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PGA Tour Approves New Schedule—Designated Events Will Have 70-78 Players And No Cut

Michael Reaves. Getty Images.

The PGA Tour's policy aboard approved widespread changes to its tournament schedule for 2023-24, most notably switching designated events to limited-field tournaments with 70-78 players and no 36-hole cuts. 

Eamon Lynch of Golfweek first reported the news the news, and the PGA Tour informed players of the changes through a memo distributed Wednesday afternoon. Here's that memo:

The Tour has radically altered its schedule to respond to the threat posed by LIV Golf. Prior to this year, they rolled out a designated-event structure that would guarantee the tour's top players all compete against one another far more often. The Tour announced that 10 non-major, non-FedEx Cup playoffs, non-Players events would get this distinction and that top players—defined this year by the top 20 finishers in the Player Impact Program—could skip just one event. That meant, assuming each player will tee it up in the four majors, the Players and the playoffs, that the top players were committing to playing in at least 17 of these designated events. 

But the 2022-23 tournament slate was always seen as a bridge of sorts to 2024, when the Tour will return to a calendar-year schedule—there will be no more wraparound, and the FedEx Cup season will end in August and start again in Hawaii in January—and roll out a more lasting vision of these designated events.  The three designated events thus far this year have been the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Genesis Invitational, and apart from a massive increase in purses, all three looked almost identical to previous editions of the event. WMPO and the Genesis had 130ish-man fields and a 36-hole cut. They were widely seen as massive successes with ratings increases over prior year's. 

But they will look considerably different next year, as each designated event will feature 70-78 players and no 36-hole cut. (The majors, Players and FedEx Cup playoff events will not change their structure.) That field will be comprised of those who qualified for the prior season's BMW Championship—that's the second FedEx Cup playoff event and features only the top 50 players after the first playoff event—the top 10 otherwise not-qualified players in the current year's FedEx Cup standings, a handful of players who can earn their way through their play in non-elevated events, sponsor's exemptions and perhaps a few guys exempt by their Official World Golf Ranking. The general cadence of the tour's schedule will be back-to-back designated events followed by three non-designated events. Players not already exempt will have a chance to qualify for the next back-to-back designated event stretch with their play in the three non-designated events between them.

One key difference between next year's schedule and this year's is the removal of mandatory appearances—per Monahan's memo, players are free to pick and choose which events they play in next year.

Max Homa, who is now on the Player Advisory Council, defended the changes in a press conference on Wednesday. 

"I saw frustration that the fields are small," said Homa, who's always keenly aware of public discourse. "But the part that’s simply misunderstood is if we made these events very large it would ruin non-designated events. Ruin them. Nobody would play in half of them because it would no longer fit your schedule….I think it's easy to frame these changes as a way to put more money in the top players' pockets. But it has been made to make it easier and more fun for the fans. I know it's low-hanging fruit to jump on, Oh, this is just a money grab. This is to make it better for the fans.

"It is a guarantee on who will be at events, more or less, and leaning more on the more there. It is more opportunity for the top players to battle it out late on Sundays. Which, you look back at times of Phil and Tiger, the two best players growing up for me watching, and they had like maybe two real battles. So we're going to have more of that."

The new format allows the Tour to present a package to advertisers and sponsors that promises a consistent field, full of starts, that will be around all week. The Tour can now say to Company X that if you sponsor this tournament and put up money for the purse, you'll get Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler and Justin Thomas for all four days. 

Scheffler underscored the meritocratic piece of qualifying for these designated events. 

"The guys that may not be able to get into those 70-man fields are going to be playing a lot of other events where the purses aren't going down," the world No. 2 said. "So I think it's going to benefit the membership as a whole and I'm excited and hopefully going to finish in the top 50 in the FedExCup because I want to be in those events next year. And if I don't, I'm not getting put in 'em. You got to earn your way still out here on TOUR

If this structure sounds familiar, it's because you've seen something similar on a few occasions. The old World Golf Championships used to feature around that same 75-ish number of players and those events didn't have a cut. The difference here is that these designated events are open only to PGA Tour members, while the old WGCs invited top players from a number of different tours around the world. 

"How is this any different than when we had WGCs?" says one tour player. "Nothing's changed. Play better to get into the best events. Still the same shit."

We also can't ignore the similarities to LIV Golf's structure. LIV Golf is essentially a traveling tour of the same 48 players who play in no-cut events. The PGA Tour's new designated events will be slightly bigger, and there is an avenue to play your way into these events—but again, the similarities with the limited field and no cut are pretty obvious. 

"It's basically do what LIV does, but put 'PGA Tour' on it," says another player. Predictably, some LIV players took to social media to highlight what they see as hypocrisy. 

For those wondering how Tiger Woods might qualify for these events…I'm pretty sure any tournament would give him a sponsor's invite if he wanted one. That's just a hunch I have. 

There's also the world-ranking angle. One of the OWGR's objections to LIV Golf's application for certification and points has been the no-cut format. This is still a little different from LIV in that players can work their way into these events by playing in events with a cut, but the OWGR's no-cut argument looks a lot weaker today than it did yesterday.

Between the new Player Impact Program, FedEx Cup bonuses, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy's new indoor-simulator league, and all these no-cut events, the PGA Tour can essentially guarantee its top stars millions of dollars each year so long as their game doesn't completely fall off a cliff. Don't underestimate the importance of that fact and how it might've impacted their decision on this. The PGA Tour now has to compete with an entity offering guaranteed money to players, and they've altered their structure to piece together a bunch of guaranteed dollars rather quickly. 

Personally, I'm a little disappointed to see the Tour do away with the cut in some of its biggest events. I wrote about this in my past life at Golf Digest—there is something noble and unique about golfers starting at zero every week. For decades, players have eaten what they kill on a weekly basis. When Tiger Woods was asked at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony what record he's most proud of, he didn't hesitate: his streak of 142 made cuts in a row. Guys take great pride in still being better than half their competitors when they don't have their best. We're now looking at a reality where the majority of events the top guys play will not have a cut. I understand why the tour has to do this, and it's important to remember that Golf Twitter isn't real life. Not everyone is as romantic about old-school golf competition or the possibility of Cinderella guys competing with the big boys. Big stars are what sell. That's what the Tour is banking on, at least.