Patrick Rodgers can't play again on the two biggest North American tours for the next five weeks, and that makes no sense.
Rodgers is a winner on the Web.com Tour this year, and he's ranked 23rd on that tour's money list. The top 75 players on their money list, whose regular season wraps on Sunday, qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals, a four-event series in which those players combine with those who finished anywhere from 126th to 200th place in the FedEx Cup standings to create a 150-player field with the fate of 50 PGA Tour cards hanging in the balance. The top 25 players on the regular-season Web.com Tour money are assured PGA Tour status for 2015-16.
Rodgers cannot compete in that series.
The Stanford product also earned enough unofficial money -- over $1 million -- and FedEx Cup points in his 17 PGA Tour starts this season to earn a PGA Tour card for next season.
Rodgers isn't eligible for the playoffs.
So, Rodgers is on pace to earn his PGA Tour membership two different ways, but he has to sit on the sidelines for five weeks? Let's explain why.
Since Rodgers earned his PGA Tour card without winning an event, all of the FedEx Cup points (and money) he hypothetically racked up this season don't count toward the official list. That means Rodgers, as No Laying Up discusses, couldn't qualify for the playoffs, but merely earned a Tour card for next season through the Tour's non-member qualifying criteria, which says that if a player earns enough money to hypothetically finish in the top 125 on the money list or the FedEx Cup points list, that non-member earns playing privileges for the next year. Had Rodgers won, which he could have at the Wells Fargo Championship (where he finished T-2) or the Barracuda Championship (third place), all of the points he had earned outside of World Golf Championships events (what?! That's why Shane Lowry isn't in the playoffs either) would be made official retroactively, getting him into the playoffs with ease.
Alright, fine, Rodgers wasn't a member and the FedEx Cup is a closed shop. Why, then, can't Rodgers play in the Web.com Tour Finals? That's because he would essentially be a card-block for other players. With PGA Tour status in hand for next year already, Rodgers can't truly gain from the Web.com Tour Finals -- Rodgers' status gained through his PGA Tour play is better than what he could earn in the four-event series.
That means Rodgers is simply left to wait, not earning money, picking up rust, before the new PGA Tour season starts in October with the Frys.com Open.
Here's how to fix this problem: Make sure all FedEx Cup points are official, regardless of who earns them and consider the playoffs a special series that simply bridges seasons.
Rodgers earned 555 hypothetical FedEx Cup points, which would rank 100th on the regular season list. With the regular season over, the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list and money list are set in stone. That means Rodgers has his card for next year. So why not let him compete in the playoffs and give him a chance to earn his way to Atlanta? Of course, there are world ranking points on the line and the final FedEx Cup order impacts entry into tournaments, including majors. However, they're really bonus events that are a reward for a competent regular season. Rodgers had that. Let him in the playoffs, pushing out a player that otherwise wouldn't get in. Same for Branden Grace, who has earned membership for next season and actually had 10 more FedEx Cup points than Rodgers.
The PGA Tour prioritizes FedEx Cup points over money because it gives value to membership. That's why Brooks Koepka will struggle to get in the top 10 of the Presidents Cup points list in the next two weeks: It's based on FedEx Cup points, not money. (For what it's worth, the European Tour does the same thing for the Ryder Cup.) That's why the FedEx Cup determines who gets into the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship, not the money list.
The PGA Tour is the biggest tour in the world, and it remains a beacon to up-and-coming players from all over, the place where golf's riches lie. It should be tough to earn membership, particularly for someone coming from the outside. However, once it's clear that a non-member has played their way in, their previous work should count starting right then and there. With so few cases where this happens, making the rules of engagement crystal clear will only help strengthen the tour and ensure fans will truly see the best of the season compete in the playoffs.