The PGA Tour may be in position to have its schedule release closely scrutinized each year, like that of the NFL’s — if on a scaled-down level. The organization announced yesterday a revamped approach to its 2024 slate of matches, featuring what it calls a “Designated Event Model.”
“[E]ight select designated events in 2024 will consist of 70 to 80 players and won’t have a cut,” Golf.com reported. “This year, except for the Sentry Tournament of Champion [sic] and playoff events, all non-major designated events are full-field tournaments. With the new change, fields will be comprised of the top 50 players from the previous year’s FedEx Cup Points List and the top 10, not otherwise eligible, from the current year’s list.”
Opinions were plentiful.
In the minds of some, the argument against such a schedule — which theoretically will pit the world’s top players against one another more frequently on Sundays — is the same one would make against the Super League in European soccer. The best players on the PGA Tour, who are already earning the most money, will get to compete against each other for the chance to earn even more money. The rest of the field? They won’t have the same opportunities to knock the top players off, and will just play against one another more often, arguably limiting their growth.
The rich get richer; the poor get poorer — relatively speaking.
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Josh Berhow, managing editor of Golf.com, said: “[T]his just seems like we are awarding the top players even more and hurting the overall product.” He noted that sentiment was echoed on social media, and it was.
“The changes to the PGA Tour schedule make the ‘Designated Events’ feel less like tournaments and more like celebrations of golf,” tweeted @MidwestGolfGuy. “The limited field, no-cut events ensure our favorites are in the mix on Sunday but also guarantee a lot of lackluster golf to be played on the weekend.”
“Horrible decision,” wrote @MurphyTitleist. “Allow the top 150. In all of sports, the little man making it big is a winner. March madness, etc. give Rocky a shot. PGA is better than this.”
But the schedule change did have its advocates, and a clear “loudest voice in the room” emerged in Max Homa, the world’s eighth-ranked golfer, who happens to sit on the Player Advisory Council, which helped generate the new schedule.
“I could rant on this for a while,” he said during a press conference at the Arnold Palmer Invitational — and he did.
“I love the new changes,” Homa said, during a four-minute, uninterrupted speech. “The product is important. I think it’s easy to frame these changes as a way to put more money in the top players’ pockets. But it has been made to make it easier and more fun for the fans. I know it’s low-hanging fruit to jump on, Oh, this is just a money grab. This is to make it better for the fans. It is a guarantee on who will be at events and leaning more on the more there.”
(Again, this is precisely what Super League supporters have said.)
Homa recalled only seeing a couple of instances where Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the two best golfers from his youth, went shot-for-shot on a Sunday at a PGA Tour event. He also said he understood criticisms of the format, admitting that the “meritocracy” of the sport within the Tour may suffer. But he is hopeful the approach might also help golfers ranked beyond the top 80 or so. “The non-designated events are the same purses with, on paper, weaker fields,” he said. “There’s a lot of room for growth throughout that. You can play your way into the designated events.”
(The proposed Super League would have a few open slots for club promotion, too.)
Some fans agreed with Homa’s take. At least one observed the 800-pound gorilla in the room as well: “As a PGA tour fan for 20+ years, I’m good with the changes announced,” tweeted @Zagbill78. “LIV forced their hand, they had to do something, this might not be the 100% solution but let’s enjoy the [golf] and find out!”
LIV Golf might not last two more years, but its impact on the sport will likely be felt indefinitely.
People are already talking quite a bit about just its schedule.