How the Middle East will play a role in the revamped PGA Tour schedule from 2023

An additional $54 million in prize money for its marquee events, a return to a calendar year schedule where fewer players are guaranteed full exemptions for the following season and a new, two-track fall series catering to the haves and have-nots of the under-fire PGA Tour has been unveiled by commissioner Jay Monahan.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Travelers Championship Wednesday, Monahan’s messaging to members and the media was crystal clear: the PGA Tour cannot compete in an “arms race” for the future of professional golf if greenbacks are the only ammunition. Instead, he hopes the quality of competition rather than the quantity of cash, traditional tournaments with rich histories, even richer heritage events and a new series of $20 million-plus fall series events will keep more of the circuit’s top names from defecting.

In broad strokes, the PGA Tour will play one more wrap-around season in 2022-23 before returning to a calendar year schedule in 2024 (January to August) before a supplemental mini-series of ‘fall’ events, the details of which are currently under review by the Player Advisory Council.

The three FedEx Cup playoffs will remain but instead of the top 125-players qualifying for the FedEx St. Jude Championship (and as a result PGA Tour cards the following season), the new threshold from next season will be 70 players. Those 70 will be fully exempt for 2024, including the richer invitationals (more on those soon). From there, 50 players will make it to the BMW Championship with the top 30, as usual, competing for the FedExCup at the traditional Tour Championship at East Lake.

After the FedEx Cup playoffs, the top-50 players will compete in three, limited field, no-cut international ‘fall series’ events for purses in excess of $20 million. Those events are earmarked for the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

Players outside the top 70 will also fight it out in a series of events, presumably with qualifiers from the PGA Tour’s secondary Korn Ferry Tour, for status inside the top-125 and/or to improve their ranking for the following season.

Monahan is confident the new fall series will be “very consequential, very meaningful” despite widespread criticism of limited-field, no-cut events being championed by the Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

“While different than it’s been in the past, I think it’s going to be very exciting for fans and I think will create great energy in the fall,” Monahan said.

Others aren’t convinced. Rank-and-file members, quoted by media outlets on the condition of anonymity, see it as a rich getting richer play by PGA Tour officials backed into a corner by competition, and the game’s already super-wealthy superstars. Others fear it will force some popular, albeit middle-tier, pros out of the game while proving much tougher for young players from the Korn Ferry Tour to graduate.

Monahan has heard the concerns but is unrepentant in these extraordinary times.

“The environment we’re in is unsettling, and our members want to see their tour grow and evolve. What we’re doing here is a response to the current environment we’re in,” Monahan said. “To say everybody supports this would be an exaggeration, but it’s the right move for the organisation.”

Monahan knows he needs his biggest stars playing together more often, thus the boost in prize money for events including the The Players Championships which jumps by $5 million to $25 million from next season. Other increases include the Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Memorial Tournament, all of which jump from $12 to $20 million purses. The Sentry Tournament of Champions will go from $8.2 million to $15 million while the FedEx St. Jude Invitational and BMW Championship will jump to $20 million events.

The increase in prize money will be funded by sponsors and from PGA Tour reserves.

“On the PGA TOUR, our members compete for the opportunity to add their names to history books, and, yes, significant financial benefits, without having to wrestle with any sort of moral ambiguity,” Monahan said, admitting the changes were “obviously accelerated by the current environment.”

“And pure competition creates relevancy and context, which is what fans need and expect in order to invest their time in a sport and in a player.

“That’s the beauty of the PGA Tour. We have and always will provide a global platform for members to compete against the very best, earn their stardom, and become household names.”

 

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