The Web.com Tour held the first-ever tournament of the Web.com Tour Finals. 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman won the inaugural Hotel Fitness Championship in Ft. Wayne, Ind. on Sunday.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and his staff developed the FedEx Cup-style, four tournament series to award 25 PGA Tour cards to the top money winners at the end of the Web.com Tour Championship—the last event of the Web.com Tour Finals.
PGA Tour professionals that finished Nos. 126-200 and missed the FedEx Cup playoffs, are invited to join the top 75 Web.com Tour money earners and play in the Web.com Tour Finals. The mixture of seasoned PGA Tour professionals along with young rookie talent creates interesting golf action.
Veterans are attempting to hold onto their lucrative golf careers for one more season, while the youngsters are trying to break through to the bright lights and big purses of the PGA Tour.
Instead of a grueling, stress-filled, gut-wrenching, 90-hole Q-School, tour cards will be awarded after four 72-hole tournaments that each offer a $1 million purse. One bad hole or round will not completely dash a player’s hopes of earning a 2014 PGA Tour card.
Twenty-five professionals already earned their 2014 tour cards by finishing inside the top 25 on the Web.com Tour money list at the end of their regular season. Michael Putnam finished the season as the top money earner with $480,000 and was awarded his 2014 PGA Tour card after the Cox Classic.
Immelman is the exact type of player that the PGA Tour had in mind when they came up with the new concept. Since his win at the Masters, he has struggled with injuries.
2013 marks the end of the five-year exemption to PGA Tour events from the major championship win. He finished the year outside the top 125 on the FedEx Cup standings and was forced to compete in the Web.com Tour Finals to earn a card for next year.
He pockets $180,000 for the win, but securing his tour card for 2014 is worth much more.
Another former Masters champion, Mike Weir, is also competing in the Web.com Tour Finals along with fellow PGA Tour members, Ricky Barnes and Bud Cauley.
At the opposite end of the professional spectrum, rookie Patrick Cantlay is looking to gain full-time Tour status. He finished runner-up to Immelman at the Hotel Fitness Championship.
Cantlay is one of the most promising young players in golf today and was ranked No. 1 on the Web.com Tour early in the season. Back problems forced him to miss much of the season, and he fell outside the top 25 at the end of the regular season.
He held the 54-hole lead, but Immelman’s final round 66 allowed him to slip past Cantlay for the win.
Tour veterans also bring recognizable names and breathe new life into the end of the Web.com Tour season. The four events in the series are played in smaller markets such as Ft. Wayne, Ind., Davidson, N.C., Columbus, Ohio and Ponte Vedra, Fla.
Rookies competing against veterans for a place on the PGA Tour promotes more intrigue and exponentially better television ratings when competing against football for air time.
Commissioner Finchem and his staff may have just found something that should serve the PGA Tour well—now and in the future.