PGA Tour cards on the line in new four-event series

Former Masters champion Trevor Immelman is among the pros who will compete in a new four-event series to earn a PGA Tour card.
Chuck Burton / AP

NEW YORK (AP) – While the top 100 players in the FedEx Cup gather outside Boston this week to resume their pursuit of riches, 129 players are in Indiana for another form of PGA Tour playoffs. Only those guys are pursuing jobs.

The Hotel Fitness Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind., is the first of four $1 million tournaments that will determine who gets PGA Tour cards for the 2013-14 season. It essentially is like Q-school, but stretched out over four weeks instead of six days.

The four-event series is for players who were No. 126 to No. 200 in the FedEx Cup, and the top 75 players from the Tour money list.

Everyone starts from scratch, and the leading 25 players on the money list from these four tournaments will get their PGA Tour cards. The top 25 from the Tour money list are assured their cards. How high they finish on this money list only determines their pecking order for getting into tournaments next season.

The series should start to provide some insight in one question: Does this format favor the players who had poor seasons competing against the best in the world, or those who had good years competing in the minor leagues?

Not everyone who is eligible will be competing.

Some players, such as Ben Curtis and Tommy Gainey, already are exempt for 2013-14 from winning on tour last year. The field includes a major champion (Trevor Immelman) and former Ryder Cup players Chad Campbell and Chris DiMarco.

It also includes Patrick Cantlay, who was in the top 25 on the Tour money list almost the entire year until a back injury kept him out for two months. He fell out of the top 25 after the final week of the regular season, and now starts with no money next to his name along with everyone else.

The series moves to North Carolina next week, followed by Columbus, Ohio, and wrapping up with the Tour Championship at PGA Tour headquarters (Valley Course).

After a week off, the new season begins.

Those who failed to earn one of the 25 cards will have status on the Tour next year.

BUBBA AND THE GREENBRIER: Anyone who can break 90 while playing The Old White TPC all the way back might have a chance to play a round of golf with The Greenbrier's newest resident – Bubba Watson.

The former Masters champion is the latest to join the Greenbrier's staff of professional golfers and will have The Greenbrier logo on his golf bag. Other players representing the fabled West Virginia resort are Webb Simpson, Kenny Perry and Tom Watson, the Greenbrier's pro emeritus.

Watson played The Greenbrier Classic this year and loved it so much he bought a home.

“I was blown away when I played The Old White TPC earlier this year,'' Watson said. “My family and I had a great time experiencing all of the different amenities the property offers and decided this was the perfect place for us.''

In honor of the relationship announced Tuesday, The Greenbrier will introduced a set of “Bubba'' tees that guests can play on the Old White. Those who break 90 will have their names entered in a raffle, and two winners will have a chance to play with Watson.

MINDFUL MICKELSON: Phil Mickelson is known almost as much for signing autographs as his five major championships.

He showed last week at Liberty National that he doesn't just go through the motions. Mickelson played an 18-hole practice round for The Barclays, pulled out a marker and began working both sides of the fence lined with fans.

After signing each item, he handed it back to the person, looked them in the eye and said, “Thank you.''

He signed a program for one man and as he handed it back to him, Mickelson said, “Thanks for your patience. I saw you out there watching us.''

But it wasn't all warm and fuzzy. As he went to sign a flag, he withdrew his pen and said to the man, “Sir, you already gave me one thing to sign. I won't sign for you again.''

MCCORMACK MEDAL: Lydia Ko is winning the Mark H. McCormack Medal about as often as Tiger Woods wins the professional version of it.

The 16-year-old Ko has won the McCormack Medal as the leading player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for 2013. U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick of England won for being the leading male amateur.

Ko won the medal for the third straight year.

“It means a lot, and to have won the medal three years in a row makes it more special,'' she said. “To have maintained my position for the last three years has been meaningful. I won the U.S. Amateur last year. I wanted to win that championship so much. Without winning it, I may not have been able to maintain my position.''

Ko is coming off her second straight win in the Canadian Women's Open on the LPGA Tour. She has been No. 1 in the women's amateur ranking for 123 straight weeks. In the professional women's ranking, she already is No. 7.

Fitzpatrick captured the medal by winning the U.S. Amateur to overtake Cheng-tsung Pan in the ranking. The McCormack Medal gives him a spot in the U.S. Open and the British Open next summer.

REVISIONIST HISTORY: Tiger Woods said going into the PGA Championship that while winning a major automatically makes it a great year, he had a great year because of the five tournaments he won – The Players Championship, two World Golf Championships and two other events on either strong courses or against strong fields.

He was asked if he had lowered his standards of what makes a great year having gone five seasons without a major. Woods said no.

Perhaps it was his comment from one year ago that led to that question.

It was at The Barclays in 2012 that he was asked about three PGA Tour wins and whether he saw it as a good year or some other description.

“Well, I see it as absolutely it's a good year,'' Woods said a year ago. “But I think winning a major puts it into a `great year' category. I've said that countless times prior.''

Or he used to, anyway.

DIVOTS: Rickie Fowler will be playing the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines on Nov. 7-10. … Only six of the 25 players who earned PGA Tour cards through the Tour money list will be rookies next year. … Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott are the only players who have won a major, a World Golf Championship, The Players Championship and a FedEx cup playoff event. … Europe begins its Ryder Cup standings this week at the Wales Open, where captain Paul McGinley will hit the first tee shot at Celtic Manor. Only one player in the field – Francesco Molinari – was on the last Ryder Cup team for Europe.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Three PGA Tour winners this year earned their cards at Q-school last year – Billy Horschel, Derek Ernst and Patrick Reed.

FINAL WORD: “Hopefully, she doesn't get burned out before she gets the chance to turn pro.'' – Brittany Lincicome on 16-year-old amateur Lydia Ko, who won the Canadian Women's Open for the second straight year.