Insider: 2014 Web.com Tour season gets off to a global start
February 12, 2014
By John Schwarb, Web.com Tour Insider, PGATOUR.COM
- The 2014 Web.com Tour season starts at Country Club of Bogota. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
There are veterans of the Web.com Tour and then there’s Kyle Thompson.
The South Carolinian, like dozens more U.S.-based Tour players, packed his bags last week for the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship presented by Claro. That meant clubs, shoes, clothes, personal items – and one of the most dog-eared passports on Tour.
“I’m actually on No. 2,” Thompson said. “Already filled up one.”
Those passports will fill up fast just in the next couple months on the Web.com Tour, given its penchant for jetsetting to open the season. After this week in Colombia, the Tour will journey in March to Chile, Brazil and Panama before playing its first stateside event at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. Then it’s one more trip south of the border, to the El Bosque Mexico Championship in April.
That may sound hectic, but on the Web.com Tour such globetrotting has long been the norm. For more than a decade, seasons have opened with tournaments in Central America and South America and even New Zealand.
“It’s really nothing new to us,” said Thompson, 10th on the Tour’s all-time money list and well-traveled to all those destinations since 2004. “It’s something we look forward to, as the Tour.”
Part of the scheduling is a nod to the fact that much of the U.S. isn’t exactly golf-friendly in February and March, but the Tour has turned that into a positive with solid anchors internationally. Players are quick to note that Colombia and Brazil have two of the top four purses of any Web.com Tour event prior to the four-event Finals.
“At the end of the day, we like the schedule,” Web.com Tour president Bill Calfee said. “We’ve been playing in South America for quite some time. They know the drill.”
Players know the drill – and know that the stakes are as high as the haul of frequent-flyer miles. Thompson missed the cut in all four opening events last year, fell in the priority rankings and only made five more Web.com Tour starts for the rest of 2013.
Kelly Kraft made one trip, to Brazil, and finished T52 – not a tremendous finish, but one with weekend tee times and a confidence boost.
“Last year I didn’t have a great q-school so my (priority) number was bad, so it was good to go down there and make the cut. I had never been down there before,” Kraft said.
Part of the experience was a mall across the street from the players’ hotel, so every evening, he said, “you’d see the whole field in there.”
This year he’ll have part of the field in his room, namely roommate Jonathan Randolph, who earned limited status following a T32 finish at December’s Qualifying Tournament.
“It’s nicer to stay with somebody, split the room and have someone to go around and eat with, rather than trying to do South America by yourself,” said Kraft, fully exempt for 2014. “A lot of guys are pairing up.”
It’s an experience, no matter what happens inside the ropes. Aron Price notes the annual player parties in Colombia, the breathtaking setting in Santiago, Chile, and the Brazilian steaks.
“They are all cool, unique places,” said Price, 72nd on Tour in money last year. “I don’t mind the traveling, as the four courses are good courses and, being from Australia, I guess I am pretty used to it.”
The passports full of stamps are a given. The hope starting this week is to have scorecards full of birdies, then jet on to the next country with good momentum for a new season.