By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – The PGA Tour has approved changes for 2024 that will see reduced fields and no cuts at the designated events it created last year in response to the threat posed by the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit, according to a memo obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.
The sweeping changes, which were outlined in a letter sent to PGA Tour members by Commissioner Jay Monahan, do not apply to all elevated events as the four majors, The Players Championship and three FedExCup playoff events will be unaffected.
“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,” wrote Monahan.
“Together, this approach provides a schedule that is cohesive, compelling, consequential and with clarity for fans, players and sponsors alike.”
According to the memo, select designated events in 2024 will feature limited fields of between 70 to 80 players with no cuts taking place after 36 holes and with opportunities for in-form players from full-field events to qualify and compete.
By comparison, last month’s Phoenix Open, which was the PGA Tour’s first fully-fledged designated event, had a field of 136 golfers that was cut to 66 after the second round.
Designated events were announced by the PGA Tour last August to get the best players competing against each other more often. The move came amid the threat posed by LIV Golf, which features limited-field, 54-hole events with no cuts and guaranteed prize money for each golfer.
“Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Congratulations PGA Tour. Welcome to the future,” read a message posted on LIV Golf’s Twitter account on Wednesday as news of the PGA Tour’s designated event changes circulated online.
Starting next year, designated events will include the top 50 players from the previous year’s FedExCup regular season list along with the top 10 players not otherwise eligible from the current points list.
Other qualification criteria include performance in non-designated events, consideration of the world rankings and sponsor exemptions for some PGA Tour members.
World number three Rory McIlroy, speaking to reporters ahead of this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, said the changes will make the PGA Tour more competitive.
“I’m all about rewarding good play. … I want to give everyone a fair shake at this. Which I think this structure has done. There’s ways to play into it,” McIlroy, who also holds a position on the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council, said at Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida.
“It’s trying to get the top guys versus the hot guys, right? I think that creates a really compelling product. But a way that you don’t have to wait an entire year for your good play to then get the opportunity. That opportunity presents itself straight away.”
Max Homa, ranked eighth in the world and also a member of the Player Advisory Council, acknowledged the emergence of LIV Golf, which has lured many big names from the PGA Tour, may have forced the U.S.-based circuit to rethink things.
“One of the things that they have that’s great that this will provide now is a guaranteed product. You know who is going to be at each event,” said Homa.
“I don’t think we would be here this soon without LIV, but I would hope at some point we would have looked at this and said, Hey, there might be a better way to do it.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)