What should PGA Tour's future designated fields look like? Here's a suggestion

As the PGA Tour works to improve its product, the 2022-23 season is serving as, in Tiger Woods' own words, a "big transition year."

One noteworthy change, the designation of 13 elevated – or designated – events with $20 million average purses to run alongside the majors, has already been implemented on the fly. In order for a player to receive his full Player Impact Program bonus this season, should he earn one, he is required to play in all but one of the designated events.

This past week's Genesis Invitational, the second full-field designated tournament of the year, welcomed all but one of the top 50 eligible players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Woods also competed, and he played the weekend in front of sellout crowds who later got to witness the hottest player in golf, Jon Rahm, take down local favorite Max Homa in an exciting final-round dual.

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"We're all working to make this Tour and our product the best we possibly can," Woods said Sunday. "To have all the top players come and play these elevated events, or designated events, is very important for our commissioner and for our Tour to be able to sell to all the sponsors going forward. So far, this year's been extremely positive, but we just need to keep the momentum going in that regard.

"This is a big transition year into '24. Twenty-four's going to be a completely different schedule, but it's about the commitment of the players to this type of idea and this type of philosophy going forward, and so far it's been fantastic."

Complete details of next year's revamp are unknown, including how big the fields will be for the designated events and who will fill those fields.

Here is an idea for how to prioritize who qualifies for a designated event, so that the best players in the world are eligible but also so that it's not a closed shop and players in top form, regardless of star power, have the opportunity to compete:

(Oh, and let's assume that LIV members are still banned.)

Field sizes: 78 players, with a cut to the top 50 and ties. Once you reach triple-digits, the fields start to feel more like what we already have with the invitationals and bigger events. The old WGCs were 72 players, so this isn't much more than that. The difference, though, is you still have a cut to keep integrity, and sending about a third of the field home after 36 holes (or maybe it's even 54) seems like a good number. If it's good enough for the Masters...

1. No. 1 in previous season's Player Impact Program: If Tiger Woods wants to play and is physically able to, he's in. End of story. Same goes for future top needle movers.

2. Five-year exemptions for winners of majors, The Players, FedExCup: This isn't much of a change from what the Tour already does. This is your Rahms and Rorys and Schefflers.

3. Three-year exemptions for winners of designated events: Similar to how the Tour awards three-year exemptions for its invitational champions, winners of designated events would secure their places in future designated tournaments for the next three seasons.

4. Two-year exemptions for winners of other PGA Tour events: Want to play for $20 million purses? Win a non-designated event and you're in all the designated events for the next two seasons. Sure, the Masters invite is the greatest perk, but this one wouldn't be too far off.

5. Recent participants in Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup: Another category that should remain unchanged. Making one of these teams means something. By the way, remember back in the day when the entire U.S. Walker Cup team was invited to play the Masters?

6. Top 50 in previous season’s FedExCup standings: This is down from 125 players. It could've been 70 players to reflect how many players will now make the FedExCup Playoffs, but if we're keeping these designated fields smaller, 50 seems like the better number. That would create even more drama at the first playoff event to see which 50 guys make the BMW Championship AND punch their tickets into the designated events.

7. Top 50 in Official World Golf Ranking (cutoff prior to preceding event): Before he jumped to LIV, Thomas Pieters took to social media to complain about not receiving an invite into the Genesis. Pieters was ranked No. 34 in the OWGR. With this category, the best non-PGA Tour members would have the option to tee it up for big money.

8. Top 3 finishers among top 10 and ties from previous week's event not already exempt: While we just had back-to-back designated events, it's unlikely that will happen as we move into next year. So, this serves as another opportunity for players to play their way into designated events through non-designated events. This will further raise the stakes at such tournaments and potentially provide a storyline of a player who gets hot and changes his career in the span of a couple weeks. And since it's probably unfair to invite top current KFT guys straight to designated events, why not have a handful get called up for the other tournaments and challenge them to earn their designated starts that way?

9. Reigning Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year: With the designated events creating even further division between the Rorys of the world and the KFT pros, I still think the best player on the KFT needs to be rewarded. It's not always a future star, but in the past few years we've seen Scheffler and Sungjae Im lift that trophy, plus reigning POY Justin Suh was a four-time All-American at USC before injuries caused his pro career to get off to a slow start.

10. Top rookie in current season’s FedExCup standings (cutoff prior to preceding event): If the KFT POY isn't playing well in his rookie campaign (or isn't a rookie), this ensures the hottest young player gets every opportunity to thrust himself into stardom.

11. Sponsor exemptions: The Genesis offers up an invite via the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption and another to the winner of the Collegiate Showcase. That's fine. But tournament directors shouldn't have more than three in a 78-player field. And it would be even better if designated tournaments held Monday qualifiers for their sponsor invites, or offered them to top amateurs or developmental tour players (think Ludvig Aberg or Pierceson Coody).

12. Fill field based on current season’s FedExCup standings (cutoff prior to preceding event): If there are open spots, which there should be a few, they should go to the Tour members playing the best at the current moment.

So, now that we have our exemption categories, let's do a sample run. Using the Genesis Invitational as an example, here's a look at what last week's field would've looked like had the above criteria been used (OWGR prior to Genesis in parentheses):

1. No. 1 in previous season's Player Impact Program (1 player)

  • Tiger Woods (1,294)

2. Five-year exemptions for winners of majors, The Players, FedExCup (12 players)

  • Scottie Scheffler (1)

  • Rory McIlroy (2)

  • Jon Rahm (3)

  • Patrick Cantlay (5)

  • Justin Thomas (7)

  • Collin Morikawa (9)

  • Matt Fitzpatrick (10)

  • Hideki Matsuyama (20)

  • Shane Lowry (22)

  • Gary Woodland (111)

  • Francesco Molinari (146)

  • Webb Simpson (157)

3. Three-year exemptions for winners of designated events - using this year's designated events as a guide (9 players)

  • Xander Schauffele (6)

  • Will Zalatoris (8)

  • Max Homa (12)

  • Tony Finau (13)

  • Billy Horschel (19)

  • Tyrrell Hatton (24)

  • Adam Scott (35)

  • Harris English (90)

  • Stewart Cink (175)

4. Two-year exemptions for winners of other PGA Tour events (18 players)

  • Sam Burns (14)

  • Tom Kim (15)

  • Jordan Spieth (16)

  • Keegan Bradley (21)

  • Seamus Power (28)

  • Sepp Straka (30)

  • Russell Henley (32)

  • Justin Rose (36)

  • K.H. Lee (39)

  • Si Woo Kim (42)

  • J.T. Poston (50)

  • Mac Hughes (53)

  • J.J. Spaun (67)

  • Adam Svensson (69)

  • Trey Mullinax (102)

  • Chez Reavie (135)

  • Chad Ramey (218)

  • Ryan Brehm (413)

5. Recent participants in Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup (8 players)

  • Viktor Hovland (11)

  • Cameron Young (17)

  • Sungjae Im (18)

  • Tommy Fleetwood (26)

  • Corey Conners (37)

  • Kevin Kisner (38)

  • Christiaan Bezuidenhout (77)

  • Cam Davis (94)

6. Top 50 in previous season’s FedExCup standings (13 players)

  • Brian Harman (25)

  • Tom Hoge (31)

  • Sahith Theegala (33)

  • Aaron Wise (40)

  • Kurt Kitayama (44)

  • Lucas Herbert (45)

  • Scott Stallings (55)

  • Keith Mitchell (56)

  • Andrew Putnam (64)

  • Maverick McNealy (66)

  • Denny McCarthy (71)

  • Davis Riley (74)

  • Lucas Glover (118)

7. Top 50 in Official World Golf Ranking (cutoff prior to preceding event) (4 players)

  • Ryan Fox (29)

  • Thomas Pieters (34)

  • Alex Noren (41)

  • Min Woo Lee (47)

8. Top 3 finishers among top 10 and ties from previous week's event not already exempt (3 players)

  • Jason Day (57)

  • Nick Taylor (73)

  • Rickie Fowler (80)

9. Reigning Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year (1 player)

  • Justin Suh (121)

10. Top rookie in current season’s FedExCup standings (cutoff prior to preceding event) (1 player)

  • Taylor Montgomery (54)

11. Sponsor exemptions (3 players)

  • Adrian Meronk (52)

  • Marcus Byrd (NR)

  • Jack Wall (NR)

12. Fill field based on current season’s FedExCup standings (cutoff prior to preceding event) (5 players)

  • Thomas Detry (88)

  • Hayden Buckley (104)

  • Brendon Todd (81)

  • Davis Thompson (61)

  • Joel Dahmen (93)


  • Matt NeSmith (109)

  • Ben Taylor (115)

  • Alex Smalley (100)

  • Patrick Rodgers (136)

  • Danny Willett (107)

  • Ben Griffin (101)

With this model, this past week's Genesis would have left out just two of the top 75 players in the OWGR (excluding the LIV guys) – No. 59 Victor Perez and No. 68 Daniel Berger. And conversely, just 14 players outside the top 100 would be in, or roughly less than a fifth of the 78-player field.

Does this squeeze out some players? Yes. But it also creates a better product that solves the Tour's current over-saturation problem where most weeks sort of run together.

There are the events for the world's best, which, by the way, are still open for anyone to play their way into.

And there are the events for everyone else, which, by the way, will likely benefit because of those bigger tournaments.

At least one top player would agree.

"The best players should be playing in [the designated events] because ultimately the PGA Tour needs to be built around the best players because that's what will maximize the value of the product," McIlroy said last Wednesday. "But that doesn't mean that there's not great storylines further down that list, which we're all very cognizant of. I've had tons of conversations with guys that are worried about what events they're going to play next year and all that. The one thing I said, 'Look, no one's trying to screw the bottom half of the tour here. If anything, we're trying to lift it up.' ... If you look at like the NBA's trajectory over the last 20 years, they've built that league around their best players and their stars, not around the 12th guy on the team, but because they've built that league up around the stars, the 12th guy on the team does way better than he used to. So, that's sort of the way I've been trying to tell it.

"Does it mean that the Tour's going to get more competitive? Yes. Look at the playoffs; like 125 used to make the playoffs, now it's 70. It's just become a more competitive product. I think honestly that's a good thing."

Agreed. When it comes to designated events, the Tour should be thinking this:

More Kareems and fewer DeSagana Diops.