What exactly is a “full exemption”?

Byron Smith earned a full exemption to the 2013 Web.com Tour in the PGA Tour’s Q-school this week, and that’s good news for Smith. it means he won’t have to try to Monday qualify for that tour, as he has done for the last five years, and he won’t have to spend his time playing events in Canada or on the PGA Tour’s latinoamerica Tour.

That is what it means, isn’t it?

Well, not exactly. Here’s what it means.

Byron Smith waits to hit a tee shot during the PGA Tour's Q-school at PGA West last week (Richar Liu/The Desert Sun)

Smith, like any other can now play the early part of the Web.com Tour season. He is guaranteed eight starts on that tour, with many of the early event in Central or South America. But after those starts, the Web.com will do what is called in the golf business a reshuffle. What that means is that players new to the tour through the Q-school will be moved around in their ranking for tournament entry. So a player who was, say, No. 1 out of the Q-school in ranking could easily fall to 40th if he doesn’t take advantage of his starts. And a player who is 40th can quickly move up the ranking ladder with a good tournament or two.

Those new rankings will then be caddied into the next 10 or 12 events on the tour. So even a player who earn a full exemption to the Tour can find himself pretty much frozen out when the season is halfway over because of poor play.

That’s only slightly different than what happens on the PGA Tour, where a reshuffle can do the same thing, take the top player from qualifying and through a few poor starts turn that played into an afterthought on the tour.

But on the PGA Tour, there are plenty of exempt status categories ahead of the Q-school grads. On the Web.com Tour, there are few exempt categories to begin with. So Web.com players can probably continue to get into a few events even if they are shuffled down the ladder.

Of course the best way to not worry about the reshuffle is to play well. Hopefully that’s what Smith can do and he can not only keep his Web.com status but move up to the PGA Tour in 2014.