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The RSM Classic Marks the End of the PGA Tour Calendar Year, and the End of an Era

The 2022-23 PGA Tour season resumes in January, with initiatives designed to thwart LIV Golf's competition. What's next for the Sea Island stop remains to be seen.

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — This week’s RSM Classic is the end of an era of sorts.

This is the last official PGA Tour event of 2022 and next year, a brave new world dawns in which some PGA Tour events are designated as "elevated" events with inflated $20 million purses; every exempt player is guaranteed at least $500,000; and a $100 million Player Impact Program awards whopping bonuses to top players in what amounts to a popularity contest; and more.

So this RSM Classic is the curtain-drop on the days of the PGA Tour doing business as usual, thanks to its new competition, LIV Golf.

Ben Crane plays from a bunker at the 2021 RSM Classic.

The RSM Classic's role in fall 2023 is unclear, but for now it marks the end of a bizarre 2022 calendar year on the PGA Tour.

Next year, The Golf Wars are on in earnest.

Davis Love III, the RSM Classic tournament host and a five-time member of the Tour’s Player Advisory Council, doesn’t foresee a compromise with LIV Golf on the near horizon. He spoke with the media Wednesday afternoon after playing in the RSM Classic’s pro-am in which Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, was on his pro-am team.

“I’ll just say what Jay says, ‘let me remind you, they’re suing us,’” Love said of LIV Golf. “Some of us are getting depositions (deposed). They’re recruiting college players, they’re recruiting PGA Tour players, they’re recruiting DP World Tour players. So long as they’re actively trying to (make a) hostile takeover, I don’t think it matters who’s running it (LIV). We’re looking at a lawsuit that we’re having to defend for a year or two, at least. I don’t think we sit down with anybody unless they say, 'hey, we give.'

“If they (LIV Golf) say, ‘hey, maybe we made a mistake and we should drop the lawsuit and maybe we should quit stealing your players,’ then we might want to talk to them. But I don’t think that’s their model.”

What makes LIV Golf a serious rival to the PGA Tour is that it has a seemingly limitless bankroll courtesy of the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which has allowed LIV Golf commissioner Greg Norman to create tournaments with $25 million purses that feature $4 million first prizes; pay huge bonuses to star PGA Tour players if they jump to LIV (Phil Mickelson reportedly got more than $200 million; Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau $100 million-plus); and far outspend PGA Tour sponsors.

The PGA Tour responded by trying to take better care of its top players. For decades, since the early days of Deane Beman as commissioner, the Tour was run more for the benefit of the rank- and-file players. Now, LIV Golf has forced a change and the Tour and its players are focused on their own stars, the ones who move the needle.

“If you asked two years ago, what’s the Tour is going to look like today, nobody would have come up with what is proposed for the next few years,” Love said. “The important thing is, the players got together and decided this is the direction they want to go. Players now understand the tour is run by and for the players. If we all decide we want to wear shorts in hot weather, they can’t stop us if we all get together and say we want to wear shorts. Things like that—wearing shorts Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, came from the players. The major medical program came from the players.

“We understand marketing. We have to do what Tiger (Woods) and Rory (McIlroy) want to do … but our mission here is also playing opportunities. Charley Hoffman brought up something in a board meeting a few years ago, he said, 'this tournament has two courses right near each other, why couldn’t we use them both and have 156 players in the field?' And I said, 'excuse me, we have two courses at RSM, why don’t we play 156?'

"Because Charley Hoffman put his foot down about another tournament, it motivated me to talk to my team. Now, a lot more players get to play. That’s why the fall events like RSM and Sanderson Farms are so important. They’re playing opportunities. A guy comes up from the Korn Ferry Tour, he ought to have an opportunity to play 20 times, not six or eight.”

Love believes the current system used by the PGA Tour to grant players releases to play in non-tour events works. He cited McIlroy and Billy Horschel, a pair of FedEx Cup winners, as examples. They both play on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour without issue. Players were not given releases for LIV Golf events and LIV Golf players are banned from PGA Tour-controlled events.

“You can get three or four releases and play around the world as long as you play your 15 PGA Tour events,” Love said. “Nobody’s getting restricted.”

Zach Johnson, who won a Masters and a British Open and will captain the U.S. team in next year’s Ryder Cup, stressed that playing opportunities for PGA Tour members ranks in importance behind only giving to charity.

“I do know that the 2022-23 season will have the most starts, collectively, for our members than any year ever,” Johnson said. “So we’re fulfilling that mission. What’s going to happen in 2024? I don’t know. The individuals who are a lot smarter than us dorks who hit golf balls want to hear from us, fully ingest what we say and then try to find a resolution that’s great for everybody.

“Along the way, oh, we created a FedEx Cup. Tim Finchem started that and Jay Monahan has taken it to new heights. If we can appease our sponsors and television and make that better, which we seem to do every time, my confidence is ultra-high."

The setup of next fall’s PGA Tour schedule is still unclear. The PGA Tour season will end with the FedEx Cup finale on Labor Day weekend. The events on the fall portion of the schedule, which had been the start of a new season, will now serve as a kind of qualifying series. The top 70 players in the FedEx Cup points will have their positions locked and be fully exempt for the following year. The rest will use the fall events—there will be at least six—as a way to improve their standing in the top 125 to become exempt for the next season.

But the details and exactly which tournaments are going to go forward and how it’s all going to work have yet to be released by the PGA Tour.

“There’s tons of moving parts but my caddie and I talk about how Greensboro (Wyndham Championship) is one of the most interesting events of the year,” said tour veteran Brian Harman, the highest-ranked player in the RSM Classic field at No. 26. “Everyone is playing for something. The consequences are almost life and death—guys trying to keep their cards, guys trying to make the top 30 or top 70—everyone is really serious that week. So if RSM ends up with the same date, this would be the year’s last event where guys are trying to keep their cards. The consequences are very real and that sort of intrigue could be very interesting.”

No intrigue this week, just business as usual. Until this year on the PGA Tour, that was good enough.