This week, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced that, beginning in 2024, there will be eight designated events with fields between 70 to 80 players and no cuts. The schedule was approved by the PGA Tour’s Policy Board and is being implemented in an effort to “transform and set the future direction” of the PGA Tour. The announcement did not come without criticism from those within the golf ecosystem, as the parallels to LIV Golf’s much-maligned format are obvious.
However, the smaller field, no-cut events serve two purposes for the PGA Tour: first, they guarantee sponsors that the game’s top stars will be there for all four days; second, they guarantee paydays for those same stars. The announcement comes on the heels of the PGA Tour’s introduction of “designated events” to its schedule, which thus far have been wildly successful.
In February, Scottie Scheffler took down the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. The raucous final round took place just down the street from State Farm Stadium, where the Chiefs and Eagles would kick off Super Bowl LVII just 30 minutes after Scheffler won the tournament. The win allowed Scheffler to reclaim the world number one ranking, jumping Rory McIlroy en route to defending his 2022 victory at the same event. Also finishing inside the Top 10 at the WMPO included Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Sam Burns, Sungjae Im, Jordan Spieth, Tyrell Hatton, Xander Schauffele, and Rickie Fowler. That leaderboard, combined with the Super Bowl kicking off down the road, drew significant buzz and eyeballs for the PGA Tour.
Just one week later, Jon Rahm battled hometown hero Max Homa to win the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. Rahm’s win allowed him to leapfrog Scottie Scheffler as world number one, who enjoyed the honor for just six days. The tournament came loaded with storylines, as Tiger Woods made the cut in his 2023 season debut, and Max Homa – a Cal golf alum and Southern California native – was in the mix all week. Homa choked up as he spoke to media following the tournament, highlighting just how important legacy and winning tournaments are for many players on Tour. In addition to Max Homa, other young stars like Collin Morikawa, Will Zalatoris, Sahith Theegala, and Patrick Cantlay all finished inside the top 10.
This week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational was the third designated event on the PGA Tour schedule. Handwritten letters from Arnold Palmer to PGA Tour members lined the hallways of the clubhouse at Bay Hill, as the Sunday leaderboard was once again loaded with the game’s top stars. With just a few holes to play, Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland, and Patrick Cantlay were all within just a couple of shots of one another. However, it was Kurt Kitayama, currently ranked number 46 in the Official World Golf Ranking, who took down the $3.6 million prize at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Kitayama (also called “Quadzilla” and the “Quadfather” due to the size of his thighs) highlights the opposite end of the spectrum from Rahm and Scheffler. Prior to earning his PGA Tour card, Kitayama played on the Asian Tour, Web.com Tour, PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour China, and the Asian Development Tour. After finally earning his PGA Tour Card, he went out and stared down the game’s biggest stars en route to his first career PGA Tour victory.
The designated events have become must-watch television for the PGA Tour, who could not have asked for a better start to its 2023 season. They feature high-powered young stars and legendary veterans, yet are still accessible to players like Kitayama, who can go out and win on any given week. Ultimately, leaderboards and finishes like we’ve seen at the Waste Management, Genesis, and Arnold Palmer will certainly help “transform and set the future direction” of the PGA Tour.