With the recent awarding of the first 25 PGA TOUR membership cards for the 2015–16 season behind the Web.com Tour regulars, attention now turns to the Web.com Tour Finals this week in the Hotel Fitness Championship at Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills Golf Club. The heralded Fort Wayne, Ind., layout will serve as the backdrop for the first of the Web.com Tour’s four-tournament series that will determine who earns the second set of 25 PGA TOUR cards, as well as set the priority ranking positions for all 50 card earners.
This is the third year Sycamore Hills has hosted this high-profile Web.com event, as the field in today’s first round is treated to one of the nation’s finest courses and one of Indiana’s top layouts. The Hotel Fitness Championship will air from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. ET today through Sunday on Golf Channel.
The Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course first opened for play in 1989 and has recently undergone renovations led by Nicklaus Design, including oversight from President Jack Nicklaus II and Design Associate David Savic. The course debuted as a top-five “Best New Private Course” and was included in Golf Digest’s expanded list of America’s 100 Greatest golf courses in 2015-2016.
Every golf hole at Sycamore Hills has had significant work over the last two years, including complete bunker renovation. New irrigation was installed around the greens and some entire holes had the irrigation system replaced. The first phase of construction was completed in time for the 2014 Hotel Fitness Championship, and this year, second-phase construction on Holes 3, 5, 12 and 14, and the driving range’s north end will make its debut.
The 2015 Web.com Tour season has consisted of 21 regular season events, including three tournaments contested at other Nicklaus Design layouts. Two of the four Finals events take place on Nicklaus Design courses, with play beginning at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship at The Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course in two weeks.
“People will see really how difficult it is to earn your PGA TOUR card,” said Vince Pellegrino, senior vice president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association, which runs the Hotel Fitness Championship. “The competition itself is really the most important thing. This is the best golf course that these guys get to play on all year round. To be in the playoffs of the Web.com Tour and to be at a great facility like this, it’s not only something the fans of golf in Fort Wayne should be excited about but the players should be, as well.”
There are 133 players committed to play this week at Sycamore Hills, including 73 of the top-75 Web.com Tour players; 49 players who are currently ranked Nos. 126-200 in the FedExCup points; and 11 players who are either non-members who earned enough equivalent FedExCup points to finish 126-200 or PGA TOUR players with medical exemptions.
On Aug. 30th, 25 cards were locked up in Portland by the Web.com’s 25 leading money winners during the regular season. Twenty-five more cards will be determined over the Finals based on earnings in these next four events. The all-important positioning of players within the Web.com Tour graduates’ category on the PGA TOUR’s eligibility list (assigning of Nos. 1–50) will also be determined.
All 50 card earners will be officially recognized and receive their 2015-16 PGA TOUR membership cards at a ceremony following the Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass on October 4th. The following players finished 126–200 in FedExCup points but are otherwise exempt on the PGA TOUR and will not play in the Web.com Tour Finals: Will MacKenzie, Scott Stallings, Jamie Donaldson, Seung-Yul Noh, Whee Kim, David Toms, Blayne Barber, Charlie Beljan, K.J. Choi, Geoff Ogilvy, Graeme McDowell, Ernie Els, Shane Lowry, Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Angel Cabrera and Ben Crane. Bear’s Club member Patrick Rodgers (via FedExCup points) and Cameron Smith (via the money list) are exempt, having earned their PGA TOUR cards as Special Temporary Members this year. Justin Leonard has opted to take his one-time career money exemption in 2015–16. Martin Kaymer and Victor Dubuisson are not eligible for PGA TOUR membership in 2015–16.