The Washington Post
PGA Tour eyes smaller, no-cut events
Rory Mcilroy and other top PGA Tour players spoke out this week in favor of dramatic changes the tour plans to enact next year, including a number of smaller-field events without a 36-hole cut.
“It makes the tour more competitive,” said Mcilroy, who enters the week at No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“It’s trying to get the top guys versus the hot guys,” he added. “I think that creates a really compelling product.”
In a letter sent Wednesday to PGA Tour members and obtained by The Washington Post, Commissioner Jay Monahan shared an agenda agreed upon at a policy board meeting the night before that he said “will transform and set the future direction” of the tour.
The 2024 tour schedule will include eight “designated events,” Monahan wrote, that feature fields of 70 to 80 players who can play all four rounds because there will not be any cuts. To ensure the fields will be studded with elite names, there will be eligibility parameters that emphasize the upper portions of both the Fedex Cup points list and the world rankings. Others can also play their way into the eight events by winning or earning a large amount of Fedex Cup points in the standard events. In addition, there will be four sponsor exemptions available.
Mcilroy, eighth-ranked Max Homa and world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler, each speaking Wednesday in Orlando at the site of this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, pointed to the paths arranged for nonelite players.
“I want to give everyone a fair shake at this, which I think this structure has done,” Mcilroy said. “You play well for two or three weeks, you’re in a designated event. Then if you keep playing well, you stay in them.”
“You’ve got to earn your way still out here on tour,” Scheffler said. “There’s plenty of avenues for guys to earn their way into those tournaments, whether it’s this year or next year. . . . We’re still going to reward good golf.”
Homa noted that in looking at his phone for reaction before his news conference, he “saw quite a bit of frustration, some from players, some from fans, that the fields are small.” He said that the structure would benefit other tour stops.
“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,” Homa said. “No one would play in half of them because it would no longer fit your schedule by any means.”
The three golfers, who are all members of the tour’s Player Advisory Council that had input on the new agenda, also acknowledged that the changes were made with an eye toward boosting the visibility and participation on weekends featuring players with the most star power.
Homa said that while growing up, he saw Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson only have “maybe two real battles” down the stretch of a PGA Tour event, adding that the changes promise “more of that.”
It is “not a good look” for the tour, Homa said, that “the only time you’ll see the best players in the world teeing it up against each other is the Players [Championship] and the majors.”
The tournament this week at Bay Hill is one of 17 “elevated” events the tour set last year for this season. Those events, which include the four majors, the three Fedex Cup playoff events and the Players Championship, feature notably massive purses and the expected participation of top players.
As such, the PGA Tour has already created something of a divide between events to which it has added significant cachet and those it has not. The idea behind the elevated events came in the wake of LIV Golf ’s emergence. The Saudi Arabia-backed venture rocked the golf world last year when it pilfered several of the sport’s biggest names while guaranteeing huge paydays.
Two of the PGA Tour’s most significant changes — smaller fields (48 in the case of LIV) and a lack of a 36-hole cut — were hardly lost on LIV Golf, which tweeted Wednesday from its official account: “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Congratulations PGA Tour. Welcome to the future.”
Two veteran British stars who defected to LIV, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, also chimed in with pointed comments.
“Sounds somewhat familiar,” Poulter tweeted. “Now I can’t wait to hear all the back tracking of comments from the last 7 months.”
“I’ve spent the last year reading how good full fields and cuts are!” Westwood tweeted.
Mcilroy pushed back Wednesday on the notion that his organization was aping LIV by eliminating cuts from some tournaments. He pointed out that the PGA Tour already has “precedent” for that format, having installed it in a few of its tournaments, including World Golf Championships events, the FedEx Cup playoffs, the CJ Cup and the Zozo Championship.
“The only reason no-cut events are now a big deal is because LIV has come along,” Mcilroy said. “. . . Is there maybe going to be a few more of them? Maybe.”
Monahan’s letter noted that the three playoff tournaments, the Players Championship and the four majors would be considered designated events, as well, for a total of 16. There still will be 36-hole cuts at the majors and the Players.