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The PGA Tour and Its New Designated Events: Elitism for Big Business

Brilliant Jay Monahan, great timing! The LIV Golf League has just had a rather suboptimal start to the season , when the PGA Tour comes along in the middle of its ongoing program and announces innovations for 2024 that really deserve the label “Breaking News”: Reduced number of participants at the designated events, multiple Elimination of the cut, reduction of the Player Impact program. And promptly the waves beat high.

“Copy” of a copy?

The top poison splashes from LIV gratefully pick up the ball to distract from their own stumbling start. They etch back and scoff at a copy , but of course don’t mention that the construct itself is just a plagiarism – because Greg Norman stole the concept from the Premier Golf League. At the Arnold Palmer Invitational (API), on the other hand, the bombshell burst in the middle of the Pro-Am and caught many players on the wrong foot who had to do some research before expressing an opinion. Finally, the media roll over their heads in assessments, speaking out either about the attractiveness of the product and the laws of the market or, as apologists for equal rights, about the diversity of the playing field.


Waiting for the Players Championship?

What happened in Bay Hill was secondary at first. It’s a pity for this oh so important tournament in the machine room of the tour operation and for its organizers. As if the “Commish” couldn’t have waited another week: until the Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass’ own flagship tournament. But as it is, something so important just has the taste of only reacting to the Saudi bash that Monahan and Co. have been doing since the first tee driving since the first tee of the LIV league last June. Anyway, it seems haphazard, reflexive.

cacophony of courting attention

You can actually be divided on this. And lament that everything that was condemned at LIV is now being aped; Unknown that cannon starts, 54-hole distances to protect the valuable competitors and shorts may soon be introduced. The fact is:  The PGA Tour has to optimize its range of sponsors, television stations and fans in order to survive the competition that has been offered to it by the Saudis through the LIV Golf League, which is ammunition with two billion dollars. Anyone who knows an alternative is welcome to get in touch.

 It is an iron law: if you don’t keep up with the times, you will keep up with the times. The world of the 21st century feeds on focusing and polarization, on self-expression, staging, maximization. Mediocre offers get lost in this cacophony of wooing for attention. It’s bad enough that in many cases you don’t have to be able to do anything in order to want something, as the satirist Dieter Nuhr found out.

Bundle components correctly

Of course, the tour can do something. It has the stars, the tournaments, the advertising partners, worldwide television. It just has to bundle these components properly and compress its share to do so. It hasn’t done that for long enough – as a de facto monopolist – hasn’t bothered about the aura of its traditional tournaments, the sensitivities of its stars and the needs of the broad mass of players. Then LIV came along and hit Ponte Vedra Beach with the roar of “Golf. But louder” startled out of complacency and the administration of one’s own sluggishness. Competition stimulates business.

Even Rory McIlroy , the first paladin of the PGA Tour , has long since admitted this  when he speaks of triggering reforms that were long overdue and now says: “The LIV Golf League has exploited some weaknesses in the PGA Tour framework , and  we’re trying to fix that.”

concentration and maximization

Jay Monahan once said that a war cannot be won if it is based solely on monetary power. That was before Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy threw their weight on the scales – not entirely altruistically, of course – in a number of ways, saving their pressurized, back-to-the-wall “Commish” the A… for now.

So it’s upgraded: the crème de la crème of the active staff is concentrated on the piano nobile for special events and staged for four days. Or as Jordan Spieth puts it: “The best players in the world should appear at the same events as often and for as long as possible.” This guarantees the partners maximum density of stars throughout the entire event and the top players a loss of unpaid working hours and a bigger piece off the cake – without having to deal with any regular “extras” who overperform.

Two drivers of change on the PGA Tour: Commissioners Jay Monahan (left) and Rory McIlroy.  (Photo: Getty)
Two drivers of change on the PGA Tour: Commissioners Jay Monahan (left) and Rory McIlroy.

Adam Scott points to the big picture

It may be elitist thinking, but it is only logical, prospective, profitable for the PGA Tour and its protagonists. And necessary. Adam Scott, the newly elected chairman of the PAC (Player Advisory Council) advocates a broader perspective. “You have to see the big picture and target future negotiations with sponsors or broadcasters. With the changes in the Designated Events structure, the tour can guarantee its partners when and where the stars will play. In addition, everyone is still there at the weekend, which is prime time,” the Australian explains. “If we want to maintain the development of the prize money and think about growth overall, things can’t just stay the way they are.”

There is little scope for pluralism

First and foremost, all of this is not about an answer to LIV . It’s about the fact that sport at such a high level is big business. And that – loosely based on Goethe – everything pushes towards money, depends on money. There is little scope for pluralism. This may be a painful reminder for some, but it remains an irrefutable, occasionally bitter realization.

Likewise, it once again brings to light the ambivalence of the PGA Tour , which walks the fine line between profit and non-profit. Colleague Eamon Lynch addressed this at “Golfweek”: “The PGA Tour has always been hostage to its members. Each Commissioner has one mandate above all that lacks ambition and discretion: to create gaming opportunities for members. This outdated policy is a recipe for watering down a product, not boosting business.”

“Whoever plays good golf is rewarded”

The criticism of this intensification of the caste thinking in professional golf is as expected, which was already addressed at this point last week and has now been expanded to include a kind of elite league and relegation system. Key word: Even more prosperity for the already wealthy. Or loss of the invigorating element David against Goliath when outsiders stand up to the established. But there is no “law of inheritance” on the PGA Tour. Nor does economic well-being depend on Greg Norman’s arbitrary invitation. The logic of the performance principle still counts.

Even those potentially affected recognize this. The likes of Chris Kirk and Eric Cole, who were once backbenchers for different reasons, have now qualified for the API series at Bay Hill with their performance at the Honda Classic. “Apparently they give people who play really well the opportunity to take part in these events. I think that’s good,” affirms Kirk. And Cole puts it in a nutshell: “If you play good golf, you will be rewarded for it.”

The cut as a motivating element

One cannot help but think of US pro Sihwan Kim, who finished last at the LIV opening in Mayakoba with 23 over par and still raked in $120,000. However, the comparison also raises the question of why someone should put in a lot of effort on the PGA Tour next year, even though there is no threat of a cut – which Eddie Pepperell sees as an extremely motivating element – ​​and even 78th place still guarantees merit? The answer of a cynic with a partisan ideology would be that all the lobbyists of the unprofitable wages have long defected to LIV .https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgolfmagic%2Fposts%2Fpfbid033SyMhmsJ4szpvmpVstAjkrmBG1aLSQ8sYfNZ3bjm3db7uuqasUxVFr3a9U55CSeTl&show_text=true&width=500

PIP as an admission criterion is passé

A realistic reply, however, is the indication that there is ultimately no grandfathering. Anyone who succeeds in the FedEx Cup ranking or is at the top of the regular tournaments placed in a new distribution between the designated events will also get something from the new cream cakes in the tour display. It is fitting that the unspeakable criterion of placement in the Player Impact Program as an admission requirement has apparently been abolished.

In the end, everything depends on how the (completely) renewed tour proves itself in practice. The establishment faces the challenge of keeping its jeunesse dorée together while creating legitimate avenues ‘up’. And in the obligation to use the freed PIP money sensibly to make this path easier for the foot soldiers among its members.

Source: Golf Post