The last two weeks have seen some significant changes announced by commissioner Jay Monahan as to how future PGA Tour schedules will look and who is exempt to compete for the annual FedEx Cup title.
Among the differences will be a return after 10 years to the calendar-year schedule that will see the first official event of the new season played in January, rather than September.
Another is a strengthened alliance with the DP World Tour that will see the top 10 players from the Race to Dubai – not already exempt on the PGA Tour – become PGA Tour members.
Several other changes will occur starting next year, with a few details to be worked out along the way.
With the first co-sanctioned regular event between the PGA Tour and DP World Tour this week at the Genesis Scottish Open, here is a summary.
Calendar Year Schedule
The 2024 FedEx Cup season will begin at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January and end at the Tour Championship in late August.
Unlike years past, only the top 70 players in the FedEx Cup standings through the regular season will qualify (instead of the top 125) for the first of three FedEx Cup playoff events – which will see the purses at the FedEx St. Jude and the BMW Championship increase to $20 million.
But that doesn’t mean players who finish outside of the top 70 lose their PGA Tour cards. In a return to the days following the start of the FedEx Cup in 2007, the fall events – apparently six – will serve as a place for those outside of the top 70 to continue to compete and try to retain their playing cards.
The exempt list will still be the top 125 players, but those six tournaments will provide an opportunity for those outside of the magic number to move in, and for those who are comfortable to potentially qualify for other big events by moving into the top 50 in the world rankings or earning a spot at the Tournament of Champions or the Masters.
How The Fall Will Work
There will not be a reset for players who finish outside of the top 70. That means those who are 70th to roughly 95th in the standings are safe to keep their fully exempt status for the following year. They can play as little or as much as they want.
Players below that risk losing their cards and those who are outside of the top 125 can improve their positions. It is unclear if it will simply be a continuation of FedEx Cup points earned to that point, but those players will not be able to displace those who finished in the top 70.
And FedEx points earned in the fall will not count toward the following season.
The Global Series
Monahan announced plans for a three-tournament “Global Series’’ that will invite the top 50 in the final FedEx Cup standings to play events in such places as the U.K., Middle East and Asia. The format and locations are to be determined. And so is the field size. It will likely be larger than 60 players, but these tournaments will offer $20 million purses with no cut. In theory, if players among the top 50 skip, the field will be filled going down the FedEx list. Players who do well in the fall, as well as those from the countries where the events are held, are likely to get invites to fill out the field.
What remains to be seen is: Will these events get World Ranking points? And will a majority of the top names participate? One of the benefits to the calendar season is it allows top players to take time off. Will they want to travel to faraway places?
The Korn Ferry Tour
The developmental tour that allows for players to earn a spot on the PGA Tour will undergo changes that increase the number of automatic PGA Tour cards from 25 to 30 but will eliminate what is now known as the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. That was established when the old Qualifying Tournament format was changed to not allow direct access to the PGA Tour.
As it will play out again this fall, those players who finish No. 1 to 75 on the Korn Ferry Tour points list along with those who finish 126th to 200th on the PGA Tour’s points list will convene for a series of tournaments that lead to 50 PGA Tour cards. Those who finished in the top 25 on the KFT are assured of a spot but their priority order can chance based on the results in the KFT finals.
That will change in 2023. Those final events will simply determine the top 30. Then there will be a Qualifying Tournament to determine who gets on the KFT but the top five spots and ties will get PGA Tour cards.
Where their priority is – do they fall directly behind the top 125 and ahead of the KFT qualifiers? – is still to be determined.
Whether these changes were made in response to LIV Golf is a matter of debate. The Tour has been working on different ideas for some time. And much of this is good.
The calendar schedule is welcome and when you consider that you need to be in the top 70 to make the FedEx Cup playoffs and will have potentially nine less tournaments (from the fall) to earn the points, the regular season should be more compelling. It puts more meaning on each tournament from January to August. It could lead to some of the top players competing more to make sure they get in the top 70. And it also removes the awkwardness of half the season being complete by the time the Masters is played.
From there, they need to be in the top 50 after the FedEx St. Jude to reach the BMW Championship. And then the top 30 for the Tour Championship, where the big FedEx payouts take place.
A potential issue could be the disparity between events that are getting big purse boosts and regular PGA Tour events. The Sentry Tournament of Champions goes to $15 million; the Genesis, Arnold Palmer, WGC-Match Play and Memorial go to $20 million; the Players Championship goes to $25 million. And the first two playoff events will also be $20 million.
If you’re the Honda Classic, with maybe a $9 or $10 million purse, the situation is not great. It follows Genesis and precedes Arnold Palmer and the Players. The Valspar Championship follows the Players and precedes the Match Play. The Valero Texas Open follows the Match Play and precedes the Masters.
Some of those big-money tournaments are traditionally skipped, but it will be harder to do so with those big purses and smaller fields.
It’s just something to consider amid a serious of positive enhancements for the PGA Tour.
What will Phil do next?
The short answer is prepare for the British Open. Mickelson will be making his 28th start at The Open and his sixth at the Old Course at St. Andrews, where he first played in 1995. Mickelson has never fared all that well at the home of golf, his best finish a tie for 11th in 2000 when Tiger Woods romped to an eight-shot victory. But he’s never missed a cut there, either.
“I love the golf course,’’ Mickelson said at the LIV Golf event outside of Portland, where he finished in a tie for 40th. “When I played there in ’15 (a tie for 20th), I thought the greens were difficult, they have a strong blade of grass, and you really have to roll it well. When they are like that they really don’t break a ton and you can make a lot of putts.
“I putted terrible and for me it comes down to a having a good putting week because the golf course sets up really well. If I miss it left, left is fine all day for me on that golf course and so I can play my miss and get around just fine.
“And there’s something spiritual about playing there. I really enjoy it. I’m really looking forward to getting back there.’’
Mickelson, 52, could use some divine intervention for his game at this point. Since his self-imposed four-month break, the six-time major winner has played eight rounds of golf and broke par just once – in his very first round at the LIV Golf tournament outside of London. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open and was out of sorts at the Portland LIV event, where he shot scores of 75-75-76 to finish 10 over par and 23 shots back of winner Branden Grace.
“My game feels a lot better than I’m scoring,’’ he said. “A lot of good shots and then I’m making a lot of mistakes that are costing me five, six shots a round. I’m not discouraged. I actually putted terrible in London and at the U.S. Open. I’ve putted well (at the Portand event). It just doesn’t feel that far off. I actually feel pretty good. But I’m not scoring yet.’’
Mickelson, who won The Open nine years ago at Muirfield, said he will head to the Old Course to keep working. “I’m going to go early and spend a little more time there,’’ he said.
1. J.T. Poston’s wire-to-wire win at the John Deere Classic was the first such victory on the PGA Tour since Joaquin Niemann did so at the Genesis Invitational in February.
2. Organizers of the JP McManus pro-am in Ireland did Tiger Woods a favor, giving him afternoon tee times for both Monday and Tuesday. He begins play at 9:05 a.m. ET on Monday, which is 2:05 p.m. in Ireland. The pro-am has attracted an all-star cast of players that includes Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Scottie Scheffler, Matt Fitzpatrick, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and many others. The players are not paid for their appearance, with all proceeds going to charity.
3. Jediah Morgan finished last at the LIV Golf Portland event, shooting scores of 76-84-77 to trail the 47th-place finisher, Shaun Norris, by four strokes. It was a tough week for Morgan, a 22-year-old Australian who earlier this year won the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship by 11 strokes. He tied for 30th in the first LIV Golf event outside of London, then missed the cut at the U.S. Open. For his efforts, Morgan received $154,000 for the first event and $120,000 for the second.
4. LIV Golf has made charitable contributions at each of its first two events, directing more than $1 million to local charities at both the London and Portland tournaments. It did not make a big deal out of donations, simply sending out a press release. Perhaps it could make a point to donate to women’s causes, including women’s golf initiatives, and getting behind an initiative that makes a difference.
Ryder Cup Fallout
While there remains some doubt on the European team side as to whether those competing in LIV Golf events will be eligible for the Ryder Cup – players such as Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia last week made it seem clear they believed nothing should change – the American side seems to offer little debate.
And that’s from U.S. captain Zach Johnson.
“So what I know is this: in order to play on the Ryder Cup team, whether you’re top six (automatic qualifiers) or a (captain’s) pick, you must garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America,’’ Johnson said at the John Deere Classic. “In order to garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America, you have to be a member of the PGA of America.
“The way that we’re members of the PGA of America is through the PGA Tour. I’ll let you connect the dots from there.’’
That suggests that players such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau – who all starred for the U.S. team last fall at Whistling Straits – won’t be part of the Ryder Cup in Rome. Phil Mickelson’s slam-dunk future captaincy is also now in doubt.
LIV Golf officials have pushed back on this narrative. A look at the PGA of America bylaws shows that membership in the organization can be obtained in many ways, including being members of other tours. Of course, the PGA of America can change its rules. And since a player has to earn points via the PGA Tour to make the team automatically, this only comes into play for captain’s picks. And a captain, if so motivated, can simply not pick any of these players.
Johnson, 46, has played on five U.S. Ryder Cup teams, been an assistant at the 2018 Ryder Cup, the 2019 Presidents Cup and again at the 2021 Ryder Cup. He’s won two major championships, including the last Open to be played at St Andrews in 2015.
“I’ve got some friends that have decided to go that route," Johnson said. "A lot of individuals that I'm for. I mean, these are my friends. I'm for them. I want them to do well. I want them to, you know, find contentment or happiness in whatever it may be. It's not for me to say how that develops or how they find that. I will say I have the utmost respect for them individually.
“I would hope, and I'm not concerned about this, that they would have the respect for me and who I stand for and what I stand for. And I don't think it's very secretive or outlandish in saying that I'm for the PGA Tour. I'm for the individuals that paved the way for me in this great Tour, this platform in order to entertain, compete and I would say utilize for the betterment of others, not just my family. I'm for that.’’
Meanwhile, European captain Henrik Stenson continues to be linked to LIV Golf. He has not played the first two events, nor has his name officially been added to the list of players who will compete at Bedminster in three weeks. If he does make the leap, then what?
A story circulated since the first week of the LIV Golf Invitational Series in London: players with guaranteed contracts were not being withheld purse money as it was played off against their advances. So, in other words, it was portrayed as a player would not receive prize money until it totaled more than what he was being guaranteed for the year.
Charl Schwartzel, who won the first event and was on the winning team, earned $4.75 million. He went to Twitter to refute claims that he was not paid that sum. Other players and an agent confirmed the same thing to SI.com.
At a news conference last week at the Portland event, a LIV Golf interview moderator to took time out to also refute the claim, saying that all prize money is separate from any guaranteed contracts.
The Open Countdown
The Open begins in 10 days at the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland. It will be the 150th playing of the championship that dates to 1860, and years of planning has gone into celebrating the occasion, which was supposed to occur last year but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Old Course will stage The Open for the 30th time, more than any other venue, the first being in 1873 when Tom Kidd won the tournament as it was played for the first time on an 18-hole course.
The last staging of The Open at the Old Course was in 2015, when Zach Johnson won in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman.
Six players earned their way into the field last week as the highest-ranked in the world not already exempt: Aaron Wise (USA), Brian Harman (USA), Sebastian Munoz (Colombia), Sepp Straka (Austria), Luke List (USA) and Si Woo Kim (South Korea) made it through that avenue.
Six more players qualified via finishing among the top three players not already in the top 10 at the Irish Open and the John Deere Classic. At the Irish Open, it was John Catlin, Fabrizio Zanotti and Davis Law. All three tied for fourth to earn their spots. At the John Deere Classic, winner J.T. Poston, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Emiliano Grillo (who were tied for second) also earned a trip to St. Andrews via the Open Qualifying Series.
Another 16 made the field via four Final Qualifying Sites in the United Kingdom.
This week’s Scottish Genesis Open – a co-sanctioned PGA Tour/DP World Tour event – will offer three spots to the top three finishers in the top 10 not already exempt. And the Barbasol Championship – also co-sanctioned – will offer the final spot for a player finishing in the top 10 not already exempt.
> The Goat?
The Genesis Scottish Open has for years been the event played the week prior to the British Open, typically attracting a strong field of participants. The event will have its best-ever field as it is now co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour. That means players on the PGA Tour can earn FedEx Cup points and have another event count toward their membership requirements. It is especially helpful for those who compete on both Tours.
The result has been a boon to the field, as 14 of the top-ranked 15 players in the world will take part, led by No. 1 and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler. DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley said “it will be the strongest regular tour event in our history.’’
The tournament is being played at the Renaissance Club, which is next door to Muirfield in Gullane, Scotland. Although the Renaissance is not a links along the lines of many Open venues, it is still an excellent primer for the kind of feel and shots to be played a week later at St. Andrews.