Updated: August 20, 2013, 1:26 PM ET

Making some sense of new PGA Tour qualifying

By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

>The bright lights will shine on the Statue of Liberty, the backdrop to this week's Barclays and the first FedEx Cup playoff event to end the PGA Tour season. Meanwhile, in Omaha, Neb., the final regular-season Web.com Tour event takes place, with the top 25 on the final money list securing their PGA Tour cards.

If the various projections and permutations of the FedEx Cup make your head spin, don't forget about the new Web.com Tour Finals, which begin next week and, in essence, take the place of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament (Q-school) -- at least as we knew it.

When the tour decided to go to a wrap-around schedule starting with the 2013-14 season, it came up with a controversial plan to determine exempt status:

Those among the top 125 in FedEx points (or, this year only, in PGA Tour earnings) would be exempt.

Anyone from 126 to 200, instead of going to Q-school, would take part in a four-tournament series known as the Web.com Tour Finals. They will be joined by the top 75 from the Web.com money list -- although the top 25 through this weeks Cox Classic are assured of playing on the PGA Tour next year.

Jordan Spieth
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesJordan Spieth gained PGA Tour status without a trip to Q-School or the Web.com Tour.

Among prominent players faced with having to play in the Web.com Tour Finals to get their PGA Tour card for 2013-14 are 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, Ryo Ishikawa, Robert Karlsson, Sean O'Hair and Robert Allenby -- who also could use his one-time exemption for being among the top 25 all-time money winners (there is another if you are top 50).

That means there will be 25 tour cards up for grabs, much as there were at the old Q-school. But instead of a series of qualifying tournaments that ended with a six-day, 108-hole marathon, there is a four-tournament series, with each tournament offering a $1 million purse.

Players start at $0, and the top 25 in cumulative earnings through the four events get a 2013-14 PGA Tour card -- in addition to those who earned cards by their finish on the Web.com money list.

Got that?

For those who finished among the top 25 in money earnings on the Web.com Tour, the Finals are not just a money grab; how they finish in the four tournaments will determine their priority ranking for getting into PGA Tour events in 2013-14.

The four events, beginning next week, are: the Hotel Fitness Championship (Aug. 29-Sept 1); Chiquita Championship (Sept. 5-8); Nationwide Childrens Hospital (Sept. 12-15) and the Web.com Tour Championship (Sept. 26-29), which is played at the Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass.

The fields will be approximately 144 players, with a 36-hole cut and the winner receiving $180,000. Obviously, winning one of these tournaments all but assures a top-25 standing among those competing and a PGA Tour card for the next season, although there is still incentive to compete for the highest priority ranking.

As in the past, 50 players emerge with tour cards, just as they did from the old Q-school format.

There has been considerable consternation over the demise of Q-school, although it is not going away. It will simply feed players to the Web.com Tour instead of the PGA Tour and will still be played late in the year. (That is why the tour sought a change; the new PGA Tour season begins in early October, leaving little time for a full Q-school.)

True, that means players who sign up for Q-school do not have a direct avenue to the PGA Tour as they once did. (They would qualify for the Web.com Tour, from which a top-25 money finish gets you a card, or a top-75 finish gets you a chance to play for a card.)

However, there are still ways to get it done, as Jordan Spieth proved this year. He began the year with no status on any tour but now finds himself eighth in the FedEx Cup standings. He made the most of his opportunities, with a couple of early top-10s in events in which he got sponsor exemptions, parlaying that into special temporary member status, then full status when he won the John Deere Classic.

It's a lot to ask for a player to win a tournament, but Spieth proved you can get a tour card without the Web.com route -- one of the biggest knocks on the new system.

So, although it has its flaws, competing in four tournaments with nice prize money for those who qualify seems a much better way to go about getting a card than the crapshoot that is Q-school.

All of this is new, of course, cramming a ton of golf into the next month for those competing for the big money and those hoping to do so a year from now.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

The plunge of Padraig Harrington

By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

For the first time since the inception of the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2007, Padraig Harrington will not be part of the series. In fact, were it not for a one-year alteration to the new FedEx Cup rules, he would not even be a fully exempt player on the PGA Tour in 2013-14.

Going forward, finishing among the top 125 in FedEx Cup points determines your status. Those who are in the top 125 make the playoffs and are exempt for the next year; those who finish outside the top 125 are relegated to the Web.com Tour Finals -- unless they are exempt in some other fashion, such as having won a tournament in the past two years.

Harrington will be exempt because he finished 113th on the PGA Tour money list. Because of the shortened schedule this year, those among the top 125 in money are also exempt. It's a one-year deal. So, Harrington is spared the indignity of having to fight for his card.

It's been an amazing fall for the Irishman, a three-time major winner who has not won since his 2008 PGA Championship victory at Oakland Hills. His five-year PGA Tour exemption for winning has expired and his last-ditch attempt at qualifying for the playoffs ended last week with a missed cut in Greensboro.

Harrington, who turns 42 on Aug. 31, will head back to the European Tour next week for the Wales Open, the first qualifying event for the European Ryder Cup team. Harrington has more pressing things on his mind, such as improving his world ranking.

Now at 85th, Harrington had sunk into the 90s last year before climbing as high as 47th earlier this spring. But since a tie for ninth in Phoenix, Harrington has done no better in a PGA Tour event than two ties for 10th. He tied for sixth at a tournament in Malaysia, but has missed seven cuts worldwide since.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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