RIDGELAND, SOUTH CAROLINA | When the PGA Tour’s elevated events become a reality in 2023, they will do two things:
Pump millions more dollars into a series of tournaments that target the tour’s top players, while also requiring those players to change their schedules to be part of those events.
The tour is expected to send a memo to players this week officially confirming the WM Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship and Travelers Championship as elevated events, with $20 million purses and the assurance that the top 20 players in the tour’s Player Impact Program will participate.
Sources confirmed a Golfweek report about the four events, which join nine previously announced elevated events (the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players Championship, Memorial Tournament, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship and the three FedEx Cup playoff events) next year.
The idea of elevated events came out of a series of summer meetings led by Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods designed to bring the top players together more often while also offering substantially increased prize money in the wake of LIV Golf’s disruptive arrival in the professional game.
Under the setup, the top players will compete in the same events at least two times each month starting in February through the end of the season in August.
When commissioner Jay Monahan announced the new concept Aug. 24 before the Tour Championship, he named the first nine elevated events and said there would be four more. It’s undetermined whether those four events will continue as elevated events beyond 2023.
If there is a surprise among the four new elevated events, it’s the inclusion of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links. It means that two of the events – the Heritage and the Travelers – will be played immediately after major championships, when some top players like to take the week off.
Rahm said his wife, Kelley, will be happy that he will return to Hilton Head in April, an event he has played just once since turning pro. Adding the Travelers in Hartford, Connecticut, the week after the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club, also will be a change for Rahm, a Spaniard who typically goes to Europe after the U.S. Open.
“Sometimes when the schedule is set and you have to go play, makes things easier, at least in my mind. Oh, you have to play these events and then you organize the rest, which there’s a simplicity to it in that sense,” Rahm said Tuesday before this week’s C.J. Cup here at Congaree Golf Club.
“Plus, you’re elevating great events. They’re all amazing golf courses, all amazing events, a lot of history, all of them. So, they’re worthy of it. Hilton Head and Travelers after majors? I’m not keen on playing after a major, but I’ve seen people do it and I’ve seen people do well, so there’s no reason why you can’t.”
With the 13 elevated events along with the four major championships, it effectively creates the schedule for the top players who have committed to playing 20 tour events in the PGA Tour’s final wraparound season, which also is a Ryder Cup year. It gives them some flexibility to add events that they typically may play, but it will require some of them to play more in certain stretches than they typically might.
“A lot of it is going to have to be a combination of discussions with the European Tour for people like Rory (McIlroy) and I where we have those 20 events to play for the PGA Tour and then you need to add three or four more for the European Tour, right, plus the events you want to play.” – Jon Rahm
Jordan Spieth is a prime example. The way the 2023 schedule sets up, Spieth will add the Wells Fargo Championship – a spot he typically doesn’t play because it runs up against two events near his home in Dallas – and will be the first of five in a row that includes the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic, PGA Championship, Charles Schwab Challenge and the Memorial Tournament.
Spieth said he likely will play one or two fewer events on the West Coast in early 2023 to accommodate the changes.
“I think it looks like it will just be an extra one in a row (in the spring). If that’s the case, then that does put me and a few other people like Scottie (Scheffler), (Will) Zalatoris, some guys who like playing both the Dallas events in a situation where you’re looking at five in a row, which I’ve done once,” said Spieth, who recently went 5-0 in the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club, host of the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I don’t particularly like doing more than four in a row, but I love my hometown events.”
For Rahm, there is also the added challenge of fitting a few European Tour events into his schedule. He has averaged 20 PGA Tour starts the last four full seasons (the 2019-20 season was interrupted by the pandemic) and expects that number to remain the same this season.
“A lot of it is going to have to be a combination of discussions with the European Tour for people like Rory (McIlroy) and I where we have those 20 events to play for the PGA Tour and then you need to add three or four more for the European Tour, right, plus the events you want to play,” Rahm said.
“You don’t want that number to get too high, and for us to play more golf than we want to play before the Ryder Cup or after the Ryder Cup. … You want to have the proper time off as well.”
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