PGA Tour players meeting at TPC Sawgrass provides clarity amidst sweeping changes
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – About 50 PGA Tour members gathered in the palatial clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass just after dawn Tuesday for a meeting that will have a profound impact on the future of the circuit.
Sweeping changes to the Tour schedule and qualification criteria that were first revealed last week were explained in greater detail to the membership over 90 minutes that, according to various players who attended the meeting, was not nearly as confrontational as some would have thought.
“I think the temperature in the room was nowhere near as hot as I anticipated it to be once the information was sort of laid out,” said Rory McIlroy, one of five player directors on the Tour’s policy board, which approved the sweeping changes last week.
Full-field tee times from The Players Championship
The Tour’s plan to transition to a designated-event model with limited fields and no cuts was first unveiled last week to growing concerns that the move would create a tour of “haves” and “have nots,” but more details on Tuesday led to, if nothing else, a general acceptance.
“I’ll play 29 [mostly non-designated] events next year, which is awesome,” said one player who requested anonymity. “After hearing more details, I’m more comfortable [with the changes].”
Next year the Tour’s schedule will include 16 designated events – the four majors, The Players, three playoff events and eight other tournaments, including the Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational and Memorial. The eight “other” designated events will feature limited fields (70 to 80 players) with no cut. It’s a distinction that didn’t land well when it was revealed last week, but one that players appeared to accept, however reluctantly.
“Will this model be perfect right out of the gate? Perhaps not,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan conceded. “But as we’ve done throughout our history, and using the FedExCup as a prime example, we will listen, we will learn and we will adapt each year with the changing needs of our players, partners and fans.”
Players seemed to have a better understanding of exactly what the landscape will look like next year, even if the new designated reality isn’t exactly what many Tour players would have opted for. There was a feeling heading into Tuesday’s meeting that the changes were a fait accompli.
“They didn’t call us in there to vote. They called us in to listen,” one player said.
Of particular interest is how many events players will have to play, beyond the designated stops, to keep their Tour card and the ability to play their way into the bigger events via the current-season FedExCup points list and mini-points lists from what the circuit is calling non-designated “swings” between the bigger events.
“I can confidently say there are not two separate tours, even though there is that perception,” Jordan Spieth said. “We are getting the best players together more often while providing an opportunity for guys who are future stars to get into those events.”
Another area of interest is how the Tour will adjust the FedExCup point allocation for the designated stops, which will award more points than full-field events. The Tour didn’t announce the official point distribution starting next year, but according to various sources, the increase will be significant, with the winner of a designated event earning 700 points compared to 500 points at regular, non-designated tournaments.