole fell him into a tie for second. He then missed clinching his PGA Tour card via the FedEx Cup points list by a very small margin (he was 133rd) and the money list (128th) and missed the cut in three of four Finals events to end up with a ticket back to the Triple-A circuit. On the positive side, he now knows what it takes to win on the PGA Tour, and that can be some of the most valuable knowledge available anywhere.
*Ross Fisher -
Fisher has an asterisk next to his name because he's also a member of the European Tour. It was that exact reason why he went to PGA Tour qualifying school last year in the first place - knowing he had absolutely nothing to lose - and it paid off when he got his card. But 2013 was a struggle for Fisher on the PGA Tour, as he had just one Top-10 and two Top-25 finishes in 15 starts and was a shocking 178th in strokes gained-putting. Look for Fisher to play mostly on the European Tour this year and only see the United States for majors and World Golf Championship events. That is, if he qualifies for those.
THE UNFORTUNATE FEW
As with any major change, there are usually unintended consequences. The Finals proved no different.
When the new system was first announced, some correctly predicted what would happen: some golfers who played consistently all year and earned tour cards would soon see their chances for success on the PGA Tour erased by the fortunes of just four tournaments - a poor finish at The Finals could bury them on the Reshuffle List.
What surprised some, however, was that just one good week by a player from the Nos. 126-200 PGA Tour points list could clinch a tour card at the expense of a Web.com Tour player.
Some players were most certainly negatively impacted purely by how the system was drawn up, and one would certainly figure that will being looked at by the PGA Tour for next season.
Looking at the Reshuffle List shows how Web.com Tour players were pushed to the bottom. Starting with the player in 32nd position on the list, Peter Malnati, 16 of the bottom 17 players earned their cards through the Web.com Tour money list. Only Bobby Gates came off the PGA Tour.
Here's a look at some of those players who fit into this category, listed in their current Reshuffle List position along with their 2013 Web.com money list ranking, 2013 wins and Finals finishes:
|RESHUFFLE RANK||$ RANK||WINS||FINALS|
|37. Alex Aragon||9||1||MC-T34-T7-MC|
|45. Mark Anderson||8||1||MC-T47-MC-T47|
|46. Kevin Tway||5||1||MC-62-T52-MC|
|47. Kevin Foley||24||1||MC-T39-MC-MC|
|49. Will Wilcox||7||1||DNP-rest|
|50. Benjamin Alvarado||19|| 1||DNP-injury|
With the exceptions of Foley and Alvarado, the other guys would have been destined for much higher Reshuffle List positions under the old system. Now, due to either poor play, a choice to rest or get healthy, or better play by someone else, they have a much harder road ahead for themselves in 2013-14.
Now that doesn't mean everyone who qualified via the Web.com Tour money list is screwed. Michael Putnam, the top regular-season money earner, is fully exempt and doesn't have to worry about the List. And six of the top 13 Reshuffle List members came via the money list.
But for fantasy owners looking to make smart selections this fall, one may want to avoid the players listed above and others in their plight, as their playing opportunities will be few and far between, and when they do get to play, the pressure on them to perform at their best will be sky high.
And for those who are interested in PGA Tour policy, stay tuned, because this issue could very well be changed by the time summer 2014 rolls around.