SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Kevin Tway is the latest son of a major champion to earn a spot on the PGA Tour, and he already is getting attention as a rookie.
Just not for the reasons one might think.
It has nothing to do with his father's eight PGA Tour wins, or even that famous bunker shot at Inverness that Bob Tway holed for birdie to beat Greg Norman in the 1986 PGA Championship. Not that the son has forgotten.
"I even put 'past champion's son' and it didn't work out," Tway said with a laugh.
He was referring to the letter he sent the Las Vegas tournament director asking for a sponsor exemption, which is hard to come by these days. Tway received an exemption for the Frys.com Open, but not for Las Vegas. He tried to qualify Monday for one of four spots and lost in a playoff.
What's amazing is that Tway even needs an exemption.
The PGA Tour this year eliminated Q-School as a route to the big leagues, leaning instead on the Web.com Tour as the "primary pathway to the PGA Tour." Tway won a Web.com Tour event, made the cut in 14 of his 18 tournaments and had four top-10s to finish No. 5 on the money list.
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The top 25 are assured PGA Tour cards.
But this path to the PGA Tour comes with a catch. What follows the regular season are four additional tournaments – the Web.com Tour Finals – that determine where the rookies and returning tour members are seeded going into the new season. The higher seed, the more likely a player gets into a tournament.
Tway had little to gain, plenty to lose. He missed two cuts, didn't finish higher than a tie for 52nd in the other two and now can't get into tournaments. Instead of being seeded No. 9, he plunged to No. 46 out of 50 players.
It's another reminder that getting a PGA Tour card and getting a chance to play are not always the same. What's worse is that these 50 players will be seeded again at the end of the six tournaments this fall – except that only the top half is assured of getting into the tournaments.
Tway was lucky to get a spot in the Frys.com Open, and even though a 72-71 weekend left him tied for 40th, it's better than no tournament at all. Mark Anderson finished at No. 8 on the Web.com Tour money list. He'll be lucky to get into a single tournament until sometime in 2014.
The flip side is someone like Brendon Todd. He finished 20th on the Web.com money list, and then in the four-event "Finals" he had a pair of top-20s and tied for second in the last one. His seeding went up 27 spots to No. 12, meaning he's likely to get in all four North American events.
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"Obviously, I want them to do it a different way," Tway said. "It seems unfair. But other people like it. I'm not a smart enough person to come up with a plan. Hopefully, when I get my starts I'll play well. And if you play well, they can't keep you off the tour."
That comment was refreshing, especially coming from a 25-year-old rookie who got the short end of the draw.
Playing better is always the solution in golf, no matter how the system works.
Even so, there's something wrong with the tour's message that a year on the Web.com Tour now is the "primary path" to the big leagues. Because it's not. It's an entire season, followed by four tournaments that decide how much you get to play.
It's like driving from California to Florida and being told upon entering the state that the actual destination is Miami.
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"Most people feel that guys who play all year long on the Web.com Tour should have some merit," said Jamie Lovemark, who went from No. 12 on the money list to the 39th seed. He received an exemption to the Frys.com Open, and missed out at the qualifier in Las Vegas. "Maybe you should protect the top 10. I'm sure they'll tweak it. But no matter what they do, someone will get the wrong end of it."
There were bound to be glitches in the first year of a new system. The tour's mistake was underestimating how many guys would play in October when it went to a wraparound season. Officials thought all 50 players from the Web.com Tour Finals would get in all four events, or at least two of them.
The day after the Web.com Tour Finals, nearly every player had signed up for the first event.
The tour is reviewing the first year of the Web.com Tour Finals, and changes are likely. They weren't simple the first time, and they won't be now. Along with looking after the players on the Web.com Tour, consideration has to be given players who just missed their cards on the PGA Tour, the strongest circuit in the world.
Alex Aragon – No. 9 on the Web.com Tour money list who fell to a No. 36 seed – barely got into the Frys.com Open as an alternate. It felt like Christmas morning when he learned over the weekend he received an exemption to Las Vegas.
"There's no perfect solution," Aragon said.
But he had what seemed to be the most reasonable one. The top 25 on the Web.com Tour money list would be assured their cards, and the money list from them would continue through the four $1 million events in the Finals to determine their seeds. A separate money list would apply for everyone else competing for 25 additional cards at the Web.com Tour finals. The 50 seeds would be determined by alternating from one category to the other.
Otherwise, that "primary path" could feel more like a dead end to some players.