How the PGA Tour has become more fun and competitive by overhauling its designated events
PGA Tour solidified its new tournament structure on Wednesday, and yes, it is somewhat reminiscent of the structure created by LIV Golf.
The Tour has reduced the field size at certain events from 120-160 to 70-80 and has even eliminated the cutback at some of them (although this is not final yet). It also cleared the path for golfers to enter these specific tournaments and no longer obliges top players to participate in these tournaments but encourages them to do so through wallet size and FedEx Cup points earning opportunities.
Is it all good? Possibly, although it depends on your definition of the word. The entire vast infrastructure is one massive balancing act that is likely to be underestimated. The tour and its management try to keep the content of a few individual members, and often decisions that please one of these groups will annoy the other.
I’ll put it this way: The tour went all out with this plan. Not only did he try to move the league into the future, he did so by preserving all of its history. This is ambitious, and while part of the plan may not be what some people in this culture wanted “build me my own algorithm and make it as specific as possible to my desires”, the plan put forward seems to work.
Let’s dive into the PGA Tour decision.
1. It’s not just LIV 2.0: Several golfers who left the scene left the LIV last year and spent Wednesday playing the Tour, its players and fans, because the Tour, they claim, is simply recreating what the LIV set a year ago. The official LIV Golf account even grew at some point.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Congratulations PGA Tour. Welcome to the future.#LIVgolf
— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) March 1, 2023
In fact, the PGA Tour schedule for 2024 is markedly different from what the LIV has.
From one scheduled event to another, 15-20 golfers can be replaced. The tour said the top 50 participants in last year’s FedEx Cup race are the only golfers guaranteed a spot in certain events. From there, 15-25 seats are available to other players, 10 of which will be earned in this year’s FedEx Cup race and five in other events.
This is undoubtedly the best part of the whole system because it keeps the meritocracy of the game and the league. In addition, the projected annual churn is 40%. It is important. As Rory McIlroy remarkedif you’re a top player and don’t play well (like Ricky Fowler over the past few years), you won’t be playing top tournaments anymore. This is fundamentally different from LIV. Why? (1) LIV has no weekly churn. (2) LIV replaces only four out of 48 places (less than 10%) year after year, and even these places won’t turn down contract players (eg Brooks Kepka, Bryson DeChambeau).
2. Margins are reduced, cuts are not tied: Max Homa explained one of the reasons why only 70-80 golfers would participate in each scheduled event: if the course size was significantly larger, the courses at other events would be outrageously bad. (Did you watch the Honda Classic last week?) As Khoma further pointed out, poor pitches could cause some of these events to cease to exist.
The trade-off is assigned event fields with a size that makes it difficult to display the slicing line. It would just be awkward. There are also reasons for sponsorship.
“He keeps the stars there for four days,” he said. “You ask Mastercard or anyone to pay $20 million for a golf event, they want to see the stars at the weekend. They need a guarantee that the stars are there. So if that’s what’s supposed to happen, then that’s what’s happening. .”
This is where it gets a little bit – to use last year’s phrase – “get your cake and eat it too” for me. The tour bets on meritocracy, but at the same time panders to the commercialization of the sport. Again, it’s hard to please everyone.
Would it be so difficult to add 20 players to the course, bringing it down to 90-95 golfers, and on weekends reduce the number of players to 50 like at the Masters? This will create more consecutive shots on Thursday and Friday and develop a scenario in which the montage is more special and meaningful than before.
3. FedEx Cup is now up to date: It rolls in two ways. If you are one of the top 10 players who did not automatically qualify for certain tournaments (one of the top 50 players in last year’s FedEx Cup), then you are in that week’s scheduled tournament. Now that makes the FedEx Cup worth tracking in January and February. And this is a huge plus. Then, when it comes to the end of the season, all of a sudden getting into the top 50 so that you can automatically qualify for next year’s scheduled events, there will be massive an achievement that creates exciting storylines in the future.
4. “LIV did it”: Yes…but that doesn’t mean that LIV is glorified because of it. Here’s Rory from Wednesday: “Whether you like it or not, LIV may have taken advantage of some flaws in the structure of the tour and we’re trying to do something to fix that.”
The LIV is still a faction in the world of golf that threatens to disrupt an already niche audience to the point where commercialization of the professional game becomes unsustainable. This is a mutually exclusive reformatting of the PGA Tour that has been undertaken. While LIV may have spawned some of these changes, the changes themselves should be valued, not the entity that caused them.
Good explanation here.
I really, really like that there is a “local qualifier leading to the US Open” aspect of this structure. It’s really good, it’s pretty simple and clear how to get into big boy tournaments. pic.twitter.com/B5gGUxI1jV
— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) March 1, 2023
5. Warm Up Baby: The best aspect of the whole structure (and it’s not even close) is that a golfer can have a hot month and mix it up with big dogs in major tournaments. Now the Tour is a real pyramid. And while I wish the top of this pyramid was a little wider, I’m happy with the overall composition.
“You don’t have to wait a whole year for a good game to get an opportunity,” McIlroy said. “This opportunity presents itself immediately. You play well for two or three weeks, you participate in the appointed tournament. If you keep playing well, you stay in them.”
Touring with this rule may have really helped elevate unlabeled events, at least in terms of how sick people like me consume them, even more than the designated ones. Tour should also take it a step further. Open it so that Korn Ferry Tour players can participate in unscheduled events and then possibly scheduled events. It’s very close to the US Open ideal: “Hey, anyone can get to the top, just play a little better.” And that would make golf even more attractive.
6. Balancing: The hardest part of these changes is using meritocracy alongside business, especially when pure meritocracy may not be the best option for your business.
“At the end of the day, I think with all these scheduled events and this schedule of events, at the end of the day, we are selling the product to people,” McIlroy said. “The more clarity they have about this product and knowing what they are buying is really important. This is really important for the Tour. I think this solves that problem.”
It is true that the Tour is an entertainment product, unlike the big companies, and overall it has done a good job of keeping the entertainment and competition aspects at odds with each other. However, it will be an ongoing battle in the coming months, with every conceivable contender vying for a bigger piece of the $1.5 billion pie.
7. No longer mandatory: One interesting aspect that has been a bit overlooked is that the Tour no longer hosts special events. required for the best players. The company was able to make this change because it actually created a structure where the best players stimulated play these events.
While the Tour has yet to announce the revised FedEx Cup points structure, in a memo sent to players, Commissioner Jay Monahan noted that additional FedEx Cup points will be allocated for certain events. This eliminates the need golfers to play the worst events to beat less talented players and earn FedEx Cup points. As a result, this makes the entire FedEx Cup stronger.