As longtime readers know I'm not a fan of the PGA Tour's decision to abolish Q-School as a path to the big leagues. The litany of reasons does not need to be rehashed, but the FedExCup, the all-vital fall events that needed saving and overall greed are the culprits.
However, last week's news of a Web.com Tour Finals mid-season revamp demonstrated the current structure for producing the next class of PGA Tour players is far from proving itself as a respectable, well-conceived replacement. Especially since the minor leagues have been far less successful in producing "great" players than college golf.
One of the beefs I and many have with the new system is the increased difficulty for elite college players to make the jump to the PGA Tour. Yes, the tour is entitled to ignore college players since the current tour members and their leadership are not obligated to worry about non-members. However, college golf has been a more solid proving ground for the PGA Tour than its minor league tours under various sponsor names. For every Tom Lehman produced by the minor leagues, there's a Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson that played college golf.
The current situation makes it all but impossible for a top college golfer to be loyal to their college program until season's end and not go without at least a year on the Web.com Tour. (Refresher: NCAA's end in first week of June, FedEx playoff start in August means limited start opportunities to make enough money). Yes, there's Jordan Spieth to dispel this and the of-repeated nonsense about how a year on the Web.com will help a player learn the ways of tour life, though he left school after the fall. (Imagine the NBA requiring a year in the D-league for top prospects!).
I bring this up because Stanford's Patrick Rodgers just finished a historic career that matched Tiger's school record for individual titles and bested Tiger's scoring average. Rodgers capped it all off by winning the Jack Nicklaus Award last weekend. Rex Hoggard does a nice job laying all of this out and the path facing Rodgers or other collegiate players in an item at GolfChannel.com. It's a daunting task.
This is where I get more annoyed than normal with the entire Q-School, wraparound-fiasco Tim Finchem has saddled the game with. Besides the oversaturation of the "product," the best feeder tour in golf can't feed players because of the current structure. As a Walker Cupper, Rodgers was exempt to U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying on Monday, but instead he played (and missed) at an 18-hole Local Qualifying a few weeks back.
Why did he go the Local route? Because Rodgers hopes to parlay the sponsor exemptions this summer that come with being the top college golfer of the year (he's got two for sure and a likely third at the Greenbrier). He is taking this opportunity to try and make enough money (FedExCup points!) to avoid Web.com Q-School in early fall. It's a longshot, but with Rodgers' credentials, if there's anyone capable it's someone whose college careers was actually stronger than Spieth's. But why didn't Rodgers just try to qualify for the U.S. Open and then, should he qualify, play as an amateur before his pro debut the following week at the Travelers? Because he needs to try to get as many starts earning money as possible but with the playoffs not that far off, the shrewd move was to take a shot at the U.S. Open as a pro or not at all.
I know this is a First World Problem, Hogan Flight-Low Net division winner, but in the interest of seeing players properly developed and college golf allowed to thrive, I think it's been underestimated just how much potential the new structure of the PGA Tour has to discourage special talents from even playing college golf. And then there are ancillary situations like Rodgers's, where a top amateur turns pro sooner than they need to.
So just add these to the list of reasons it's not getting any easier to wrap a head around the wraparound madness.
On a lighter note, we got Rodgers into the Nationwide Live Studio to pose some lighter questions on what was a once-in-a-lifetime day for him. Patrick and his family got to meet Jack Nicklaus, who, as usual, was amazingly gracious with his private time for the award winners and especially Patrick. (I touched on this on Morning Drive.)
And by the way, Rodgers mentioned none of this, nor did I think to ask him because I only started wondering after he'd left town. The ranting here is from my own deducing with the fill-in-the-blank wisdom of Doug Ferguson).