PGA Tour’s differentiated schedule provides identity, context as product continues to move forward

Only two of the world’s top 30 players were at the 2023 Honda Classic last weekend. This is nothing compared to the previous two PGA Tour tournaments: Phoenix Open and Genesis Invitational. However, due to the new structure of the Tour, all three events had an identity as well as a coherent context that has often eluded the league and is perhaps why it is in its current position.

Let me explain.

Tournaments in Phoenix and Riviera were title fights. First, Scotty Scheffler, John Rahm and Nick Taylor battled it out all the way to TPC Scottsdale – the first two for a chance to add to their frontier historical resumes, and the last for a life-changing victory. The next week at the Riviera, Ram fought Max Homa and Keith Mitchell. Homa and Ram were aiming for their third win of the season (and the Player of the Year driver’s seat), while Mitchell was in contention for the biggest win of his life.

While Phoenix and Riviera were not significantly different in terms of field strength or perception from the year before, the Tour’s new mandate that all top players must play in the top 13 tournaments solidified both of these events as big weeks with big tickets.

The Honda Classic went to Chris Kirk, who hadn’t won in eight years, and Eric Cole, who finished 330th in the official world golf rankings. Hardly heavyweights, but they played in the context of something bigger than themselves. Regardless of the players, this is an extremely attractive golf course.

The PGA Tour has a uniformity issue. It understandably wants every event to be the same. He insists that his tournaments look the same for nearly 50 weeks of the year. This has huge (and quite obvious) problems. Somehow with humor the appearance of LIV Golf spurred the participants of the Tour (i.e. players) to try to solve them.

While it’s not explicit, the PGA Tour is now actually two tours: 13 elevated events and everything else. Sounds like something bad, but it actually contextualizes the entire league. This reality, although implied for now, does two very important things for the Tour.

Provides personality

One thing that the PGA Tour has sometimes lacked over the years is personality for its tournaments. Sometimes Justin Thomas won the Honda Classic. Sometimes Matt Jones did it. Do you know what Honda Classic is now? Launch pad for someone’s career. You might argue that this has always been the case, but the reality is that events like Honda have always been a mixed bag of big stars and others trying to make their way. Ironically (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), it seems that the complete removal of all stars – because they are required to play in many other tournaments – has helped Honda and similar tournaments.

This may not be universally true. Is this a good thing in the short term for the Tour’s TV deals and sponsorship partnerships? Probably no. The Honda Classic rankings aren’t going to be great, and Honda is leaving as a sponsor after this year anyway (perhaps because its field rankings have dropped off planet). However, in the long run, the Tour product gets better for the following reason.

Context is king

Do you know what is the most important asset of the PGA Tour? Major Championships. The main directions provide context for the PGA Tour and vice versa. In a sport as meritocratic as golf, context is everything, which is why the LIV hasn’t and probably won’t thrive as a golf league. Now you’re starting to see a real through line. The Korn Ferry Tour is associated with non-promotion events, which are associated with promotion events, which are associated with major championships. One provides context for the other. This is a good thing! Events at the height have the potential to be what everyone thought the Korn Ferry Tour could be.

Things are not ideal for the Tour. He must provide better clarity around how you go from a non-elevated event to an elevated event. This would give an even deeper context to tournaments like the Honda Classic. He needs to clear his field qualification categories. He needs to fix his FedEx Cup points to possibly reflect wallet sizes. It should detail how its events will work in unison with each other. It is probably necessary to draw a clearer line between non-elevated and elevated events.

Again, all of this has drawbacks in the short term. But in the long run, it’s a great way to create a better product, which seems to be the case. Whether this is due to the existence of LIV, or to Tour’s own steps, doesn’t really matter at this point. The important thing is that the fans (especially those who pay the most attention) are likely to benefit from an improvement in the overall product of the Tour.


Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker