The PGA Tour is moving toward an elite schedule in 2024 with 16 designated events – half of them with no more than 80-man fields and no cuts – along with a chance for players on the outside to play their way in.
Still to be finalised are which events get the $30 million prize funds and details for how players can earn a spot in the field.
Players were apprised of the changes in a memo from PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan in which he wrote, “there is no doubt in my mind that we made decisions that will transform and set the future.”
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the memo, which also indicated the Player Impact Program bonus pool will be cut in half to $75 million to 10 players (instead of 20 players), with the other $75 million going to bonus pools for the FedEx Cup and the Comcast Business Tour Top 10 for leading players in the regular season.
The part likely to cause the biggest divide among players is the no-cut policy for the designated events (except for the four majors and The Players Championship). One criticism of Saudi-funded LIV Golf has been its 54-hole events do not have a cut.
Eight of the 16 designated events – the exceptions are the majors, The Players and three FedEx Cup playoff events – are guaranteed to have the best players for the entire week.
Monahan had said at the start of the year at Kapalua that he thought a cut “is an important element to this tour” and he felt it was “absolutely an important consideration.”
Rory McIlroy, the primary voice in player meetings geared toward reshaping the PGA Tour’s future, said precedent has been set for no-cut events such as the former World Golf Championships and events like the CJ Cup and Zozo Championship.
“The only reason no-cut events are a big deal is because LIV has come along,” McIlroy said.
“So there is precedent for no-cut events. Is there maybe going to be a few more of them? Maybe … you ask Mastercard or whoever it is to pay $30 million for a golf event, they want to see the stars at the weekend. They want a guarantee that the stars are there.
“So if that’s what needs to happen, then that’s what happens.”
Ian Poulter immediately took to Twitter with a George Bernard Shaw quote: “Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.”
“I think in general if a company or a product doesn’t have competition the incentive to innovate is low,” said Patrick Cantlay, who serves on the PGA Tour board.
“So now with competition it makes everyone want to look inside to see how they could make their product better, how they could do things better. I think the tour has done that.”
The elite events would comprise the top 50 from the FedEx Cup the previous year, 10 players who performed the best in the early part of 2024, five leading players in points from standard tournaments, players who win PGA Tour events that year and four sponsor exemptions.
They also will take anyone from the top 30 in the world if they are not already eligible.
Monahan also said the elevated events would be spread out to avoid situations like the Honda Classic, which had two elevated events both before and after its tournament. The Honda had only three players from the top 25 in the world.
The tour is promoting the idea that by having smaller fields for elite events – no more than 80, compared with 120 players at Bay Hill and two weeks ago at Riviera – it would strengthen the tournaments that don’t have $30 million purses because those players would need somewhere to compete.
“If we made these fields very large in these designated events it would ruin non-designated events that have been staples of the PGA Tour,” said Max Homa, who is part of the Player Advisory Council that advised on changes.
“No one would play in half of them because it would no longer fit your schedule by any means.”
One aspect the tour is promoting is that by not having $30 million events toward the end of the season, more players will be playing tournaments to make sure they get into the top 70 to qualify for the postseason, and then the top 50 to assure being in all the big events the following year.
Monahan has scheduled a players meeting at The Players Championship next week to discuss any changes. For now, it has the look of a tour divided between the top players and everyone else.
At The Players Championship last year, Monahan boldly said the PGA Tour had momentum and wasn’t about to be distracted by rumours of a rival league.
LIV Golf began three months later with players like Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, and other major champions from the last five years soon followed.
“It does seem like the emergence of LIV forced us as players and the executives of the PGA Tour to just look at their product,” Homa said.
“They (LIV) got to make something from scratch, which is a lot easier than us building something that has been around for so long that’s been on the shoulders of someone like Arnold Palmer, who has built a lot of what we do today.”