JACKSON, Miss. – There’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding the PGA Tour’s fall series schedule beginning next season. Yet for Steve Jent, the Sanderson Farms Championship executive director, he’s comfortable with his tournament’s position.
Although the Tour’s best players have agreed to play against one another in at least 20 events between January and August starting in 2024, the Tour’s nine official fall events are about to receive a demotion, beginning in 2023.
The top 70 in the FedEx Cup regular season points race will qualify for the playoffs and retain their cards for the next season. Nos. 71-125? They will battle during the fall to retain playing privileges in what will essentially become eligibility events. Without FedEx Cup points at stake or any punishment for not playing during the fall, the top players have been given the option of an extended vacation from September through December.
That means the fields in the fall likely won’t have as many top stars. It could be something that pushes title sponsors away. The interest in the events may not be as high for the fans, yet for the players, they’ll be some of the most important events of the year.
There has even been some concerns from players about the events and what the future will look like. But Jent is enthusiastic about the future.
“We like being in the fall,” Jent said. “I mean, obviously, we’re always gonna go up against football in the fall, but the fall is the perfect time of year for this golf course with the weather, this community.”
This year’s field is the strongest the Sanderson Farms Championship has ever had, Jent said. Sam Burns, the defending champion, has headlined the field, but former major winner Gary Woodland and 2021 United States Ryder Cup member Harris English were also in town. Scottie Scheffler was in the field last year, too.
“I have 144 of the best players in the world here this week. Right? And the best golf in the world is taking place in Jackson, Mississippi,” Jent said. “So we’re just going to focus on that. Be proud of that. Every year, our field has gotten better. It’s just it’s a great time of year for us and our community.
“I honestly think the fall is gonna keep getting better. I mean, we’ve all done a great job in the fall of making the events awesome.”
Jent said the Sanderson Farms Championship will remain popular because a win can do a lot for players, like earn exemptions into the Masters and the Tournament of Champions.
The growth of the LIV Golf has also raised questions as to whether certain events may jump ship from the Tour, but Jent said his tournament is committed to the Tour and had had no conversations with the Greg Norman-led, Saudi Arabia-backed series.
The Sanderson Farms Championship, like other PGA Tour events, has changed names and venues over the years, but has been a part of the PGA Tour schedule since 1968. It moved back to The Country Club of Jackson in the fall of 2014. In the past, it was played as an opposite-field event and eventually moved to the fall.
The purse is up $900,000 this time, matching a trend of other PGA events to get boosted money.
Numerous changes are coming to future Tour schedules, but Jent is comfortable with the position of the Sanderson Farms Championship now and into the future.
“Don’t get me wrong, would I love to have some of the top names come here? Yes. And they’ve been here,” Jent said. “There’s 47 events on PGA Tour. No one can play them all. All we can do is, great golf course, treat people well, great food, put on a great event. I love our spot.”