The 47-event, $428 million schedule the PGA Tour released Monday features groundbreaking purse increases, a dramatically streamlined playoff and plenty of unknowns.
What we know:
The 2022-23 schedule was born from the growing threat of LIV Golf and an arm’s race that’s being measured in the millions of dollars. In response to the Saudi-backed league, the Tour unveiled a schedule with dramatic purse increases in eight events that range from $15 million to $25 million – including bumps at The Players, Genesis Invitational and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
The new line up also features a return to a calendar season and the influx of to-be-determined big money international events in the fall to reward the game’s top players.
Beyond that, however, it remains to be seen how the current landscape will be reshaped by the changes. Atop the list of unknowns is what happens to the current fall events?
There are nine fall events – which begin with the Fortinet Championship in September and conclude with the RSM Classic in late November – and the idea is that those tournaments will become a sort of qualifying series for players who failed to keep their Tour cards.
The new schedule has reduced the number of players who qualify for the playoffs and retain their Tour status to the top 70 from the regular-season points list, down from the top 125. That economy of scale will create an even more intense focus for those looking to keep their cards with the Wyndham Championship, the final regular-season event, gaining even more importance.
“We’ve always thought of it as we are the wildcard game, the play-in game. Our status is now elevated and that’s going to make a huge improvement in the strength and depth of our field,” said Mark Brazil, the CEO of Piedmont Triad Charitable Foundation, which oversees the Wyndham Championship.
This week’s Wyndham Championship will come with a healthy amount of intrigue for those players vying to finish inside the top 125 (a number that’s been adjusted this year because of the LIV Golf suspensions). Now imagine that same intrigue for players trying to crack the top 70.
To put that number in context, Gary Woodland, Beau Hossler and Adam Scott would all be scrambling to break inside the top 70 this week and Trey Mullinax, who has won this season on Tour, would be on the bubble at No. 69.
PGA Tour releases 2022-23 schedule with lots of prizes and bonus money on offer
This same concept applies to the fall events, which would drop off the FedExCup schedule starting next year. Without FedExCup points or an invitation to the Masters or even a spot in the field at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the fall tournaments lose much of their luster. But not all fall events are created equally.
“When we signed up over a decade ago we weren’t on the FedEx schedule or the Master [invitation for winners] and then we got that,” said Davis Love III, the host of the RSM Classic. “But now everybody is going backwards again.”
Love, who hosted the first RSM Classic in 2010, said he didn’t know what was going to happen to the fall events, but admitted that RSM is a unique corporate partner.
“Sponsors don’t last 12 years and generally don’t become a part of a culture and a town, so we will do what they want to do. Their thing is Sea Island, the hotel, entertaining their clients, the week before Thanksgiving works for everybody,” Love said. “The RSM people are going to come to Sea Island no matter what the format. For us how does this impact the field, and nobody really knows until we do it.”
The short answer to Love’s question is that going forward players who finish inside the top 70 on the previous season’s points list probably wouldn’t have much interest in playing the fall events, but that still leaves a large swath of players who would need to play to regain their status
In addition to Woodland, Hossler and Scott; Justin Rose, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker are all currently outside the top 70 and would need to play the fall.
“It seems to me we’ll get more guys from 70 to 150 [on the FedExCup list] who will play more. The guys who like to play and bring their families can still do that,” Love said.
Not every fall event will be as fortunate as the RSM Classic and it appears likely there will be attrition and that portion of the schedule will look vastly different starting next year, but of all the unknowns born from Monday’s announcement it seems the one constant will be some form of Tour golf in the fall.