So how, exactly, is a field compiled for a particular PGA Tour event? You think it's all cut and dried, right?Of course not. Like anything else, the tour is a more convoluted than one would expect. And that goes for filling tournaments - even a large-field event such as next week's Greenbrier Classic.Believe it or not, there is a 35-category pecking order on filling a regular tour event. Let's see how they apply, using the official Classic field, released Friday:1. Winner of U.S. Open and PGA Championships in the current and past five calendar years.
Webb Simpson is the latest addition to that esteemed list. Keegan Bradley is part of that list, too, and then there is that Tiger Woods guy.Oddity with that category: Open and PGA winners prior to 1970 are grandfathered in for life. So Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper and Dow Finsterwald could enter, right?2. Winners of The Players Championship for the current and past five calendar years. Hey, the PGA Tour really does want you to think of this as the "fifth major," doesn't it?
Phil Mickelson and K.J. Choi had no worry about sinking to the alternates list.3. Winners of the Masters for the current and past five calendar years. Bubba Watson and three others are on this list, but none are coming here.4. Winners of the British Open for the current and past five calendar years. We're not getting Stewart Cink and Louis Oosthuizen, sorry to say.5. Winners of The Tour Championship in the last three calendar years. Both Jim Furyk and Bill Haas pit-stopped in our hills to earn this status, and they'll return with it.6. Winners of World Golf Championships events in the current and past three years. Eight globetrotting players are on this list, but we'll see none of them.7. Leader from the FedExCup points list in the previous five years: Vijay Singh (2008), come on down.8. Tour money list leader the past five years: Anybody who would make this category is already spoken for.9. Tournament winners. A win lifts a player to this category for the rest of the year, plus two more. Additional wins will extend this exemption, up to five years.
Stuart Appleby and Scott Stallings won their current exemptions at The Greenbrier. Twenty-nine others in this category are expected here, including the most recent tour winner, Marc Leishman.10. Players in the top 25 or top 50 on the career money list using special, one-time exemptions. Appleby could slide into this category to keep his full-time privileges in 2013.11. Getting in on sponsor exemptions are John Daly, Boo Weekley, Jess Ferrell, Justin Thomas (college player of the year), Patrick Cantley and Daniel Miernicki.12. Two foreign players designated by the commissioner. Or none.13. The current PGA club pro champion. And yes, David Hutsell will be in the house.14. PGA of America Tri-State section champion. For the second year in a row, that is Robert McClellan, head pro at Butler (Pa.) Country Club.
15. Top four at Monday's open qualifying, held at the Cobb Course at Glade Springs.16. Past champions of the event for the five years after he wins. If Appleby and Stallings really tumble, this keeps them around.
17. Life members, those who have been active members for 15 years, with 20 or more tournament wins. Greenbrier pro emeritus Tom Watson and Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III are both coming.18. Top 30 on the previous year's FedExCup points list. Classic third-timer Charles Howell III is one of four on this level.19. Top 125 on the previous year's money list. This is the level players must maintain for what is termed full membership. The most populous category, as one might expect. 20. Top 125 non-members from the previous year. Bud Cauley played his way to a card out of college in 2011, but he's not coming here.21. Major medical extensions. This allows players who are sidelined by long-term injuries a chance to retain their membership, if they're good enough when they return. 2011 Classic runner-up Bob Estes is one of three Classic entrants out of this category.22. Leading money winner from 2011 Nationwide Tour (hey, it wasn't named Web.com then). J.J. Killeen is coming.23. Medical exemptions from Nationwide/Web.com Tour money leaders. Jamie Lovemark will be here, desperately trying to keep his status.24. Top 10 and ties from the previous tour event (in this case, the AT&T National). Daly freed up a sponsor's exemption for last year's Classic by earning entry in this fashion.25. Top 25 from 2011 "Q School" tournament, plus the second-through-25th players on the 2011 Nationwide money list. This is the dreaded "reshuffle" list, reordered five times during the season. Win an event and you flee this list, becoming the envy of your reshuffling peers.
With the Classic's field of 156 players and a "regular" tour status, it appears all the "reshufflers" who entered will play.26. Winners of three Web.com Tour events in the current year. This is the "battlefield promotion," which nobody has achieved so far this year.27. Minor medical extension. Dean Wilson is the one player, and he's coming.28. Players 126-150 on the 2011 money list. Roland Thatcher, who finished fourth at the recent Travelers Championship, plays out of this list. But that's about all, for now - Steven Bowditch is the first alternate.29. Non-exempt, major medical/family crisis.30. A hodgepodge of five remaining categories, reordered several times a year by position on the season's money list. Daly and Weekley are in this subterranean level, which explains why they need a sponsor's exemption to play next week.
Those remaining categories:31. Past champions, ever.32. Special temporary members. A nonmember (for example, a player just out of college or an international player) can earn enough money to win this designation.33. Team championship members. A tribute to Ryder Cup alums, etc.34. Veteran members, or players who have made 150 cuts in their careers.35. Positions 151-200 on the previous year's money list.
Combine all those levels with a $6.1 million purse, and you can find 156 players for any golf tournament. This year's Classic didn't need to go to the bottom.