Amid ‘mixed emotions’ on designated events, Rory McIlroy says PGA Tour won’t be ‘closed shop’

Amid ‘mixed emotions’ on designated events, Rory McIlroy says PGA Tour won’t be ‘closed shop’
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The PGA Tour is about to begin its second full-field designated event with the Genesis Invitational. 

But with designated events still a work in progress, how long will this model stand? 

The designated events, created in response to LIV Golf, are designed to bring the Tour’s best players together regularly, and so far, it’s worked. Last week’s WM Phoenix Open brought 22 of the top 25 players in the Official World Golf Ranking to TPC Scottsdale, and this week at Riviera, 23 of the world’s top 25 are set to tee it up. 

The fields are still full, giving the chance for someone’s career to be changed in a week. However, there are rumblings that starting next season, designated events could transition to 70-player fields with no cut. 

Full-field tee times from The Genesis Invitational

Tiger Woods acknowledged Tuesday at Riviera that not all players are on the same page regarding the designated events.

“From top players to players who obviously have injuries or the fact that you have guys that are journeymen, back and forth, yes, I’ve talked to the whole gamut,” Woods said. “As I’ve said, there’s mixed emotions, but at the end of the day we’re trying to create the best product, and how do we do that? That’s what we’re trying to do and we’re still figuring it out.” 

Rory McIlroy, a player director on the Player Advisory Council, understands that the Tour’s stars are what moves the needle, but the rank-and-file guys may feel they’re being kicked to the curb. He insists, however, that won’t be the case. 

Tiger Woods is in Southern California for the Genesis Invitational and so, too, is Ryan Lavner.

“The feedback is I would say similar to what Tiger said yesterday,” McIlroy said on Wednesday, “it’s the top half of the membership being really happy that they’re in [the designated events], but then the guys maybe on the outside looking in being worried about if they’re always going to be on the outside looking in.

“I think that the big thing has been, is this going to be like a closed shop for the same guys every single week, and it’s not. This tour was built on meritocracy. This tour was built on if you shoot the scores, you can move up the levels and play the biggest events. That’s not going to be taken away.”

A model McIlroy sees moving forward is similar to what has already existed. In years past, there have been multiple limited-field, no-cut events a season. Several World Golf Championships, the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the FedExCup playoffs’ BMW and Tour championships, and the CJ Cup and Zozo Championship in the fall. The 2022-23 season’s only WGC is the Dell Technologies Match Play. 

“Historically we’ve had tournaments that haven’t had cuts and really wasn’t any grumbling about it before LIV came along,” McIlroy said. “So I think you’re going to see a mixture of both, to be honest with you.”

But the world’s second-ranked player isn’t neglecting tradition. 

“I think some tournaments more than others lend themselves to maybe having cuts and trying to keep some sort of history, like we’re at the old L.A. Open that has a ton of history here,” he said. “Is this an event that maybe should keep a cut going forward? Potentially, because of the history of it. So we’re thinking about all that sort of stuff. There’s a ton of conversation around it.” 

McIlroy added that helping the Tour create the best product moving forward can be hard to balance with his playing career. He hopes, though, there will be a solution soon. 

“Would I love to just get back to [just] playing golf at some stage? Absolutely,” he said, “but hopefully after this year, the schedule’s set for ’24 and beyond and we sort of get everything else in place. Hopefully, I will be able to go back and concentrate on the day job a little bit more. Not that I don’t concentrate on it, but a lot of my extra time’s taken up with a lot of this stuff.”

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