Evaluating the Web Tour Grads
The PGA Tour introduced the Web.com Tour Finals in 2013 as a replacement for Q-School. The 25 cards historically granted over six rounds at the Q-School Finals now instead go to the top 25 finishers on a four event money list which brings together Web.com Tour players and PGA Tour players who could not retain their status in the regular season. The 25 players who earn their PGA Tour cards in the regular season compete for priority order with the group of 25 who earn their cards through the Web Tour Finals as the two groups of 25 get combined into one group in the following PGA Tour season.
Without getting too deep into the minutiae of PGA Tour priority order, it’s critical for these 50 players who earn PGA Tour cards from either the Web Tour or Web Tour Finals to finish as high up the rankings as possible because it gives them a greater chance of access to early season events and more chances to position themselves for better priority after the reshuffles throughout the PGA Tour season.
To breakdown how all of this impacts a Web Tour grad’s chances of keeping their PGA Tour card for the next season, we have analysed the impact of three factors:
- The observed performance of each player going into the new PGA Tour season – essentially, how well has each player scored (adjusted for strength of field and difficulty of the course) over the long-term. For this, we’ve used our Performance Index ranking where Peter Uihlein is the best rated Web Tour grad this season.
- How much experience does this player have on the PGA Tour? Cameron Tringale and Matt Jones have played over 100 PGA Tour events in the last five seasons. They are in a different position than Beau Hossler or Aaron Wise (both have less than 10 starts each) as players who have seen these PGA Tour courses several times and have experience with the week to week pressure of the PGA Tour.
- Where does each grad rank in the priority order to start the season. For 2018, this ranking is spread between Chesson Hadley at #1 and Seamus Power at #50.
We built our model on the first four years of data on how Web Tour grads fared in their subsequent PGA Tour seasons and viewed it as a success (keeping their card) if they finished top 125 on the FedEx Cup standings the following year (earning a trip to the playoffs and avoiding the Web Tour Finals).
Each of the three variables were seen as contributing to the model. Priority order came out as the strongest predictor of whether a player would keep their card. For someone with average Performance Index for a Web Tour grad and average PGA Tour experience, they have a 51% chance of retaining their card if they’re 10th in the priority order, but only 31% chance if they are ranked 40th in priority.
Performance came out as 2nd most important (just behind priority rank). Someone ranked 25th in priority with average PGA Tour experience would have a 64% chance of keeping their card if they were the best performing Web Tour grad, but only 42% if they were an average performing grad and 28% if they were one of the five lowest performing grads.
Experience was the least important factor, but still contributed to the model. Someone of average performance and ranked 25th in priority would have a 54% chance of retaining their card if they were as experience as Tringale, Jones, or Shawn Stefani (115+ PGA Tour starts in the last five years) but a 36% chance if they have no prior PGA Tour starts like rookies Tom Lovelady, Nate Lashley, and three others.
Below we’ve graphed the impact of each variable holding each of the other two variables constant at average for the Web Tour graduates pool. The average grad performs roughly -0.3 strokes worse than PGA Tour average, is ranked 25th in priority, and has 40 PGA Tour starts in the last five years.
In the the first four seasons under this format, 85 Web Tour graduates have kept their cards for the following PGA Tour season by finishing top 125 in the FedEx Cup. We predict that 21 of the 50 this season will repeat that feat.
Chesson Hadley (#1 in priority, #4 in performance index, #6 in experience) and Peter Uihlein (#3 in priority, #1 in performance index, #23 in experience) have the best chance of keeping their card at 78% and 77%. 19 graduates have at least a 50/50 chance of keeping their card. 29 grads are in a clump between 33% and 67% to keep their card.
We look forward to Ethan Tracy (9% chance) proving us wrong this year! His T8 in the Web Tour Championship is a good start.