One of the more consequential tournaments of the year, the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, also took place this weekend. A total of 25 players earned PGA Tour cards on Sunday, including seven who started the week well outside the cut line for membership cards. Former USC standout Justin Suh won the event to claim the top spot in the Korn Ferry Tour points list, earning himself fully exempt status on the PGA Tour for 2022-23 as well as spots in the 2023 U.S. Open and Players Championship.
The 2022 Korn Ferry Tour season is over, and so are the KFT Finals as we know them. At least that’s what the PGA Tour has told us. One of the Tour’s many announcements this summer was that, next year, it will scrap the familiar structure of handing out 25 cards at the end of the Korn Ferry Tour regular season and 25 more through the KFT Finals. Starting in 2023, the KFT regular season will extend through the four finals events. After that, PGA Tour cards will be given to the top 30 finishers on the season-long points list. Another 10 cards will go to the best performers on the DP World Tour, and a last batch will be granted to the top five and ties in the KFT Q-School event.
In a related change, starting next season, just 70 players will qualify for the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs, and those who finish outside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup will no longer drop down to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals in order to earn their cards back. Instead, the PGA Tour’s fall events will determine the remaining fully-exempt memberships for the following season. What remains to be seen is who, besides players outside the top 70 of the FedEx Cup standings, will play in the fall series. Let’s hope it’s Korn Ferry Tour graduates.
Up to and including the 2022-23 season, KFT grads have been tossed to the bottom of the PGA Tour’s priority ranking, scraping for starts while approximately 175 tour members and others with obscure exemptions filled fields. This has long been one of the Tour’s structural flaws. Up-and-coming careers are slowed down in order to protect the rank and file. But if it’s designed correctly, the new fall series could give players who have proven themselves on the KFT a better shot. If they get enough starts in the fall, and if they make the most of those starts, they could earn a high priority ranking more quickly than they typically can now.
My only worry is that the Tour will revert to old habits and give established members preferential treatment in the fall series. If Nos. 71-125 on the priority ranking are reserved for the previous season’s playoff-missers, then KFT grads would remain stuck at the bottom of the heap. In order for the PGA Tour to retain young talent, it needs to create an efficient, merit-based path from the KFT to the big show. Let’s hope for the best.