7 intriguing changes to the PGA Tour’s new designated events format
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — It is helpful sometimes to remember that the PGA Tour is new to this whole “designated events” business.
Like a twentysomething building his or her first dating profile, the Tour’s good intentions have been obscured at times by the clumsy missteps of inexperience. This is to be expected. Nobody said things would be easy when the chainsmoking, leather jacket-wearing rebels at LIV forced the Tour to re-enter the world of golf courtship. So many years of competitive stability had made the Tour resistant to change at any pace, let alone the one dictated by the fire-breathing upstarts.
But change had to come quickly, which is perhaps why the Tour rushed a half-finished designated event concept to market after a players-only meeting in Delaware last summer. The Tour’s discomfort with change of these proportions was peppered throughout its early proposals right on down to the naming convention. In just months, the Tour’s official nomenclature for its bold new initiative changed four times: from “Elevated Events” to “elevated events,” then to “designated events,” before finally settling upon “Designated events.”
On Tuesday morning at a PGA Tour players meeting (and later at his annual Players Championship press conference), PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan outlined perhaps the boldest set of changes to the designated format yet, cementing a radically different future for golf’s largest professional tour beginning with the start of the 2024 season. Though most of the changes outlined by Monahan Tuesday mirrored those sent in a memo to players last week, some of the latest round of details further expand upon the new designated structure, which will make golf’s biggest events bigger still while lending more thoughtful consideration to those left out of the rota.
We still have another nine months until those changes are enacted in earnest at the start of 2024 (well, seven months, if we’re counting the fall season), but here are seven modifications we think could be most impactful.
7 intriguing changes coming to the PGA Tour
1. No cuts, limited fields
This qualifies as old news, but it’s still deeply significant to the future shape of the Tour. Beginning in 2024, all designated events will have no cuts and field sizes reduced to “70 to 80” players.
These changes, which were covered in Monahan’s memo last week, represent what Rory McIlroy called a “ton of innovation” to an “antiquated” pro golf product — a change McIlroy credited to LIV Golf, which debuted a no-cut format last year.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie,” McIlroy said. “I think the emergence of LIV or the emergence of a competitor to the PGA TOUR has benefited everyone that plays elite professional golf.”
For golfers who qualify for the designated events, guaranteed paychecks (by virtue of the no-cut rule) and larger ones (by virtue of fewer players) are just around the corner.
Entrance into the designated events will also be revamped with a renewed emphasis on equity. Under the new schedule, here’s who will qualify for the designated events:
– The top 50 players in the previous year’s FedEx Cup standings
– The top 10 in the current FedEx Cup standings
– The top 5 FedEx Cup points earners in that tournament’s “swing” on the PGA Tour schedule (West Coast, Florida, etc.)
– The current year’s tournament winners
– The top 30 in the OWGR
– 4 sponsor’s exemptions
But those parameters also include two key exceptions:
– Those who win alternate-field Tour events will not earn entrance into the designated events by virtue of the “current year winner” exemption
– In the case of early-season designated events, the “current FedEx Cup top 10” exemption will encompass the top 10 finishers from the fall schedule.
3. A new tournament cadence
The new schedule, per the Tour, will follow a two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off cadence — a change aimed at improving player schedules and eliminating the imbalances created by the rushed 2023 schedule (think: the Honda Classic, which was smushed between three designated events).
4. Fewer designated events
The new Tour schedule will feature only eight designated events (outside of the Players Championship, the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the majors), as opposed to the nine-event designated schedule seen in 2022.
Per the PGA Tour, this change was made to ensure a better schedule cadence in the new year, allowing a break between designated and non-designated events to improve non-designated tournament attendance.
5. Different designated venues?
The new eight-event designated schedule, per the PGA Tour, will feature the Sentry Tournament of Champions, two early season events, and five others. It’s safe to assume the three Invitationals (Riviera, Bay Hill and Memorial) will find themselves included in the eight, which leaves just four other Tour events eligible for designated status.
Browse the Tour schedule and you’ll realize that means someone‘s going to get left out. Of course, the Tour could opt to keep its existing designated schedule minus the Dell Match Play, which will no longer be contested after the completion of the 2023 season, but that would risk leaving out non-designated (but still significant) events like the Canadian, Scottish or Farmers Insurance Opens.
It’s a tricky problem for which the Tour is still working to figure out a solution.
6. Designated events will remain unchanged from year to year
Perhaps the biggest bombshell revealed by the Tour in the new schedule structure is that designated events are unlikely to change from year to year. Rather, the eight events selected for the 2024 schedule will be the same events used for the designated schedule for years to come.
The Tour indicated that the reason for the change stems back to tournament cadence and availability. While it’d be great to spread the love between every event on the Tour calendar, the burden of changing the schedule each year to fit the new designated cadence would wreak havoc on player travel schedules, tournament logistics and the hosts responsible for getting each course in tournament condition.
Still, these changes mean that some marquee Tour events will find themselves left out of the designated limelight well beyond 2024.
7. Boosted FedEx Cup points values
As expected, the FedEx Cup points dolled out for designated events will be weighted more heavily than non-designated events. Per Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard, a designated event victory will be worth 700 FedEx Cup points beginning in 2024, while a non-designated event victory will continue to be worth 500 points. This means that under the structure outlined, a 10th-place finish in a designated event will be worth the same point value as a 3rd-place finish in a non-designated event.
This was always a likely reality of the new system, lest the Tour risk an overabundance of turnover at the designated events, removing the top players in the sport from the action. Still, it’s also been a particular sticking point for those outside of the top 50, many of whom feel the schedule changes bifurcate the Tour into groups of “haves” and “have nots.”