PGA Tour boss Jay Monahan has admitted “change is hard” while refuting claims that rank and file golfers on his circuit will be treated as “mules” as a result of schedule changes proposed for next year.
The United States-based tour plans to limit fields to between 70 and 80 players for seven lucrative ‘designated tournaments’ in 2024. These could exclude competitors who fail to finish in the top 50 of this year’s FedEx Cup standings.
This year’s designated events are open to full fields of at least 120 players and there are signs of locker room unrest among those who could be excluded from these $20m (£16.6m) competitions in 2024.
Commissioner Monahan told BBC Sport: “Any time you go through change it is going to be hard and people are going to have a difficult time adapting to it.
“People are going to be critical of it but we have spent so much time and energy with our players, including our top players, thinking about our entire membership.
“And I’m confident that next year fans will be responding very favourably towards us.”
Following the announcement of the changes, veteran Ryan Armour, who is on the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council, told Golf Digest “they want those players [who don’t get into the designated events] to be mules for you at all the pro-ams, all the charity visits, all the hospital visits and sponsor events.
“And we’re good enough to do that, but we’re not good enough to play in designated events like we did this year?”
Armour, who is ranked 318 in the world, suggested these players could be tempted by the breakaway LIV Tour, saying: “You had a really good year, but you don’t get in any of the designated events. Why wouldn’t you take a LIV contract?”
Monahan insists the changes are fair and vital to the future of the tour. “I look at every player the same way,” he said.
“They have every ability and every opportunity to be the number one player in the world. And the model that we’ve moved to continues to give them that opportunity.
“And it continues to reward those players that perform the best. So the meritocracy is firmly in place.”
Players will have the freedom to play whichever tournaments they are eligible to enter which is a significant point of difference from the rival breakaway LIV Tour which has 48 contracted golfers who are expected to compete in all 14 of their tournaments.
Monahan avoided being drawn into commenting on the distinction but agreed that “freedom” is a key aspect to his tour’s future strategy. “It absolutely is,” he said.
“That’s the nature and the basis of the game. And you’re trying to balance freedom with creating an opportunity that the players want, which is to compete against each other more often.
“It’s something that is very important to an organisation that’s been around as long as the PGA Tour, now 55 years.”
Source – BBC Sport