Invitational: These events are similar to the regular ones, but have a slightly smaller field and do not follow the normal PGA Tour exemption categories. Invitational tournaments include the Charles Schwab Challenge, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the RBC Heritage, the Memorial Tournament. The tournaments usually have an association with a golf legend, or in the case of the RBC Heritage, a famous course. The table below illustrates some of the notable features of the exemption categories for these events:[65]
Most members of the tour play between 20 and 30 tournaments in the season. The geography of the tour is determined by the weather. It starts in Hawaii in January and spends most of its first two months in California and Arizona during what is known as the "West Coast Swing" and then moves to the American Southeast for the "Southern Swing." Each swing culminates in a significant tour event. In April, tour events begin to drift north. The summer months are spent mainly in the Northeast and the Midwest, and in the fall (autumn) the tour heads south again.[citation needed]
Similar to other major league sports, there is no rule that limits PGA Tour players to "men only". In 1938, Babe Zaharias became the first woman to compete in a PGA Tour event. In 1945, Zaharias became the first and only woman to make a cut in a PGA Tour event. In 2003, Annika Sörenstam and Suzy Whaley played in PGA Tour events, and Michelle Wie did so in each year from 2004 through 2008. In 2011, Isabelle Beisiegel became the first woman to earn a Tour card on a "men's" professional golf tour, the Canadian Tour, now PGA Tour Canada.[37]
Before the transition, the Tour held a group of events known as the PGA Tour Fall Series, which provided a final opportunity for golfers to make the top 125 in season earnings and thereby retain their Tour cards. With the change to an October-to-September season, several of the former Fall Series events will now open the season. The Tour also sanctions two events in Asia during that part of the year:
Three of the four majors take place in eight weeks between June and August. In the past, this has threatened to make the last 2-1/2 months of the season anti-climactic, as some of the very top players competed less from that point on. In response, the PGA Tour has introduced a new format, the FedEx Cup. From January through mid-August players compete in "regular season" events and earn FedEx Cup points, in addition to prize money. At the end of the regular season, the top 125 FedEx Cup points winners are eligible to compete in the "playoffs", four events taking place from mid-August to mid-September. The field sizes for these events are reduced from 125 to 100 to 70 and finally the traditional 30 for the Tour Championship. Additional FedEx Cup points are earned in these events. At the end of the championship, the top point winner is the season champion. To put this new system into place, the PGA Tour has made significant changes to the traditional schedule.[citation needed]
Without the tour players, the PGA of America became primarily an association of club professionals, but retained control of two significant events; the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.[6] The former was an established major championship, but the latter was an obscure match play team event which was not particularly popular with golf fans, due to predictable dominance by the United States. With the addition of players from continental Europe in 1979 and expanded television coverage, it became very competitive and evolved into the premier international team event, lately dominated by Europe. Both events are very important revenue streams for the PGA of America.
Non-members can play their way into the PGA Tour by finishing the equivalent or better of 125th in FedEx Cup points. Those who fail but fall within the top 200 in current season points are eligible for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. During the season, non-members can earn Special Temporary Member status by exceeding the equivalent of 150th in the previous season's FedEx Cup. Special Temporary Members receive unlimited sponsor exemptions, while non-members are limited to seven per season and twelve total events.[36]
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The Tour continues through the fall, with the focus on the scramble of the less successful players to earn enough money to retain their tour cards. A circuit known as the Fall Series, originally with seven tournaments but now with four, was introduced in 2007. In its inaugural year, its events were held in seven consecutive weeks, starting the week after the Tour Championship. As was the case for the FedEx Cup playoff schedule, the Fall Series schedule was also tweaked in 2008 and 2009. The first 2008 Fall Series event was held opposite the Ryder Cup, and the Fall Series took a week off for the Tour Championship before continuing with its remaining six events.[citation needed]
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