25 new players earned PGA Tour cards this week at the Nationwide Tour championship. But how well will they do next year?

In the past few years, Q-school grads have actually done better in terms of results than Nationwide Tour players.

But, that overlooks some circumstances. My guess would be that Q-school players tend to be slightly better overall. It seems there are more players that have been on the PGA Tour, had a bad year and had to go back to q-school, than on the Nationwide Tour.

So, I broke it down just by rookies over the past two years.

Rook yr Rounds Prev yr Rounds
Nationwide 0.1541 1521 0.0152 1682
Q-School 0.2205 1756 0.0883 945

Seems like the Nationwide Tour actually is a better proving ground. Not terribly surprising considering a whole season is a better predictor than the 10 or so rounds it takes to get through Q-school.

Of course, it’s silly to not think about other circumstances here, too. For example, Rickie Fowler was a Q-school grad, who based on his play after he turned pro would have fared quite well on the NW Tour had he played there. Also, in playing some big tournaments and in the fall finish he was clearly more prepared than the average rookie.

Also, consider Kyle Stanley. Stanley’s 2010 season on the Nationwide Tour was pretty good. For whatever reason, he didn’t make as much money as his level of play usually would. Then he qualified by Q-school. He actually has compared very similarly to Keegan Bradley in the last two years. Clearly he was ready for the PGA Tour.

So, that got me thinking, maybe number of pro rounds is a better predictor. Here’s a look at that breakdown

Players with over 70 rounds on major tours in season before PGA rookie year:

Rook yr Rounds Prev yr Rounds
Total 0.1154 1689 0.0349 2009
Nationwide Grads 0.1253 1184 0.0257 1442
Q-School Grads 0.0921 505 0.0585 567

This group is similar to the averages above for previous year, but a lot better in the rookie season on the PGA Tour. Mainly because to play a lot of rounds is usually a good sign of a better player and more rounds rules out the possibility of a fluke.

Players with between 30 and 60 rounds:

Rook yr Rounds Prev yr Rounds
Total 0.2482 599 0.0546 397
Nationwide Grads 0.2552 337 -0.0473 240
Q-School Grads 0.2392 262 0.2104 157

It didn’t really matter which way these guys came to the tour, they were a lot worse.

Players with less than 30:

Rook yr Rounds Prev yr Rounds
All from Q-school 0.218971 903 0.013158 163

Again, these players were not quite nearly as good as more tested players.

As the PGA Tour discusses ending Q-school it’s hard not to agree with them in some form. Players that pretty much qualify without being a member of at least the Nationwide Tour are not really ready for the PGA Tour. On the other hand, there are certain tested players, like Rickie Fowler or Kyle Stanley that failed or didn’t have the chance to qualify through the Nationwide Tour that are clearly ready. From the Tour’s perspective, more pro rounds are good for their incoming rookies as it helps eliminate the fluky players and prepares the good ones better.

Maybe the best solution for the Tour is most of the spots are earned from the Nationwide Tour, but there should still be some kind of last chance qualifying for players that are PGA Tour veterans off down years, experienced Nationwide Players and up and coming young college players with a lot of amateur success.


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