ATLANTA — Changes to the PGA Tour schedule and minimum player event requirements announced by Commissioner Jay Monahan on Wednesday have left many in the game of golf cautiously optimistic but scrambling to figure out the best way to proceed.
Monahan acknowledged things fell into place so quickly following the LIV Golf threat and a Tiger Woods-led players-only meeting in Wilmington, Delaware last week that many details have yet to be unraveled. sorted.
But it’s already clear that some tournaments might struggle to attract top players to their events, due to the high status of many tournaments and the requirement for top players to commit to them.
Two tournaments come immediately to mind: the Honda Classic and the Valspar Championship.
The two Florida tournaments slated for next spring find themselves squeezed among several of the elevated events that will include $20 million purses and an elite field.
“We’re in a tough spot, no doubt,” Valspar Championship Tournament Director Tracy West said. “When they brought up (the Genesis Invitational and the Arnold Palmer Invitational) earlier, we were already going to be in a tough spot. But now they’re bound to play them, the holy smoke. We are in a very difficult position.”
Starting in January, there will be 34 weeks of tournaments on the PGA Tour, 20 of which will be reserved for the top 20 players, as determined by the Player Impact program.
Except names such as Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth to be among them.
And expect tournaments such as the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship to struggle to attract high-powered players to their tournaments, simply due to logistics and timing.
Monahan has announced a bold new system for 2023, with the top 20 players determined by the PIP to compete in a minimum of 20 events, 17 of which will be the same for everyone. Three others will be of their choice.
But the calendar puts Honda and Valspar in a difficult situation.
The Genesis Invitational, February 16-19, kicks off a series of three elevated events in six weeks, along with the Players Championship – one of 17 events that all top players are expected to compete in.
Genesis is followed by the Honda Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational high event, Players Championship, Valspar and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play high event. Then, after the Valero Texas Open – also in a difficult position – comes the Masters.
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“There’s a lot to sort out over the next few weeks,” said Honda Classic Tournament Director Andrew George. “Everything is happening at speeds that we have never seen. To assess the next, two or three years, it might look different in reality than on paper. The fact that the top 20 are playing together is exciting for golf. After what we had this summer, it’s a win for us.
George was referring to the major disruption caused by LIV Golf since its launch in June with the defection of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and several others.
Each player has either been suspended indefinitely by the PGA Tour or resigned from their membership.
Others are expected to sign with LIV Golf ahead of next season, and it feels like the PGA Tour had to do something to push back.
He did this in the form of multiple $20 million tournaments spaced throughout the year while bringing top players to commit to each one.
“The fact that we have PGA Tour players in a room and we’re on the same page is a win,” George said. “Since the Honda in February, the world of golf has turned upside down. Over the past six months, there has been a lot of uncertainty on the heels of COVID. Seeing them rally behind the Tour is a good thing.
“We already knew where we were in terms of the schedule. And we tried to make it a community event. And we’ve seen Jay and his team say anything and everything is on the table. I don’t think there’s anything from their perspective to suggest they want to hurt the Honda or the Valspar or other tournaments. It’s been super encouraging over the past 48 hours. ”
Monahan said there are four high events left to be determined, and in theory Valspar and Honda could be one of them, if not in 2023 then in the years to come. The timing issues should be resolved as the location of Honda and Valspar would likely mean too many in a row.
As it stands, the Genesis, Arnold Palmer, Players Championship, WGC-Match Play stretch in six weeks makes planning difficult. Even if a player wanted to choose Honda or Valspar as one of his other three events, it’s a packed schedule.
“As with every tournament, we talk to our title (sponsor Valspar) to see if they want to be an elevated event,” West said. “Have they say ‘yes’, well, that’s a little thing. I don’t know if they’ll want us four in a row. You’d think they’d want them spread out more. So, are we saying we want to be high and are we going in April (which the tournament did in 2021)?
“But we also want to think about it in a positive way. Above all, these moves are good for the Tour. He raises the bar. There will only be 70 people for the playoffs (FedEx Cup). These guys have yet to fight their way to the FedEx Cup. They’re going to have to play a decent number of events.
“We cannot panic. We have to see how it shakes. And the top 20 must play three more. You have to put on your best recruiting hat.”
Honda and Valspar will not be alone. Tournaments that follow or precede high events will all try to determine the best steps forward. Think of events such as the WM Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage, Charles Schwab Challenge, John Deere Classic. Some of them had to deal with unfavorable dates on the calendar. Now they have an additional challenge.
Of course, there are well over 20 top players. Those not in the PIP will in many cases skip some of the top events to play where they feel most comfortable. Understanding all of this and seeing how it evolves is yet to be determined.
“There’s a lot of clarity to be gained for everyone,” George said. “The fact that it’s moving in real time, they really need the next 45-60 days to figure out some things. Now is the time to assess the opportunity and throw all the solutions on the table.”