The PGA Tour's Signature Events Had Worthy Winners in 2024, But Still Need Some Work

While seven of the eight big-money tournaments were won by former major winners (and four by world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler), Bob Harig writes that some changes should be made to its fields next year.
Scottie Scheffler won the PGA Tour's final signature event of 2024 and four of eight overall.
Scottie Scheffler won the PGA Tour's final signature event of 2024 and four of eight overall. / Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It is nearly impossible for the PGA Tour and its signature events to deliver the type of outcome intended for these tournaments that are meant to enrich the players while bringing together as many of the best in the game as possible for the enjoyment of the fans.

Scottie Scheffler did his best to do his part.

Scheffler’s playoff victory over Tom Kim on Sunday at the Travelers Championship gave him four victories out of the eight signature events, which saw their first year in this format come to an end, with revisions surely to come.

These big-money, small-field events that were borne out of the need to compensate the best in the game at a higher level—and in five of the eight cases offered guaranteed money—have largely met their goal.

Not every tournament will be compelling, not every event will have a big-name winner.

But in seven of the eight signature events—albeit it four of them won by Scheffler—a previous major champion was the winner.

Chris Kirk, who captured the Sentry in January, was the only non-major winner to prevail. Wyndham Clark, who won the 2023 U.S. Open, captured the shortened AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama won the Genesis Invitational.

After that it was all Scheffler (Arnold Palmer Invitational, RBC Heritage, Memorial and Travelers) except for four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, who won the Wells Fargo the week prior to the PGA Championship. Scheffler did not play that week. McIlroy skipped this week.

And therein lies one of the potential issues with the signature events—the schedule. In an effort to avoid isolating regular events between the biggest tournaments, the PGA Tour sought to make sure there was at least a run of two such smaller events preceding a signature event—one as a vehicle for qualification but also so a tournament such as the RBC Canadian wouldn’t be stuck between a signature event (the Memorial) and a major (the U.S. Open.)

And yet, that brought on its own problems. It means, for example, that players not in the signature events or the U.S. Open had no place to play the last three weeks.

It also put someone like Scheffler, who tied for 45th at the U.S. Open, in the position of having to decry winning at the Memorial because the event might have compromised his abilities at the major championship.

That issue has already been dealt with as the Memorial is moving to two weeks prior to the U.S. Open next year.

And the Tour has already said that going forward, signature events will have a minimum of 72 players.

Which leads to another discussion point. Why not more?

Why limit these events to so few players when you could easily justify a more robust field?

It’s been suggested that all of the signature events should have 100 players with a 36-hole cut. If the compensation issue is a problem, figure out a way to pay everyone who misses the cut.

That big of a field seems a non-starter so the Tour should at least assure 78 players, something easily accomplished via the current FedEx Cup points list, current-year Tour winners and even the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

The Tour gives up its “everyman” mantra with these signature events and has upset many of the rank-and-file who are now competing in regular events that pay less than half of the $20 million purses and also significantly less FedEx Cup points (750 to the winner versus 500). At least let a few more of them into the big-time events and see if the schedule can’t be a bit more reasonable so as not to burden the best players.

“It’s been a lot,” said Collin Morikawa, who finished second to Scheffler at the Memorial and also has been a frequent contender recently. “I feel like this year has just felt a little bit more of a sprint, let's call it. But I think that's just because of the season, not having a fall portion or at least not having a fall portion that's counted towards this season.

“I think that's an adjustment, but I have nothing wrong with it. Every other sport they're playing every day, every few days. Granted, our weeks are a lot longer and, we get pretty drained as well, but a lot of these tournaments I would have played no matter what, wherever they were on the schedule, and you kind of work them in. So it kind of worked out in my favor where I wanted to play the week before a major, a lot of 'em lined up like that. So just kind of continue that.”

Bryson's victory tour

Bryson DeChambeau crammed a lot into the week following his U.S. Open victory, including visits to the Today show in New York along with various other appearances where he took the U.S. Open trophy.

On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he took the trophy into the audience.

And then he brought it to Lower Broadway in Nashville in advance of the LIV Golf Nashville tournament, which started Friday and concluded Sunday.

By Saturday, DeChambeau was admittedly running out of energy, even if his golf had not fallen off.

Bryson DeChambeau of Crushers GC signs a hat for a fan at Geodis Park in Nashville, Tenn.
Bryson DeChambeau continued to make time for seemingly every fan at LIV Golf's tournament in Nashville. / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

“My brain is not fully functioning so I’m not able to speak coherently all the time,” he said. “But the fans have been fantastic. They’ve been brilliant. Very gracious to have them out there supporting me like that.”

Tyrrell Hatton proved too much on Sunday, winning his first LIV Golf event by six shots. DeChambeau tied for third, seven strokes back in what was a solid effort given the enormity of his victory a week ago and all that transpired.

It was his best finish in nine LIV events this year and only his second top five.

But he was tied for sixth at the Masters and second at the PGA Championship prior to his U.S. Open win.

“I’m impressed,” said Jon Rahm, when asked about the inevitable post-major hangover. “Especially taking into account that he went and did the whole New York news shows. I didn't do that. I played the week after (his 2023 Masters win) in Hilton Head and it was quite difficult and tiring.

“But we saw Scottie (Scheffler) win the week after (the Masters at the RBC Heritage) this year, and Bryson seems to be a guy who naturally has a lot of energy. I would never question him being able to perform.

“I think it becomes more a mental thing, right? Can you focus on still playing good golf even though you’ve accomplished something incredible? I think he’s in good enough shape physically that he can handle it, it’s just being able to do it mentally.

“I think one of the things that is never really talked about enough about players ... obviously like Tiger (Woods) or Jack (Nicklaus), is the fact that they were able to win multiple majors in a season consistently, and I don’t think most people understand how demanding that is mentally, just to get that done, the media obligations you have afterwards amongst all those things.

“It’s definitely impressive to see what some other players have been able to do.”

The last player to win two majors in the same year was Brooks Koepka (U.S. Open, PGA) in 2018. Jordan Spieth (Masters, U.S. Open) did it in 2015, and Rory McIlroy (British Open, PGA) did it in 2014. Prior to that, Padraig Harrington (British and PGA) was the last in 2008.

Woods won multiple majors in a year in 2000 (U.S. Open, British, PGA); 2002 (Masters, U.S. Open); 2005 (Masters, British) and 2006 (British, PGA).

Nicklaus won two majors in a year in 1963 (Masters, PGA), 1966 (Masters, British), 1972 (Masters, U.S. Open), 1975 (Masters, PGA) and 1980 (U.S. Open, PGA).

Arnold Palmer: American hero

Scottie Scheffler is on an amazing roll, having won his sixth tournament of the year on the PGA Tour and matching a feat not accomplished since Arnold Palmer in 1962: six victories prior to July 1. Tiger Woods never did that, nor did Jack Nicklaus.

But Scheffler has a little ways to go in order to match an interesting feat that Palmer accomplished at the Masters: he was in eight consecutive green jacket ceremonies from 1958 through 1965.

Think about it: Arnie won the Masters in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964. That made him part of giving the jacket to the winner the following year: to Art Wall in 1959, Gary Player in 1961, Jack Nicklaus in 1963 and Nicklaus again in 1965.

Martin Davis highlights this and many other aspects of Palmer’s life and career in his large book called Arnold Palmer: American Hero. Stripped across two pages are photos of Palmer from each of those Masters ceremonies.

Arnold Palmer: American Hero book cover
“Arnold Palmer: American Hero” / The American Golfer Inc.

This is the seventh such book Davis has done in a large 11-by-14-inch format that is filled with essays and photos, some never seen before. The book weighs eight pounds and follows other books he’s done in similar fashion on Ben Hogan (two), Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and the Ryder Cup.

“We always wanted to do this and I thought it just was the wrong time,” said Davis of a book on Palmer, who died in 2016. “This just seemed like the right time while people still remember him fondly.

“What we do with these books are what I would call love stories. There’s no heavy criticism. They’ve all been formatted the same way, with essays on different aspects of their lives.”

Among them were stories written by players such as Gary Player, Nancy Lopez and Peter Jacobsen, Palmer’s good friend and former LPGA commissioner Charlie Mecham and by his longtime assistant and former newspaper writer “Doc” Giffin, who worked for Palmer for more than 50 years.

In all, there are more than 20 essays in 272 pages with more than 300 photos, which include an analysis of his swing and his putting.

“One of the joys of the book is all the photos. Where do you find them?” Davis said. “A lot of them you’ve seen before, like throwing his hat in the air at the ’60 (U.S.) Open (at Cherry Hills) when he won. There’s a lot of them that have never been published and we probably looked at more than 2,500 photos. And we try to set ourselves apart with very high production values.”

Davis said he worked on the book for more than four years and the end product is chock full of anything and everything related to Palmer’s golf and life.

Among the neat aspects is a section on Palmer’s letter-writing habit that he got into, sending a note of congratulations after players won various events. There’s the telegram he sent Jack Nicklaus after the Golden Bear won the 1986 Masters at age 46 that offered congratulations and also said: “Do you think there’s hope for a 56-year-old?”

One that is particularly poignant was written in September 2016 and addressed to Paul Broadhurst, who Palmer was congratulating on Broadhurst's senior victory at Pebble Beach and sent to his home in the United Kingdom. It was dated just six days prior to Palmer’s death.

A few more things

Scottie Scheffler became the first player since Arnold Palmer in 1962 to win six times on the PGA Tour prior to July 1. The win at the Travelers Championship gives him victories at the Masters, the Players and four signature events. He’s now won 12 times in his PGA Tour career, all since the start of 2022. He is also the first player with six wins in a season since Tiger Woods in 2009.

Scheffler will take a few weeks off prior to the British Open. He is not planning to play the Scottish Open the week prior as he did last year. After that it’s the Olympics and then the FedEx Cup playoffs. He has earned more than $27.6 million in prize money this year, surpassing the $21 million record he set in 2021.

LIV Golf has a few weeks off before its next event in Spain at Valderamma. That is the week prior to the British Open. Its U.K. event follows the British.

Dustin Johnson turned 40 on Saturday but there wasn’t much to celebrate regarding his golf. His 72–70–75 weekend in Nashville saw him post his worst LIV Golf finish in 29 individual events with a tie for 51st. His previous worst was 37th last year in the season-opening event in Mexico when he was coming off an injury. Johnson, a two-time major champion, has missed the cut in three of his last four majors and his best this year is a tie for 43rd at the PGA.

Tom Hoge and Christiaan Bezuidenhout earned spots in the British Open via the top 20 in the FedEx Cup standings after the Travelers at 18th and 20th, respectively. The exemption is for anyone in the top 20 not already exempt, up to five players.


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Bob Harig

BOB HARIG

Bob Harig is a senior writer covering golf for Sports Illustrated. He has more than 25 years experience on the beat, including 15 at ESPN. Harig is a regular guest on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio and has written two books, "DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods" and "Tiger and Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry." He graduated from Indiana University where he earned an Evans Scholarship, named in honor of the great amateur golfer Charles (Chick) Evans Jr. Harig, a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America, lives in Clearwater, Fla.