RBC Heritage expanding field for 2013 event

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Golf

RBC Heritage expanding field for 2013 event

Changes in PGA Tour schedule prompt one-year increase from 132 to 144
By MIKE McCOMBS
mmccombs@islandpacket.com
Published Monday, December 3, 2012   |  662 Words  |  

Is bigger really better?

The RBC Heritage will find out in 2013.

The recent changes to the structure of the PGA Tour hit Harbour Town Golf Links on Monday, as RBC Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot announced during the event's Sponsor Day reception the field would increase from 132 players to 144 players in 2013.

"They assured us it's for one year," Wilmot said. "It's because of the schedule. They want to find more opportunities for the players."

Wilmot said the Tour did not ask for the increase, nor did it tell the RBC Heritage the field would have to expand. But, he said, the PGA Tour made its intentions clear.

"I'd prefer not to," said Wilmot, who pointed out the RBC Heritage is one of just a handful of invitationals on the PGA Tour and traditionally has a smaller field. "(The field) used to be in the 120 range, and I'd prefer it go back. But they've promised it's just for one year."

The RBC Heritage, to be held April 15-21, isn't the only event expanding its field, according to Wilmot. Several tournaments that had fields of 144 will move to 156, and those at 156 will grow to 170.

The PGA Tour has changed its qualifying format for next season. The qualifying process, commonly known as Q-School, will exist only for the Web.com Tour. To earn a PGA Tour card, golfers must either finish in the top 125 in FedEx Cup points or qualify through the Web.com Tour.

The fall events after the FedEx Cup Playoffs will count as regular PGA Tour events for the 2013-14 season, meaning those will not be available to players trying to earn PGA Tour cards this season. As a result, there are fewer events this year -- only 25 -- for golfers to earn points toward next year's status.

As a result, Wilmot said, the PGA Tour, for this season only, wants to give more golfers an opportunity to earn points at each event.

"If we didn't have Q-School last year, we wouldn't be where we are today," said PGA Tour golfer Harris English, who along with friend and former University of Georgia teammate Brian Harman, was a guest at Monday's reception and qualified for the PGA Tour at last year's Q-School.

But English understands the PGA Tour's rationale.

"I think it's going to be a great thing for the future," English said. "It's going to make guys play a lot more."

A dozen more players and a dozen more caddies will cause some logistical adjustments for the tournament, Wilmot said. The most visible will be about an additional hour of play on the first two days of the tournament.

Also, the tournament's number of exemptions will shrink from eight to four.

"That's good news-bad news," said Wilmot, who lists the responsibility of selecting eight exemptions among the most difficult of his job.

Daniel Nisbet, the winner of the 2012 Players Amateur, has already claimed the first exemption.

BELLY UP? NOT SO FAST

Harman and English also weighed in Monday on another hot topic among PGA Tour golfers -- the USGA's potential elimination of the use of belly or anchored putters.

"I made the tour without it," said Harman, a Savannah native. "So I don't feel like I'm going to live or die without it. But at the same time, golf is supposed to be fun. A little help, you know."

English said the greater impact will be on the gofers, like 2012 RBC Heritage champion Carl Pettersson, who have never putted any other way.

"It's going to be crazy to see how they react to it," English said.