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Changes made to Monday Qualification

For those wanting a chance to play in a PGA Tour event, it's no longer as simple as paying $400 for a Monday qualifier and trying to grab one of four spots.

Starting this year, anyone who doesn't have status on the PGA or Nationwide tours first must play a pre-qualifier to get into the Monday qualifier. The change was partly to weed out the guys who are lucky to break 90, and to bring equity to qualifiers that have to be played on two courses to accommodate everyone.

The Sony Open avoided the pre-qualifier because only 78 players signed up.

But for the Buick Invitational, which traditionally has one of the largest Monday qualifiers, 174 players were assigned to pre-qualifying last Thursday. A total of 55 players from two courses made it to the Monday qualifier, where they were joined by PGA and Nationwide players.

It allows for better quality of play. But it also could lead to a closed shop on the PGA Tour, because unproven players have to devote an entire week for a long shot. Instead of playing Monday and moving on, they have to spend an entire week in one town, paying for lodging and meals.

"I've heard both sides," said Gerald Wong of the PGA Southern California section. "Some guys like the idea of having four spots from one course, and the better players have a better chance of making it. Some guys don't like it, because it's more expensive to stay out there a couple of more days."

The PGA sections run the Monday qualifiers and get money from the entry fees. Wong said he had roughly as many players as he did last year.

Andy Pazder, vice president of competition for the PGA Tour, said players pay $200 for the pre-qualifier, money that goes to the section. If they make it, they pay another $200 for the Monday qualifier, which goes to the tour. Nationwide players pay $100 for Monday qualifying, while PGA Tour players don't pay anything.

Along with the extra expense, some players might have to choose between playing a mini-tour event or giving up that week for pre-qualifying.

"We do have guys that play mini-tours and they'll try to Monday qualify four or five times," said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. "But they have to decide where they want to try to play."

Hughes said the tour's research shows PGA sections will get about the same money, and the fields will be stronger. But the odds of players having a dream round to get into the PGA Tour got significantly longer.

January 25, 2006


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