Lynch: In Jay Monahan’s coming PGA Tour plan there will be winners, losers and still more griping players

When it comes to making consequential changes, the PGA Tour’s Global Home has much in common with the Vatican, two cloistered realms accustomed to moving at the drowsy pace of papal encyclicals rather than with the immediacy expected in the modern world. It’s been 39 days since the Tour’s ultimate authority, Jay Monahan, issued his bulletin — let’s call it Electi pretium (“Chosen Price”) — outlining a vision to secure the loyalty of the world’s top golfers, details of which he said would be revealed in 45 to 60 days. That’s a dizzying pace for the prelates of the Ponte Vedra curia tasked with executing the particulars, as it would be for any major sports league to fundamentally overhaul how it does business. 

The easy part involves money: the Player Impact Program doubling to $100 million, the $500,000 guarantee for all rookies, the modest stipend so cut-missers can defray expenses. More problematic is the radical reshaping of the product that Monahan promised at the behest of a group of players led by Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. 

Electi pretium calls for a tour within the Tour, 12 events “elevated” with $20 million purses and elite fields. Add the majors and the Players Championship, and the game’s best would compete against each other 17 times every season, considerably more often than they do now. But elevating tournaments is far from straightforward. 

Some of the anointed have been announced — three FedEx Cup playoff events, the existing invitationals (Memorial, Arnold Palmer and Genesis), the WGC Match Play, and the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The remaining four are to be determined, but will likely rotate among sponsors willing to pay the premium required for elevation every few years but not annually. When elevated events are decided, where do they fall on the schedule? Most events earmarked for elite status are fixed on the calendar. The puzzle of pacing won’t be solved without some tournaments being nudged to new dates, which raises fresh considerations in every instance. 

An unavoidable by-product of designating elevated tournaments is creating a caste system among PGA Tour events, one tier where elite players are guaranteed to show up, another where their presence would be an unexpected bonus. For sponsors historically focused on impacting their host communities — Sanderson Farms this week, for example — implied relegation might not diminish the tournament’s corporate value, but that view won’t prevail in every C-suite. 

Elevating tournaments only formalizes the existence of a second division, since it’s always been the case that some events attract better fields. The Tour will insist that increasing the value of one tournament does not automatically reduce the value of another, but mitigating sponsor jitters is why top players must also commit to playing three non-elevated stops every year. Some events will see elite talent simply because the dates suit to fulfill their obligations

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By: Eamon Lynch
Title: Lynch: In Jay Monahan's coming PGA Tour plan there will be winners, losers and still more griping players
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Published Date: Sun, 02 Oct 2022 02:36:40 +0000

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