The joy of earning one’s way on the PGA Tour and playing a rookie season on the circuit is often quickly met with reality. There is little time to celebrate the achievement, and bottom-line goals must be pursued almost immediately.
There is no time for resting on college or amateur accolades, nor even on professional success at the developmental level.
What matters is the scorecard and how that translates, in the case of the PGA Tour, to FedEx Cup points. Those points will ultimately determine whether a rookie season is a success or not — and achieving it comes with all manner of obstacles, including the ability to get into tournaments.
Rookies get to play in events based on their priority ranking that is achieved through the Web.com Finals. Only the leading money winner is fully exempt. The goal is to finish among the top 125 in FedEx points at the end of the season, thus qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs and earning exempt status for 2018-19.
Short of that, a player who finishes from 126th to 200th in FedEx points has an opportunity to play in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals — the very series of tournaments that helped get this year’s rookie class to this point.
That 2017-18 rookie class of 23 will continue play in January following a break after a seven-week stretch that began in October and ended before Thanksgiving.
Here are a few names to keep an eye on when the golf season resumes.
He finished 20th in the final priority rankings on the Web.Com Tour after notching eight top-10 finishes, but he no longer has to worry about that. Cook, 26, won the RSM Classic last month by four strokes over J.J. Spaun, a victory that gets him a spot in the Sentry Tournament of Champions next month and the Masters, Players Championship and other events. But just as important, Cook now has exempt status for the rest of this season and the next two. And he’s third in FedEx Cup points early in the season.
For a rookie, Uihlein, 28, is quite seasoned, having played the past five years on the European Tour, where he was rookie of the year in 2013. Uihlein had a standout college career at Oklahoma State and was the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion. Uihlein made his way to the PGA Tour by playing enough to get into the Web.com Tour Finals and winning the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Open, which put him third in the priority rankings. He will begin 2018 just outside the top 50 in the Official World Ranking, with a shot at earning a Masters invitation if he can move into the top 50 by March 25.
The former University of Georgia golfer played his way onto the PGA Tour through the Web.com Tour finals, where he was 21st in the priority rankings. A long hitter who averaged more than 321 yards per tee shot, Mitchell played his first PGA Tour event earlier this year by qualifying for the Valspar Championship and then tying for 11th.
With his victory at the Digital Alley Open, Dou, 20 became the first player from China to win on the Web.com Tour and, along with Xinjun Zhang, the first from China to earn PGA Tour cards. Dou won four times on PGA Tour China in 2016. But he got off to a rough start, making just one cut in five appearances.
A University of Alabama grad and friend of Justin Thomas, Lovelady, 24, made his PGA Tour debut at the Safeway Classic. Although he made just two cuts in five starts this fall, his friendship with Thomas ought to be an invaluable asset. He had five top-10s on the Web.com Tour and entered 29th in the priority ranking.
A native of South Africa, Wise, 21, helped the University of Oregon win a national title and won the Air Capital Classic on the Web.com Tour. In five PGA Tour starts, he has made three cuts and earned a best finish of tied for 13th. He ranks 73rd in FedEx Cup points.