Elling On Champions Changes

Steve Elling makes a decent case for the elimination of Champions Q-school exemptions and the introduction of expanded Monday qualifiers:

Sure, it sounds like a return to the frenetic and controversial "rabbit" qualifiers staged on the PGA Tour before it went to the current all-exempt format. But for the publicity-starved Champions, it should generate regional interest well before the 54-hole tournaments begin on Friday.

"There's no doubt it should generate some early buzz, because you'll have some recognizable names in those Monday and Tuesday qualifiers," George said.

Plus some names that are synonymous with anonymous, so to speak, which is the most interesting part of the changes from a purity standpoint. Senior tour history is rich with unheralded success stories guys such as the journeymen who struck gold at 50, Dana Quigley and Bruce Fleisher. Not to mention Mark Johnson, the aforementioned beer-truck man who didn't turn pro until his mid-40s.

For years, the Champions played it safe, striking a delicate balance. To wit, would its older fan demographic rather watch aging warhorses such as Chi Chi Rodriguez and reminisce about the good old days, or watch lesser-known players who actually have a chance of contending? An increasing problem is that graybeards such as Palmer and Jack Nicklaus don't play much anymore, and younger 50-somethings such as Tom Watson and Greg Norman play abbreviated schedules.

With the Champions Tour's television ratings falling behind those of the LPGA, something needed to change. Since many of the marquee drawing cards aren't playing regularly, why not open the doors for some new blood? Will title sponsors balk?

"In theory, there are some real positives to it," George said. "But it's a big change."