The path to (or back to) the PGA Tour has changed. It's now routed almost exclusively through the Web.com Tour and Web.com Tour Finals. In the end, however, there are still 50 PGA Tour cards up for grabs, and a PGA Tour card is a PGA Tour card, right?
The 50 players who earned their cards at the conclusion of the Web.com Tour finals in September turned right around into the new wraparound PGA Tour season and a string of six tournaments that end the 2013 portion of the schedule. Facing a reshuffle that can dramatically impact the rest of their season, either positively or negatively, these 50 players have to make hay as quickly as they can. That means playing as often as they can in the hopes that they'll rack up money and FedEx Cup points. How often, however, were these players able to play?
On the average, the 50 Web.com Tour Finals graduates made 2.53 starts in the first six events of the new season. Compared to the combined 51 players to graduate from the Web.com Tour and Q-school in 2012, that's almost a full start less through the first six events on the 2013 schedule.
A total of 15 players haven't played a single time since the Web.com Tour finale at TPC Sawgrass. Some, no doubt, have been by choice. Others, like Patrick Cantlay, have been dealing with injuries. But that's still 30 percent of the graduating class. However, that's only four more players who had a bagel under the Starts column through the first six events of last season.
The difference for this year's crop of rookies and restored players, however, has been sheer accessibility. Of the six events that round out the 2013 calendar year, two were limited-field tournaments, with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and WGC-HSBC Champions in China restricting the field to 78 players with special criteria to gain entry. None of the 50 Web.com Tour Finals graduates were eligible for the two Asia-based events, meaning they could make no more than four starts. Almost two dozen players were able to start in all four of those events.
Compare the six-event docket to start the 2013-14 season with the half-dozen events to begin 2013. Obviously none of the 51 combined 2012 Q-school and Web.com Tour graduates qualified for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, meaning they had five possible chances to play. Only 11 players of the 51 were able to play in all five. A total of 25 players got into four of five tournaments. Meanwhile, just eight of the 50 graduates from the Web.com Tour finals played in three of four available events to start this season.
It's a bit of a mixed bag, then, for Web.com Tour Finals graduates. They have possible access to one less tournament to start the season, but players who finished in the top half of the 50 graduates were pretty well able to play all the maximum allotment.