FORT WAYNe – Darron Stiles was one of the players involved in the process of determining the new format of qualification for the PGA Tour.
So, of course, he would boast that the excitement in and around the Hotel Fitness Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club is a good thing.
But Stiles also has to play in the new Web.com Tour Finals, which begin Thursday at Sycamore Hills, so he knows the pressure involved for participants who want to be in the big leagues for 2014.
I kind of voted for this and was part of the process, Stiles said. It’s been good so far and it will be good to see how it goes through this first year. If there are any changes that need to be made, I’m sure they will be made. I like the way it’s setting up to be.
Before this year, players who wanted to make it to the PGA Tour, full-time, had two ways to do so: Finish in the top 25 on the Web.com Tour or get one of the 25 cards available through qualification school.
Citing the importance of getting experience on the Web.com Tour, since the rigors of being a professional golfer can be difficult, the procedure was changed and the Finals were created for this year.
The top 25 players on the Web.com Tour still get cards, but another 25 get them by performing well in the four-tournament Finals. Positioning of all 50 cards will also be determined through the Finals.
Eligible for the Finals are the top 75 players on the Web.com Tour and Nos. 126 through 200 in the PGA Tour’s FedExCup standings.
Stiles is No. 188 there, having played in 20 PGA Tour events this year, finishing in the top 25 twice and earning $184,866.
On the surface it may seem a player of his caliber – he’s been a pro since 1995 – would be able to do just fine against less experienced players in the Finals.
But imagine the pressure of not doing well and being relegated back to the Web.com Tour, where Stiles has played 287 tournaments and won five times.
That’s one of the excitement factors because it is such a great mix of players from both Tours. It can only get better from where it is right now, said Stiles, 40, who has more than $1.6 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour and more than $1.8 million on the Web.com Tour.
Today, there will be a Pro-Am at Sycamore Hills, benefiting the Chick Evans Scholars, and then there will be four days of championship golf at Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills. The winner of the Hotel Fitness Championship will pocket $180,000 of the $1-million purse.
There are large purses and everyone is excited about that, said Mark Anderson, one of the top players on the Web.com Tour this season. And then the playoffs add a little bit more. A lot is on the line for the next four weeks and this is a good way to get it kicked off.
Not many of the players had seen Sycamore Hills before this week, though Stiles played in a Mad Anthonys charity Pro-Am there roughly 10 years ago.
This course is definitely the caliber of doing this (type of tournament), he said. There are several good golf holes on which you just have to step up and hit it well just to be in the right position. And then you have to hit another good golf shot to be in the green. It will be a really good test for this tournament.