EDISON, New Jersey (AP) – As golf has become more global and the wealth of the PGA Tour has made it the premier destination, there has been grumbling over the years that it has become easier for international players to earn a PGA Tour card through world rankings that get them into the biggest events.
This year shows another side to that equation.
The penalty for not meeting membership requirements is far stiffer than it is for Americans.
Martin Kaymer of Germany, a two-time major champion and former No. 1 player in the world, joined the PGA Tour in 2013. As a European, he is entitled to the "home circuit" policy that allows him to play unlimited European Tour events. However, he is required to play a minimum of 15 events on the PGA Tour.
Kaymer built the FedExCup playoffs into his worldwide schedule, had a poor year by his standards and ran into a big problem – he failed to qualify for the playoffs, and wound up playing only 13 times.
The penalty is Kaymer forfeits his PGA Tour membership for next season. Even if he were to win next year, he could not rejoin the tour until the 2016-17 season. He cannot compete in the FedExCup next year and he is allowed to play no more than 12 PGA Tour events (including majors and World Golf Championships).
And then there's Steve Stricker, who entered into semi-retirement a year ago.
Stricker played only nine events this year (he was not eligible for the World Golf Championships or two majors) and finished at No. 176 in the FedExCup. He also is required to play a minimum 15 times to keep his membership, but in his case, that only means he can't vote on tour issues (player advisory council, awards). But he would be eligible for the FedExCup next year.
The difference? Stricker didn't activate the "home circuit" policy because the PGA Tour is his home. If Americans want to play overseas (Rickie Fowler at the Scottish Open, for example), they must get a "conflicting event release" from the PGA Tour. The guideline is three releases for every 15 tour events played.
Kaymer isn't alone in this predicament.
Victor Dubuisson of France also took up PGA Tour membership. He played only 10 times on the PGA Tour and finished No. 190 in the FedExCup. Because he claimed the home circuit policy, he will not be eligible for the FedExCup next year.
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