With all the momentum on their side in 2023, the PGA Tour may have made a misstep going into 2024 as the Tour on Tuesday approved changes to several of its designated, big-money events. The fields at these elevated tournaments will be reduced and cuts will be eliminated beginning in 2024, the PGA Tour announced on Monday.
Eight designated events in 2024 will consist of fields featuring 70-78 players with no cuts following the completion of the first two rounds.
“These smaller, Designated event fields will not only deliver substantial, can’t-miss tournaments to our fans at important intervals throughout the season, but they will also enhance the quality of Full-Field events,” PGA Tour president Jay Monahan said in a memo. “Together, this approach provides a schedule that is cohesive, compelling, consequential and with clarity for fans, players and sponsors alike.”
This year’s Phoenix Open, for example, had 132 golfers, but next year may have just 70-80 in the field. Same for events like the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Additionally, the field at Phoenix was cut to 66 after two days of play, but under next year’s rules will not be cut down at all.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The PGA Tour has hosted World Golf Championships for most of the last 20 years, which included many of the top stars in the world in limited field, no-cut tournaments. The WGCs were successful but never wildly so.
On the other hand, the designated events were structured in 2023 for all the top players to attend, and have been a massive hit thus far. While plenty of the year still remains and Phoenix and Riviera are always nice stops, it’s becoming clear that the separation between the designated and non-designated events is a good thing. However, that didn’t keep the Tour from changing the designated events quite significantly in 2024.
There are certainly some positives about the proposal, which will go into place in January 2024 — namely that golfers who perform well in non-designated events (the Honda Classics and Valspar Championships of the world) can play their way into the Phoenix Opens and Genesis Invitationals.
Fields at designated events will be comprised of the top 50 players who qualify for the BMW Championship during the previous season’s FedEx Cup playoffs, plus the top 10 players not otherwise eligible on the current FedExCup points race. There will also be five places earned through performance in non-designated events.
This is good because it establishes clarification around how you can move up and down between the two. That’s tremendous context, but the door might not be open wide enough. Andy Johnson of the Fried Egg recently proposed that the Tour go to 100-player fields with a variety of exemptions into the designated events. I mostly agreed with his assessment.
One positive about the move, as has been pointed out by several people, is that the FedEx Cup race will take on greater importance earlier in the year than ever before. Suddenly the FedEx Cup will matter a lot in January and February 2024 in ways it might not right now.
It remains to be seen whether the same tournaments will host designated events in 2024. There have been rumors that designated events could move around to various tournaments, perhaps Pebble Beach or maybe even somewhere like PGA National, but nothing has been announced for 2024 yet.
“So far this year’s been extremely positive, but we just need to keep the momentum going in that regard,” said Tiger Woods at the Genesis Invitational earlier this year.
Woods was instrumental in getting everyone on the same page in terms of playing a uniform schedule. That response, which took place at the end of last season, was an obvious response to LIV Golf, which … runs small-field, no-cut tournaments.
“This is a big transition year into ’24,” Woods added. Twenty-four’s going to be a completely different schedule, but it’s about the commitment of the players to this type of idea and this type of philosophy going forward and so far it’s been fantastic.”