The PGA Tour membership was informed officially Wednesday what was reported the day before – that agreements are in place for four additional elevated events on the 2023 schedule: the WM Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship and the Travelers Championship.
Andy Pazder, chief tournaments and competitions officer for the tour, confirmed that all four tournaments are on board with increasing their respective purses significantly to $US20 million, bringing to 13 the number of marquee events for next year, not counting the Major championships. Beyond that, no decisions have been made, he said; therefore, players were not informed of any other developments. Pazder made it clear that there are none.
“What we’re communicating to the players is simply the four additional tournaments that are being elevated for the 2022-23 season and that’s it,” Pazder told Golf Digest. “We’ve communicated with our tournament sponsors, our tournament organisations that this is a one-year-only decision. No one should read into this that this is an announcement of tournaments that should be expected to be elevated every year. We have not made any decisions on whether we’ll rotate events over the coming years. We are in the process of evaluating our strategy for the 2024 season and beyond when we go back to a single calendar-year season.”
It was less than two months ago, on August 24 at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, that Commissioner Jay Monahan announced the tour planned to add four additional elevated events to the schedule that already included nine other tour stops previously given that designation. Those events are the Players Championship, WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play, the three FedEx Cup playoff events and three invitational tournaments (Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational and Memorial Tournament). At that time, Monahan said that “top players” were committed to competing in 16 tour events – the 13 elevated tournaments plus three others of their choosing. Top players come from those who finished among the top 20 in the old and new Player Impact Program.
The positioning of the elevated events on the calendar will make for a crowded schedule for top players in 2023. The WM Phoenix Open is February 9-12. Four of the next six weeks also include elevated events (Genesis, API, Players, Match Play). The RBC Heritage comes April 13-16, a week after the year’s first major, the Masters. Wells Fargo is May 4-7, two weeks before the PGA Championship. The Travelers Championship is June 22-25, a week after the US Open and three weeks after Memorial.
It’s no surprise, then, that the tour hasn’t had much of an opportunity to flesh out what comes after this season.
“Everything is subject to discussion,” said Pazder who noted that the PGA Tour Policy Board meets on November 14 in Sea Island, Georgia, the Monday prior to the last official FedEx Cup event of the [autumn], the RSM Classic. “Hopefully after that we’ll have a little more clarity to our 2024 season and beyond.”
Among the potential points of discussion at the board meeting could include the following:
• Whether different tournaments will be identified as elevated events in 2024, and if the schedule would be reconfigured to accommodate a spacing out of big events.
• The easing of the 16-tournament minimum for the top players, or at least provide some flexibility.
• The allowance of DP World Tour members such as Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm using starts on the DP World Tour as a way to fulfil the minimum, which would reflect cooperation within the strategic alliance between the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
• Potential elevation of an autumn tournament in a future year.
Mind you, these are only possible subjects the board might be inclined to take up. But it’s not a certainty, perhaps beyond the first bullet point.
Pazder declined to comment on who was responsible for the extra prize money in the four additional elevated tournaments, which in 2022 offered purses ranging from $US8 million (RBC Heritage) to $US9 million (Wells Fargo). Sources who spoke to Golf Digest indicated that individual tournament sponsors will foot the lion’s share of the purse increases.
Pazder confirmed that autumn events that take place after next year’s Tour Championship still will have an impact on membership status for the next calendar-year season that begins in January 2024. In essence, the tour is staging another extended season that will include the 11 autumn tournaments in both 2022 and 2023, making the season effectively 55 events. “Those events next [autumn] will still convey official prizemoney, official wins, Masters invitations and a berth in the Sentry Tournament of Championship,” he said.
In 2024, the top 70 who qualify for the postseason will be exempt for the next year, while positions 71-125 are to be settled during the autumn campaign when tournaments will still offer FedEx Cup points as an extension of the season prior to the three-event playoff run.