PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Fresh off a seven-hour board meeting that reshaped the PGA Tour’s future, commissioner Jay Monahan was standing in a breezeway at Bay Hill last week when Adam Hadwin walked by and asked him what was coming.
Monahan assured him there would be good news on the way.
“For everyone?” Hadwin asked.
Monahan put some of those concerns to rest on Tuesday that radical changes to the PGA Tour schedule would not create a divide among the stars who play in small fields for big money and everyone else.
And he took exception to the notion the PGA Tour simply copied Saudi-funded LIV Golf by having 11 designated tournaments that don’t have a cut.
“Do you think we really look the same?” Monahan said. “The players that are competing in our events in this new format next year will have earned the right to compete in them.”
Some details have not been worked out, while others have not been announced.
Still to be determined are eight of the designated events that will offer a $20-million purse with a field of no more than 80 players. Jack Nicklaus said two weeks ago Pebble Beach would be one of them, and the tour has said events with tournament hosts — Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods — would be among them.
Monahan pointed to a signature difference to LIV Golf, which has 48 players who make up 12 teams for the entire season. He said every PGA Tour member would be able to gain access to elite events by competing in all the other tournaments.
Key to the system is turnover.
“The model right now would suggest that roughly a little north of 60 per cent of the players in the top 50 will retain their position, so more than a third will not,” Monahan said. “That was an important element to the changes that we’re making. We wanted to make certain that there was real consequence and there’s real promotion, there’s real relegation. I think that accomplishes that.”
Monahan declined to acknowledge that changes were prompted by LIV Golf, which has taken away 36 players from the PGA Tour with offers of signing bonuses, small fields, a team concept and $20 million purses, with $4 million to the winner.
Other players made that clear.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie,” Rory 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. When you’ve been the biggest golf league in the biggest market in the world for the last 60 years, there’s not a lot of incentive to innovate.
“This has caused a ton of innovation at the PGA Tour, and what was quite — I would say — an antiquated system.”
McIlroy has been a strong voice in these changes, and it dates to a private meeting of select players in Delaware last August. Tiger Woods flew up from Florida to take part.
McIlroy said what was discussed in August is nothing like what was presented to the players last week after the quarterly board meeting. A players-only meeting was held Tuesday morning at The Players Championship that lasted some two hours.
In Delaware, the idea was to have 14 tournaments with no more than 60 players, with some 80 per cent of the players staying at that elite level.
Monahan and the tour wanted the turnover rate closer to what it is now.
“The structure that has been rolled out here is vastly different from the one that we all talked about and the guys saw in Delaware, and I think for the betterment of everyone,” McIlroy said. “I think if we had went down that road, it doesn’t serve the membership anywhere near as well as what this structure does.”
Monahan said the tour was guided by wanting the top players to compete against each other more often. He said the top 30 players in the world competed under 40 per cent of the time outside of the majors.
That puts enormous pressure on players to make the top 70 who advance to the FedEx Cup playoffs, and even more on those trying to get into the top 50. They are set for all the big events in 2024.
Monahan said the FedEx Cup standings would continue into the fall, where players can start working toward 10 additional spots in the big events, and others can make sure they stay in the top 125 to retain full PGA Tour cards.
Tour officials estimate that anyone who finishes around 90th after the regular season could keep their cards without having to play in the fall.
For all the changes, Justin Thomas said it still came down to good golf.
“When every single one of us signed up to play golf, you knew that the better you played, the better tournaments you were going to be into, and the worse you played, you may not even have a job anymore or you may be on a developmental tour or whatever it may be,” Thomas said. “None of that is changing.”