Editor’s note: In observance of Thanksgiving, GGP+ will take a short break and publish next on Tuesday, Nov. 29. Please enjoy the holiday.
If you have a moment before settling into Thanksgiving weekend and all that comes with it – the turkey, the dressing (that’s what we call it down South), the football, the family and the understanding that “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” will be stuck in your head for the next month – take a moment to appreciate the winners in the fall portion of the PGA Tour’s changing schedule.
Max Homa, the guy whom everybody wants to be buddies with.
Mackenzie Hughes, a guy whom everyone should want to be buddies with.
Tom Kim, the game’s newest star.
Keegan Bradley, a member of the grinders’ hall of fame.
Rory McIlroy, simply the best.
Séamus Power, your FedEx Cup points leader.
Russell Henley, a bulldog through and through.
Tony Finau, the guy who supposedly didn’t win enough.
Adam Svensson, just getting started at age 28.
Not a bad list for a run of off-Broadway tournaments. Don’t tell those guys the fall events don’t matter.
“I would love us to come back in January and people will have missed watching competitive golf.” – Rory McIlroy
While the PGA Tour surrenders the next six weeks to Tiger and Charlie Woods, holiday parties and more football, there is the lingering question of how the post-FedEx Cup portion of the tour schedule will look in late 2023 and what it will mean.
Because of the creation of 12 “elevated events” next year and resetting the tour schedule to accommodate the return of a true calendar-year schedule in 2024, there is an element of uncertainty about how September, October and November will play out next year (aside from the Ryder Cup matches on Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Rome).
Once the FedEx Cup playoffs are over and the top players have fulfilled their requirement to play in 11 of the 12 events, will they spend the autumn counting their cash while waiting for another January date in Maui?
Or will they play more even though they won’t be able to get a jump start on the FedEx Cup race like they’ve done during the soon-to-be-over wraparound era?
For the players who finish outside the top 70 in points next season, they likely will be able to use the fall to secure their cards going into ’24 when everyone will start from scratch in January, including LIV Golf’s antitrust lawsuit against the tour, which is scheduled for federal court in California then.
Last month, McIlroy was asked what the tour’s fall schedule should look like going forward.
“Football,” McIlroy said.
The ratings would suggest it already does, but McIlroy’s point was there is value in time away.
“I would love us to come back in January and people will have missed watching competitive golf,” he said at the CJ Cup.
That may not be music to sponsors’ ears, but they go into fall events understanding what they’ve bought into, while pushing to maximize their investment. It also doesn’t mean the tour will quit playing once football kicks off.
The top players will have the opportunity to step away for an extended period like Patrick Cantlay did when he took four months off after the 2021 Tour Championship, playing just the Ryder Cup. Or they can stay busy if their favorite college football team is having a down year.
Joel Dahmen played seven fall events and posted five top-16 finishes, including three straight top-10s to skate into the offseason.
The fall events aren’t going away. Last week, tournament host Davis Love III said the RSM Classic already has its dates for 2023 and thinks it’s set for 2024. Don’t expect a drastic reduction in the number of playing opportunities for players in the fall.
There could be some changes. There are rumors Houston could find a spot earlier in the year, but that would mean another event would move to the fall. With 2023 being seen internally as a bridge to ’24 when the various changes settle in, it’s still a work in progress.
“I think there’s tons of moving parts to it, but my caddie and I talk about it all the time how like Greensboro always feels like is one of the most interesting events of the year because everyone in the field’s kind of playing for something, you kind of figure out what somebody’s made of,” Brian Harman said. “The consequences are almost life-and-death. Guys are trying to keep their card; guys are trying to make the top 30, 70; everyone’s really serious that week. I think you could see that kind of transition into (the RSM) if it ends up with the same date, because this will be the last event where guys are trying to keep their cards.”
When Harris English debuted on the PGA Tour in 2012, fall events did not receive FedEx Cup points. He finished 87th in FedEx Cup points through the Tour Championship but played three fall events in which official money but no points were offered.
“It was just guys who didn’t make enough money trying to keep their card, so if you wanted to play, you could play,” English said. “So, I loved that way. I played some in the fall just because I wanted to play and make money and go see new places. I wish it would go back to some sort of that. … If you don’t want to play the fall, you don’t have to play it. If you want to play, stay sharp, you can play if you want to. I really wouldn’t think it would hurt a whole lot of fields like RSM, the Shriners, Mexico.”
A year ago, few would have expected the PGA Tour to have made the changes it has been forced to make to fight off the LIV Golf insurgence. The process isn’t finished, and exactly how the fall events will play into the finished product remains to be seen.
Until then, enjoy the down time.
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