The battle for the future of golf between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf has also been a clash over how tournaments are played. Now the PGA Tour is adopting a series of changes that happen to include some of the untraditional formats used by its Saudi-backed rival.
In a memo sent to players Wednesday and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, commissioner
said the Tour is going forward with a “Designated Event Model” to highlight certain tournaments. Those select events will include a couple of notable features: smaller fields of only 70-80 players and no cut to reduce the field after 36 holes.
Those changes are notable because they mirror part of the philosophy LIV has espoused since launching last year. LIV’s fields include only 48 players and don’t have a cut.
The format has drawn LIV, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, into a fight with a little known and secretive golf body, the Official World Golf Ranking, whose statisticians churn out a weekly pecking order for the best golfers in the world. LIV has applied for accreditation by OWGR that would allow its events to count toward ranking points, but hasn’t received it. Those points
are important: they provide a critical pathway to qualify for major championships and players are sometimes paid by sponsors based on their ranking.
Having a cut at tournaments is required for circuits to receive accreditation with OWGR, people familiar with the process previously told The Journal, who added that the absence of a cut was among the potential concerns for LIV’s application. The size of LIV’s fields also fall short of the OWGR’s expected average minimum, 75. (Unlike the Tour, LIV’s events also include a team element.)
A person familiar with LIV’s thinking said the Tour’s changes are a validation of LIV’s business model and undermine many of the Tour’s golf criticisms of its rival now that it is emulating it. That person also said that the Tour’s adoption of no-cut events would raise questions about the OWGR’s rationale for excluding LIV.
A person familiar with the Tour’s thinking said that the PGA Tour had a handful of limited field events without a cut long predating LIV’s existence and that this is an expansion of its own format that it has used.
This is the latest in a series of overhauls for the PGA Tour since LIV Golf launched last year and poached the likes of superstars Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson with rich appearance fees and record-breaking prize funds. Previously, the Tour had rejiggered its schedule and created elevated events with larger purses to line players pockets amid a wave of defections.
For fans, many of the changes can be seen as potentially solving one of the Tour’s thornier problems. With a long calendar that drags through most of the year, it has historically been difficult to get all of the world’s best golfers to participate in the same events unless they are major championships. By highlighting certain tournaments—which in addition to bigger purses will have additional points for the lucrative FedExCup—the goal is to improve the product by providing incentives for the best players to all commit to the same tournaments.
“Together, this approach provides a schedule that is cohesive, compelling, consequential and with clarity for fans, players and sponsors alike,” Monahan wrote in his memo.
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