Boise Open arrives early

Changes to the PGA Tour's qualifying structure push the Web.com Tour event from September to July.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJuly 22, 2013 

  • BOISE OPEN

    When: Starting 7:30 a.m. Thursday

    Where: Hillcrest Country Club

    Tickets: Go to albertsonsboiseopen.com

    Purse: $775,000 (winner's share $139,500)

    Tuesday: Idaho Statesman free junior clinic, 5 p.m.

    2012 champion: Luke Guthrie

    This week on the Web.com Tour: Jamie Lovemark shot a 5-under 66 on Sunday to win the Midwest Classic by a stroke over Mark Anderson in Overland Park, Kan. Lovemark finished 18-under for the championship.

The Albertsons Boise Open's move to July is the least of the drastic changes that arrived on the Web.com Tour this season.

The tournament, which was held in September for its first 23 years, begins Thursday at Hillcrest Country Club.

The shift to the middle of summer was necessitated by a new qualifying structure for the PGA Tour that makes the Web.com Tour the only direct path to the world's top golf tour. It was a controversial change that has gained acceptance among many players, said Mark Anderson, a Web.com and PGA Tour veteran who finished second at the Midwest Classic on Sunday.

"It really makes the end of this year, the end of the Web.com year, really exciting - much more so than in years previous," said Anderson, who is seventh on the Web.com money list and guaranteed a spot on the PGA Tour next year.

There were several factors behind the changes, including a desire to find the best qualification process, said Bill Calfee, the Web.com Tour president.

For more than 40 years, the PGA Tour held a national, multi-stage qualifying tournament, nicknamed "Q School." The survivors of that test, which included a six-round finale, joined the top performers on the previous year's PGA Tour.

But in recent years, the Web.com Tour has taken on more importance - with the top 25 money winners receiving PGA Tour cards, a number that grew as the tour aged. Q School also sent 25 players to the tour.

Now, Q School graduates will be granted access to the Web.com Tour only. The top 75 players on the Web.com Tour and the players ranked 126 to 200 on the PGA Tour (based on FedExCup points) will compete in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals in September. Each tournament will feature a $1 million purse.

The top 25 money-winners during the regular season on the Web.com Tour still advance to the PGA Tour, but their priority ranking (except for the top money-winner, who is protected) will be based on their earnings during the finals. Another 25 berths to the PGA Tour will be based on earnings during the finals, with that No. 1 also receiving a full exemption.

It's a complicated system that can't be truly judged until the first year is complete.

"There are still some people against it, and there's people kind of coming over to it," Anderson said. "Being the first year, it's going to be interesting to see how it works out. Nobody really knows what it's going to be like at the end of the year."

In addition to rethinking the qualifying criteria, the new structure was sparked by the changing PGA Tour calendar and a desire to bolster the Web.com Tour.

The PGA Tour's FedExCup playoffs left a series of events in the fall that rarely drew top players because there was little incentive to play.

With the new structure, the 2014 season will begin with the fall 2013 tournaments. So graduates from the Web.com Tour will play in the Web.com Tour Championship on Sept. 29 and be eligible to play 11 days later in the PGA Tour's season-opening Frys.com Open.

"I think most guys (will play in the fall)," Anderson said. "It will be really the first year like this, so you've got to do it. We'll get a little break in December."

The Boise Open could have kept its spot in September by pursuing a spot in the Web.com Tour finals. The additional purse - $225,000 over the tournament's current $775,000 - would have cut into the event's charitable contribution, tournament promoter Jeff Sanders said. That wasn't an acceptable trade-off to sponsors.

Instead, the Boise Open retained its spot near the end of the regular season as players make their final push.

Anderson said he'll miss being in Boise during football season, but the tournament's stature hasn't changed.

The Boise purse is the second-highest among non-finals events.

"It feels the same," he said. "We are kind of winding down the regular season, which is where Boise's always kind of been. Not only in my mind, but in all players' minds, Boise has always been one of the best tournaments on tour. It doesn't matter where you put Boise, it's going to be a huge attraction to everybody."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398

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