The PGA Tour’s unveiling of plans to introduce eight limited field events with no cuts on next season’s schedule have been met with derision by players currently competing on the LIV Golf circuit which was widely condemned for introducing similar formats.
The 2024 PGA Tour season will feature eight ‘designated events’ that will have fields of 70-78 players competing for boosted prize funds and FedExCup points. These events also will not have a 36-hole cut, guaranteeing that all of the top players will be competing in all four rounds.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced the changes in a letter to Tour membership, in which he wrote: “These smaller, designated event fields will not only deliver substantial, can’t-miss tournaments to our fans at important intervals throughout the season, but they will also enhance the quality of full-field events. Together, this approach provides a schedule that is cohesive, compelling, consequential and with clarity for fans, players and sponsors alike.”
Several of the designated events, such as the three FedExCup Playoffs events and the Sentry Tournament of Champions, already operated without a cut.
The 2023 PGA Tour schedule currently features 12 designated events that have boosted prize funds, which the tour’s top 20 players are compelled to compete in as part of their commitment to the tour. Next year there will be no mandatory participation regulations for the Designated events, although it is expected that the opportunity to win more prize money and FedExCup points, and the strength of the fields, will incentivise the tour’s leading players to take part.
The eight designated events will be made of players who finished in the top 50 in the previous year’s FedExCup standings, as well as 10 players from the current standings not previously eligible, five players who have earned the most FedEx points from non-designated events, current year tournament winners, any players currently inside the world’s top 30, and up to four sponsor’s exemptions drawn from the PGA Tour’s membership.
The Tour said that revised schedule will allow top performers the flexibility to participate in both Designated and Full-Field events, while Full-Field events will become ‘more consequential’ as they allow new and upcoming PGA Tour players to play their way into the Designated events.
“Over the last year, we have spent a massive amount of time exploring how to better position the PGA TOUR for continued growth,” Monahan said. “How to innovate and deliver a better product. How to further showcase our top performers, while staying true to the meritocracy and legacy that define the Tour. How to create a season of consequence that deepens and expands fan interest. How to make every tournament better and deliver more value to sponsors, media partners and host organizations – to the benefit of the entire membership.”
Among other changes announced for 2024, the Player Impact Program, which rewards players for fan engagement, will be reduced to $50 million paid to the top 10 players, as opposed to $100 million to the top 20 as it was in 2022.
LIV Golf players were among those quick to point out the perceived similarity between the PGA Tour’s changes and the competition format currently in place on the LIV Golf League. Ian Poulter wrote on Twitter: “Sounds very similar to another product that’s been spoken so badly about by media and commentator’ while the official LIV Twitter account commented: “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Congratulations PGA Tour. Welcome to the future.”
LIV player Lee Westwood also weighed in with his thoughts on Twitter. “I’ve spent the last year reading how good full fields and cuts are!” Then, in reference to the strategic alliance between the PGA and DP World Tours, hinting that it favours the US-based circuit, the posted: “So.. Do away with the WGCs. Load the OWGR in your favour. Create 10 limited field events for just PGA tour members, like WGCs. Add to that 4 majors, Players, FedEx Cup. That’s a full schedule for a top player. That’s growing the game. What Strategic Alliance?”
Rory McIlroy defended the PGA Tour’s move saying: “There have been no-cut events since I’ve been a member of the Tour and way beyond that as well. Is there going to be a few more of them? Maybe. It keeps the stars there for four days. You ask Mastercard or whoever it is to pay $20m for a golf event, they want to see the stars at the weekend. They want a guarantee the stars are there. At the end of the day we’re selling a product to people. The more clarity they have on that product and knowing what they’re buying is really important.”
PGA Tour player Max Homa, the world No 8, said that LIV Golf has partly shaped the direction of the PGA Tour. “It does seem like the emergence of LIV forced us as players and the executives of the PGA Tour to look at their product. I don’t think we would be here this soon without LIV, but I would hope at some point we would have looked at this and said, hey, there might be a better way to do it.”