Its crunch time on the PGA Tour, as players now have just seven weeks left to get into the top 125 in earnings and preserve their cards.
In many ways, this is one of the more interesting parts of the season. We already know that Tiger, Phil, et. al. will get their cards back. But at the bottom end are a lot of guys for whom the issue is very much in doubt.
Players in the top 125 for earnings this season get their tour cards back. This is the best situation.
If a player is between 125 and 150 on the money list, he still has some status on the tour. With conditional status, a player could enter any tournament that has an open spot. Of course, waiting for openings would make it all the more difficult to get back into the top 125 the next year. Many of these will try to get a full card by entering the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament (Q School).
Those worse than 150 have no status at all, unless they are the past winners of a tournament. To get their cards back, they must enter the second stage of the PGA Tour qualifying and make it to the final stage to get their 2006 card. Those who miss could still go to the Nationwide Tour.
Past tournament winners get a minimum of a two year pass. A player who has won a World Golf Championship event, such as the Accenture and NEC, gets a three year exemption. And winners of Majors get a five year exemption.
In addition, there are lifetime exemptions for players with twenty wins on the tour. Another possibility is a one-time one year exemption for players in the top fifty on the career money list (Tom Kite used his this year). Finally, there are medical exemptions for players who are injured during the season.
Some of those outside the 125 are familiar names: Mark O’Meara, Dudley Hart, Corey Pavin, Paul Azinger, John Daly and Steve Stricker.
Some of these will use one of the available exemptions. Others will either return to Q School or hang it up and wait for the Champions Tour.
Still others will attempt the most desperate ploy: attempt to get enough sponsors’ exemptions into tournaments to allow them to squeeze back into the Top 125 next year.
In any case, you probably won’t see many of the big names over the next couple of weeks. What you will see are a lot of guys worried about their meal ticket.