Good Or Bad? Verdict On The PGA Tour Designated Event Changes
The controversial PGA Tour changes for 2024 that will see more no-cut, limited-field events have divided the golfing world this month.
Many of the PGA Tour's best love the idea while the consensus among fans on social media seems to be that the tour is copying LIV Golf and allowing a 'money grab' move from its players, who now hold leverage over the tour with the potential of huge fees on offer with LIV if they defect.
Rory McIlroy was key in implementing the changes and he has said that there are "some angry players" after the changes were confirmed, but also admitted that they've been made to keep the star players in tournaments for all four days to keep sponsors happy. Max Homa also went on a passionate rant in defence of the changes.
Criticism has come from LIV players like Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Richard Bland, while the PGA Tour's own James Hahn has been incredibly critical on social media.
So, what do we think of the changes? Two Golf Monthly writers have their say...
Is this all just a big overreaction? I think it might just be.
I completely get the criticism that has been fired at the PGA Tour for the changes that have been announced. No-cuts and limited-fields certainly do make it seem like the organization is copying LIV Golf.
But as many players in favor of the changes have rightly pointed out, no-cut, limited-field events are nothing new on the PGA Tour. We've had the CJ Cup and Zozo Championship for a few years now, both great events, as well as the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the World Golf Championships.
The WGCs are essentially gone, and these new designated events are basically just eight WGCs. That's not really a terrible thing.
I thought this year's schedule was looking really good with the designated events. Knowing that we'd see the PGA Tour's best compete against each other was a good response from the Tour to the LIV Golf threat, but the week of the Honda Classic was a big one and showed that something needed to change.
It was sandwiched in-between two designated events and it was painful to see the stark contrasts between it and the Phoenix Open and Arnold Palmer Invitational that it sat between. Next year, events like the Honda will come in threes - to reduce the impact of being dwarfed and sandwiched in-between much bigger events, and they will have cuts and big implications for those who aren't in the designated events. This is certainly an improvement on the current schedule.
It has confirmed the PGA Tour as a two-tiered tour, but I don't think that's a bad thing and it is essentially that this year anyway. The full-field events with a 36-hole cut will likely never attract the fields of the biggest events but it is what it is. No elite professional tour can truly boast that all of its events are of equal quality and I'm not sure fans would really want that, either. There will still be great storylines from these full-field events and big rewards to be had.
Players will have to play their way into the big tournaments, which is a storyline that I think will maybe add something to the full-field events. They can be life-changing. Yes, most of the world's best will continue to be in them year-in, year-out, but they can certainly play themselves out of them. Form in golf can go quite quickly as we've seen countless times in the past. Justin Rose, for example, was World No.1 four years ago but was 84th in January. Complacency, or a just a loss of form, will mean that the big names can still fall out. And if players moan that they're not in them, they simply need to play better. And hopefully this will motivate many youngsters, journeymen and middle-men to do just that.
And we'll never see the unknown player at the top of the leaderboard again? We will. They can play their way into the events by playing well in the full-field events. Kurt Kitayama might have been described as one of these, as a fairy-tale, relatively unknown winner breaking out. He was 45th in the world leading up the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which shows that outside of the top 30 or 40, there are plenty of lesser-known players ready to break into the winner's circle on the big stage. We'll still see that.
It's obviously never going to be a perfect system, but when it comes to it, I think next year's events will still be great. We'll have McIlroy, Rahm and co. competing against each other more often and if they're near the bottom instead of missing the cut, who really cares? Fans on-site will benefit from seeing them out early on weekends but fans at home will mainly care about the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
The main negative from these changes for me is the seeming lack of consideration for the DP World Tour. The designated events won't be inviting the top, say, 20 on the Race to Dubai and I'd love to see some of the world's best playing in Europe a little more. Europe has won nine of the last 13 Ryder Cups, has a brilliant tour and some of the world's best courses.
Let's see future designated events come in the form of the BMW PGA Championship, Scottish, Irish, French and Spanish Opens and the Dubai Desert Classic and Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, too.
When I first heard about the PGA Tour changes last week, I was pretty unhappy. Now I’ve had a few more days to consider them, I still feel the same.
I concede that elements of the new plan make some sense, but I can’t get my head around the no-cut element and I find the growing influence of TV companies and sponsors rather distasteful.
Let’s call a spade a spade: these tournaments are in place so more money is shared between fewer players and the stars get a bigger chunk of the pie. It’s not about motivating the mid-tier players to up their games; it’s about those who attract the fans receiving what they perceive they’re worth.
This is a reality of modern sport, I understand – in the NFL, NBA and MLB, precedent is key when it comes to defining value, and LIV’s emergence has forced a similar review in the realm of professional golf. That’s all well and good if it doesn’t harm the product, but I believe it does.
For me, one of the best things about professional golf is a lesser-light winning an event with a star-studded field – see Shaun Micheel, Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis and others.
You may argue Kurt Kitayama did exactly that at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but he was a top-50 player in the world before the event. Only offering a maximum of 15 spots to players who didn’t finish inside the top 50 of the previous season’s FedExCup (plus tournament winners) is limiting potential for these amazing storylines.
Plus, once you’re in the top 50 and competing in the events with the highest FedExCup points, you’re in a great position to finish top-50 again. I don’t see how this keeps things fresh. Surely we want a mix of top players and journeymen to provide the best spectacle?
Reducing field sizes only reduces the potential for great stories. What’s more, the non-elevated events will be weaker – see the recent Honda Classic – and I have very real concerns about being forced to watch a ‘star’ who’s 15 shots off the lead over the weekend, instead of a mini-series qualifier who’s in the thick of contention.
And don’t even get me started on what this does for the DP World Tour, despite a supposed strategic alliance between the European circuit and its heavyweight American counterpart.