The PGA Tour conducted a 90-minute meeting with players on Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla.—home of both this week’s Players Championship and tour HQ—to discuss the sweeping changes to the circuit’s 2024 schedule and structure approved by the Tour Policy Board last week.
In short, the tour is creating eight Designated Events with limited fields, no cuts and $20 million purses as a means to bring the top players together more often—and reward them more handsomely—while still providing opportunities for the rest of the membership.
The changes come at the end of a long debate among players about how best to respond to the arrival of LIV Golf without sacrificing the more competitive nature of the tour, a process that has at times been contentious. “I think the temperature in the room was nowhere near as hot as I anticipated it to be once the information was sort of laid out,” Rory McIlroy said in a post-meeting press session.
The source of dispute is the tour’s plan for limited access events, the initial version of which emerged from a players-only meeting in Delaware last summer and outlined a subset of 14 tournaments with 50 players, no cuts and $20 million purses. Rank-and-file tour members saw the development of a two-tiered system that undercut the tour’s claims to provide a superior product to LIV, whose 54-hole, no-cut events and guaranteed salaries have been portrayed as fostering less intensity and competitive integrity.
But the PGA Tour’s reworked plan, which was officially adopted last week, will give top 50 players access to eight no-cut events with $20 million purses and higher FedEx Cup points distributions. Those will join the four majors, the Players and the three FedEx Cup Playoff tournaments, to create a rota of 16 Designated Events. The eight elevated tournaments will have fields of 70 to 80 players and there will be ways for players outside the top 50 to play their way in.
The fields will include top-50 players from the previous year’s FedEx Cup points standings, the top-10 on the FedEx list at the time of the event, tournament winners, players in the top-30 of the world rankings not otherwise eligible and four sponsor invitations, limited to PGA Tour members. Another 29 full-field tournaments with a cut will fill out the schedule, providing playing opportunities and chances to move up in the rankings for all.
“So the structure that has been rolled out here is vastly different from the one that we all talked about and the guys saw in Delaware, and I think for the betterment of everyone,” McIlroy said. “I think if we had went down that road, it doesn’t serve the membership anywhere near as well as what this structure does.”
McIlroy and Commissioner Jay Monahan, who also sat with the media, argued that the new system also improves the prospects for the non-designated events since it will add a competitive impetus beyond simply winning that event. Those events will, in effect, be tickets into the truly big-money tournaments. At the same time, the plan achieves two of the tour’s priorities throughout the process: Having the top players face off more often and ensuring for sponsors—who will now be asked to write much bigger checks—and TV partners that the stars will be present for all four days of action.
At one point, Monahan was asked if the tour had capitulated to LIV’s structure. “Do you think we really look the same? Players will earn the right to compete in them. It’s what this organization has always stood for.”
He also noted that the current plan wasn’t that much of a departure. “The Tour has always had limited-field, no-cut, 72-hole stroke play events. Jack Nicklaus won 17, Arnold Palmer 23, Tiger Woods 26. The format did not diminish those accomplishments.” The irony, of course, is that since the 1980s, most of those no-cut events have been part of the World Golf Championships series, which was started as a way to undercut a new international tour spearheaded by none-other-than Greg Norman.
“Will this be perfect?” Monahan said. “Perhaps not. But we will listen, learn and adapt each year. One thing I can assure you that will not change is our commitment to give our fans reason to invest their time and their energy in the PGA Tour.”