‘I don’t get it’: The PGA Tour change this major winner denounces

stewart cink stands with caddie at sony open in hawaii

Count Stewart Cink among those yet to be convinced by the new "signature events" series on the PGA Tour.

Michael Reaves/Getty

Stewart Cink has been around the professional golf block.

A 29-year pro, Cink has witnessed the PGA Tour transform from a medium-sized league to a professional sports behemoth — and then watched again as that behemoth grew big enough to become the target of a rival league funded by a foreign autocracy. Those developments have brought with them no shortage of change, and that change has affected Cink’s bottom line more than once.

Still, never has a pro golf change been quite as sudden as the developments of the last 12 months, a time when the PGA Tour both crafted and ratified a new system of competition that promised to stratify the game in a way it never had been before.

By now you know about the signature events series, a circuit of eight big-money PGA Tour events, many of which feature limited fields and no cuts. The series was made primarily to help the PGA Tour stymie the threat of LIV defections by allowing its best players to compete against one another more often for larger paychecks. The downside of that shift, however, was what it did to the Tour’s so-called “working class.” Those players, who rank outside of the top 50 in the FedEx Cup rankings, are not guaranteed entrance into the signature events series, a development that leaves them in a considerably weaker financial position than their top-50 counterparts.

In theory, the signature events changes were made to improve the competitive integrity of the Tour — shoring up the product to be more reliably interesting and star-driven. But that’s precisely why the changes have rankled Stewart Cink, who voiced some of his concerns about them during a post-round presser at the Sony Open on Friday.

“If I was in the top 50 I would really like it, but I’m not, so I don’t like it,” Cink said. “Unfortunately I do think it’s probably the right thing to do for golf fans. If all the players play in those and we get great fields playing for a lot of money then it’s great. It’s just I don’t think it serves everybody, and PGA Tour kind of has been about doing the best for everybody, for all the pros and members.”

Cink says he understands the market forces that led to Tour being the way it now is, and he was careful not to point his criticism in the direction of Tour leadership for making the best of a very difficult situation. But he echoed a complaint we’ve heard from a series of pros outside the top 50 over the last nine months: the Tour changes create a closed system, making it difficult for those who fall outside the top-50 from ever making it in.

“To me, it’s a little bit out of balance. I understand where it all came from. We had to do something because we had a competing venture out there trying to swallow our players up,” Cink said. “We had to give our players a reason to stay, so I get it. It’s not easy, but where I’m sitting I don’t really love it.”

Fortunately, the Tour enacted some specific changes to address those concerns, blocking off 10 slots in each of the signature events for players who compete well over a certain stretch in the Tour season. But Cink says the problem isn’t that there are no opportunities — just that there are too few of them.

“To honor [good] finishes with a chance to move up into these Signature Events, I think it’s good,” He said. ” One thing that personally I am not for is I played in the first year of the elevated tournaments — they were mostly full-field tournaments with cuts and all the top players played — I thought they were just absolutely brilliant. It’s hard to convince me and a lot of the players that aren’t in those fields why being a small field matters. That’s where I stand on it.”

In Cink’s eyes, field size is the biggest issue presented by the new way of life. Not just from a little-guy standpoint, but from an entertainment standpoint, too.

“I’m just not convinced why an 80-man field is more elite than a 156-man field,” he said. “I don’t get it.”

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.