DP World Tour
This Ryder Cup snub is a step closer to PGA Tour card with latest DP World Tour win
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In the wake of his highly controversial exclusion from the recent European Ryder Cup team, Adrian Meronk spoke of using his deep disappointment as motivation going forward. And he is already proving to be as good as his word. Playing the last 16 holes of his Sunday final round in eight under par, the Pole claimed his fourth DP World Tour title at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters.
Perhaps more importantly, Meronk’s victory and the 710 ranking points that came with it hoisted the lanky 30-year old into third place on the tour’s Race to Dubai standing and, by just 1.8 points, relegated New Zealander Ryan Fox into fourth spot.
That last part is especially vital.
As part of the strategic alliance between the PGA Tour and DP World Tour that was announced in 2022, a potential pathway between the two was opened. PGA Tour cards are available to the 10 highest-ranked players in the final Race to Dubai standings who don’t already hold status by finishing in the top 125 of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Within that, however, the difference between first and second is potentially huge.
Similar to those who finished in the top 125 in the 2023 FedEx Cup, the man topping the mini-ranking will be fully exempt into every non-signature event on the 2024 PGA Tour schedule (including the Players Championship). Numbers 2-10 will start the season positioned directly above the 30 Korn Ferry Tour graduates and the top five finishers (and ties) from Q-School in the PGA Tour priority ranking. These three categories will then be subject to reshuffle the Monday of the Masters Tournament and again following the Wyndham Championship. After each reshuffle, players in all three categories will be re-ranked based on their position in the current-season’s FedEx Cup Playoffs and eligibility points list.
Anyway, that is all for the future. With only three DP World Tour events left—the Qatar Masters, the Nedbank Challenge and the DP World Tour Championship—Meronk and Fox are first and second on the list of players who will gain admittance to the PGA Tour at the end of this DP World Tour season. The top 10 currently is rounded out by Victor Perez (France), Min Woo Lee (Australia), Alexander Bjork (Sweden), Robert MacIntyre (Scotland), Ryo Hisatsune (Japan), Thorbjorn Olesen (Denmark), Joost Luiten (Netherlands) and Marcel Siem (Germany). Remarkably, that list contains 10 different nationalities.
Looking ahead, this aspect of the strategic alliance has potential implications for Europeans hoping to qualify for the 2025 Ryder Cup matches. Those who get their PGA Tour cards via the DP World Tour are going to have a decision to make if recent history is our guide. Assuming there are no changes to the European Ryder Cup qualifying system, anyone choosing to play full-time on the PGA Tour is going to have to perform extremely well in the 2025 FedEx Cup in order to make the Old World squad that will defend the trophy at Bethpage Black on Long Island. Anything less is likely to see that player sidelined.
Take Aaron Rai as an example of just how difficult that scenario can be. The Englishman—a two-time winner on the DP World Tour—joined the PGA Tour in 2022 and has since played steadily. But no more than that. Last season the 28-year-old made 21 of 31 cuts, earned $2,396,731 and finished 68th in the FedEx standings. Commendable stuff, but not nearly enough to rate Rai even the briefest mention when European skipper Luke Donald came to announce his six captain’s selections earlier this year.
More immediately though, it is “agenda time” on the DP World Tour. At this late stage of the season many players have other specific targets in mind. Most pressingly, the top-116 players at the end of next week’s Nedbank Challenge in South Africa will earn exemptions into the 2024 schedule. That figure is officially 110, but six players will be classified ineligible. Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Tom Kim, Sepp Straka and Billy Horschel are eliminated because they are ranked in the world’s top-50 and have played in less than 25 “regular” DPWT events over the course of their careers. Padraig Harrington is the sixth member of that “club” because he is older than 50 years of age.
All of which was, at least immediately, of no concern to Meronk. Speaking after this latest victory—his fourth in the last 15 months—his initial thoughts expressed “relief” more than elation. Having started his final round with two bogeys in the first three holes, ultimate victory had initially appeared unlikely. Two eagles and four birdies soon enough altered that downbeat perspective though.
“To win this tournament is very special,” said the East Tennessee State graduate. “Super special. The weather was not very helpful and I didn’t get off to a hot start. But I stayed positive. I knew I had the game and stayed focused until the last putt.”
And the Ryder Cup? Meronk hasn’t forgotten. Clearly, he is a man on something of a mission.
“I hope so,” he said in response to being asked if he had ‘made a point.’ “I’m just glad that all the talk about it is over. I can just focus on my game and keep going forward. Whoever doubted me, I hope I can prove them wrong.”