A tantalising 2024 lies ahead on the PGA Tour with Tiger back on the prowl

With so many moving parts and a steady line of rising phenoms mingling with established stars on the landscape, getting a feel for what the 2024 PGA Tour season will deliver can be a challenging endeavour. But if you find yourself scurrying to study it all, here are a few words that might slow you down.

“I don’t have any pain. The best scenario would be maybe a tournament a month. I think that’s realistic.”

That was Tiger Woods speaking in the Bahamas in late November in advance of the annual Hero World Challenge, of which he is the host. Woods added to his duties by teeing it up in the event for the first time since 2019, and for his first appearance since withdrawing from the third round of the Masters in April.

That alone was a promising sign, but his words added even more encouragement. Just like that, the optimism that was already in place for 2024 – given the buzz about eight Signature events being fitted into a schedule to bring together elite players more often, and the promise being flashed by young international names such as Ludvig Aberg, Tom Kim, Ryo Hisatsune and Min Woo Lee – took on an added dimension.

After all, it’s the first time since 2019, when Woods won his fifth Masters and record-equaling 82nd PGA Tour tournament, that the icon has been this positive about playing some sort of a schedule.

Yes, he played nine times in the COVID year of 2020, but he hobbled through most of those tournaments. Woods sat out all of 2021 because of the severe leg injury in car crash that February, and there were just three starts in 2022 and two last year.

In other words, there was never a consistent presence for any of the past four seasons, but fingers crossed there will be in 2024. It comes at a time when the pro golf landscape is changing and with Woods firmly in the middle of it all as a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board.

It’s a different role for him, for sure. But Woods’ decision to move onto the policy board isn’t motivated by a wish to rekindle his once incomparable on-course magic as it is in helping to shape a PGA Tour to a fast-changing pro golf landscape that is younger and richer in international flavour.

That these younger and brilliantly talented international names are going to appear frequently on the PGA Tour is one of the reasons the 2024 season is being anticipated. Consider the aforementioned Aberg, Kim, Hisatsune and Lee. Oh, the new and exciting looks they are going to bring to the PGA Tour in this coming year.

Aberg, a 24-year-old Swede, won in just his 11th PGA Tour start and is sitting 32nd in the world order, having ranked 3,064th at the start of 2023. Kim owns three wins in just 45 starts and is ranked 11th in the world. As for Hisatsune, a 21-year-old from Japan, and Lee, the 25-year-old from Perth, they closed 2023 in style.

Hisatsune won the French Open early in the northern autumn and went T-13 and T-8 in the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship and ISPS Handa Australian Open, respectively. Lee had wins in Macau and at the Australian PGA and in his past 15 tournaments, he’s finished in the top 10 seven times. They are ranked 79th and 35th in the OWGR, respectively (as of December 3, 2023).

Their youth and frequently used passports put them in great company with the game’s elite. Consider the top of the world order, for instance. So young is this hugely talented group that Rory McIlroy, still-in-his-prime at just 34, is the oldest of the top eight.

Seizing on this dynamic landscape of so much youthful talent from around the globe, the PGA Tour announced that in 2024 they would grant the wish of their fandom. They would bring the world’s best players together more often.

Specifically, eight tournaments – the Sentry, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship, Memorial Tournament and Travelers Championship – are going to be Signature events, meaning they will have smaller fields. There will be ‘play-in’ opportunities for players who aren’t currently eligible and, in some cases, Woods is among those who can’t put those tournaments on his schedule.

What does Tiger Woods have left in the tank?

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t encouraged by what he sees. As he turned 48 on December 30, Woods says, “I think I can have a lasting impact… on the future of the PGA Tour.”

We are at the threshold of that future as the Sentry will be here from January 4-7 on the Hawaiian island of Maui. It will be the first of the Signature events and when you rattle off the line-up of megastars – Scottie Scheffler, McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Matt Fitzpatrick who are expected to play… well, it’s easy to understand what is at the heart of this approach.

Schauffele pointed to the success of designated tournaments in 2023 – “the TV ratings from those were great”, he said – as a valuable springboard into 2024.

“It’s exciting golf. People want to watch it. I mean, it makes sense. We’re putting out our best product with our best players competing against each other [nearly] every week,” Schauffele added. “So, it’s bound to be exciting.”

Schauffele can speak to the competitive ferocity of the PGA Tour. While he’s won an Olympic gold medal and seven PGA Tour tournaments, what might speak to Schauffele’s skillset is his consistency in the overall FedEx Cup points list during his seven seasons – second three times, third once, fourth once, fifth once.

In other words, he’s done everything but win the thing, which is what happens when forces such as McIlroy (a three-time champion), Hovland (last season), Cantlay (2021) and Thomas (2017) are on their game come playoff time.

They’ll all be chasing the season-long crown again in 2024, this time navigating a schedule with a little more Tiger, a lot more glitz – oh, and some youngsters who have the talent and determination to join the best of the best. 

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