‘I hate them’: Not every player seems to like the PGA Tour’s designated event changes

James Hahn hits a shot

Speaking to Golfweek, James Hahn went off on the PGA Tour's changes, calling it a two-tiered system that guarantees more money for top pros.

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The PGA Tour announced its new Designated Events Model on Wednesday, which, for the most part, was widely praised by players who spoke to the media about the changes.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is in agreement.

“I hate them,” James Hahn told Golfweek’s Adam Schupak. “I’m gonna say exactly what 99.99 percent of fans said about players leaving for the LIV tour. If our players just said, ‘We’re doing this for the money,’ I would have a lot more respect for them. But how they’re covering up what they’re doing and trying to make it a thing about sponsors and fans and saving opposite-field events. I think that’s all BS.”

Under the new model, which PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained to players via a memo earlier this week, eight select designated events in 2024 will now consist of 70 to 80 players and won’t have a 36-hole cut. That’s a departure from this year, where all designated events (except for the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the playoffs) had or will have full fields and cuts.

All four majors, the Players Championship, and the three FedEx Cup Playoff events will remain unchanged for next year.

The designated events were created last year and rolled out for the first time in 2023, a reaction, in part, to the rise of LIV Golf. The designated events guarantee the top players in the world will be at the same events and boast huge purses.

But with the new format beginning in 2024, some of those designated events won’t have full fields, denying some PGA Tour players an opportunity at massive paydays.

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The top players will automatically qualify, and the top-five golfers who earn the most FedEx Cup points in the non-designated tournaments between the designated weeks, if not already qualified, get spots in the upcoming designated tournament. A win in any event also elevates players to all the designated tournaments, but overall the fields will still be significantly smaller.

Hahn told Golfweek it’s “a two-tiered system with a feeder tour onto the elevated Tour series.” But Max Homa said he’s a fan of the new tweaks; Patrick Cantlay called them exciting changes; and Rory McIlroy said he loves the new format.

“You play well for two or three weeks, you’re in a designated event,” McIlroy said. “You know then if you keep playing well you stay in them. So, for example, someone like a Chris Kirk last week that wins Honda, he’s set. Winning is really important on this Tour and good play and rewarding that.”

But back to Hahn, who at this point has been one of the few — or first? — vocal dissenters.

“All the big names that are talking about this new product, if you just came out and said, ‘Hey, we’re doing this for the money,’ they want more guaranteed money and this is another way to funnel more money to the top players in the world, I’d have a lot more respect for them,” he told Golfweek. “Right now, they’re just covering their ass and saying everything that the PGA Tour basically has trained them to say, have taught them to say and try to make it not about money when everyone knows 100 percent it’s about more guaranteed money being funneled to the top players in the world. We’ve been talking about money for the last two years and for them not to say that that’s not the No. 1 reason why they’re making these changes — it’s very, very hypocritical.”

While some players said trimming the field for the designated events strengthens the field for the non-designated Tour stops, Hahn saw it a different way.

“The solution to their problem is to limit the number of players that get into elevated events to force the other players to play in the other full-field non-elevated events,” he said. “To me, it’s a road that we have to be very careful on because going to back our mission and our purpose is to be able to create the best playing opportunities for our membership and be able to contribute and donate back to the communities and the charities that we play in. It seems like the major theme over these past few years has been how do we get the most money to the most popular players on our Tour?”

Hahn had lots more to say, too, riffing on the Player Impact Program, Jordan Spieth and others’ influence on the PGA Tour policy board and more. You can read it all here.

Hahn, 41, sits at 169th in the FedEx Cup standings. He’s won twice in his career and made three of nine cuts this season, his last start coming at the Genesis Invitational two weeks ago.

“I’ll play the remainder of this year with full status and then next year I’ll probably end up with conditional status, past-champion status and I’ll play in those opposite-field events and then retire the following year because I mean, I’m older,” Hahn said. “I can’t really hang with the younger stars of our game. I mean, they’re really good. They’re really good. But also I don’t feel like the Tour is going in a direction that the majority of PGA Tour players like.”

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