Recently, I’ve had a number of inquiries from friends and fans wondering why I didn’t get into the last Champions Tour Event, The Outback Championship in Tampa, Fl. The truth is that I got down to 1st alternate on Tuesday afternoon when Tom Watson withdrew (Leonard Thompson took his place). But none of the 78 players in the field withdrew before tee time on Friday, thus I didn’t get to play.
So how is the field established? Suffice it to say that it is the most complicated system known to man. Not a single player even understands it fully. Only Suzie Barber at the PGA Tour headquarters has a handle on it. Many of the tournaments, such as Tampa, are invitationals and have their own set of qualifications, which complicates the matter even more.
But for simplicity sake, let me start with the basics. The normal field size is 78 players. The field is comprised of the top 30 players who commit to the tournament who are in the top 70 on the all-time PGA Tour Money List. The next set of 30 players comes from those who are in the top 50 on the previous year’s money list. This is the basis of my status as I finished 45th on the 2010 money list after joining the tour in May. The alternate list includes the players next in line out of the above two categories.
That leaves 18 players who qualify as follows:
a. All Hall of Famers who want to play
b All winners of a PGA Champions Tour Events in the previous 12 months
c. 5 from the Qualifying Tournament held last fall. This category later reshuffles in July to include all non-exempt players based on their current year’s money earned.
d. All Special Medical exemptions (those who were exempt but were injured) David Eager, Mark McNulty, etc
e. Top 4 players in the 50-51-year-old category with multiple victories on the PGA Tour. (I don’t fit in here because I only have one victory)
f. 1 spot give to the highest performing player in the previous tournament who is not exempt yet finished in the top 10.
f. Hopefully 5 sponsor’s exemptions but this can be reduced if the above number gets to be more than 18.
g. Hopefully 4 Monday qualifying spots but this too can be reduced if the above number get to be more than 18.
So what does all this mean? With three more tournaments canceling in 2011 (Cap Cana, Jeld Wyn, China), the Champions Tour is down to the lowest number of events in its history (economy related). Thus, most eligible players are playing in all or nearly all events. The tour, which used to boast 39 Champion’s Tour events, now is down to 21 regular season events and 4 special events. Though the tour is strong and new tournaments will come back, the reality is that there has never been a more difficult time than now to be eligible to play the Champions Tour.
We are soon approaching the meat of the season, and I should be getting into more events. Thanks for your interest and support!