Lynch: The PGA Tour offers carrots for excellence but it is worth the stick for mediocrity.

Mar, 2023

The social media consensus pool is always miles wide and a mile deep. So it’s not surprising that changes to PGA Tour’s structure were announced on Tuesday. They were much more concise than that of LIV golf. It’s a relationship that only goes so far before it becomes lazy and stymied.

PGA Tour events don’t have critics backing them — a critical point of differentiation that LIV acolytes often overlook. The contrasts outweigh the similarities. These are limited to cuts and the awarding vast riches.

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Greg Norman does not issue invitations or wire transfers to gain entry to Tour’s new events. Players will be removed from the Tour’s elite Tier if they have a poor season. However, some LIV competitors are legally exempted from being demotion regardless of how bad their performances. These events are subject to criticisms. They create a caste system within tournaments, they reduce the appeal of golf by having fewer Davids up against the Goliaths and they don’t recycle the under-performers quickly enough. However, the reality is that they are still meritocratic. LIV’s structure is intrinsically autocratic.

The PGA Tour has been held hostage by its ranks and file. Every commissioner was given a mandate with little ambition or discretion to provide opportunities for members. This directive is not a way to drive a business, but dilute a product. It’s the reason why smaller fields are announced for events in ’24. This will cause a ruckus among lower orders who believe their chances are diminishing.

Sport is not democratic. Trophies are not reduced in half to ensure fairness. We are seeing the most dramatic shift on Tour in behind-the scenes influence. The pendulum swings from princelings to peasants. The bus is being driven by rock stars, who want to reduce the number of roadies.

These structural changes provide guarantees for two constituencies. Until this year the PGA Tour was unable to guarantee its product to sponsors. It couldn’t guarantee who would turn up to compete. It can now offer this guarantee with the elevated events of ’23 but only for two consecutive days. The cut in 24 makes those two days four. Players are the other guaranteed. They want more of the pie, with fewer other players nibbling at it. And to have a shorter time when they aren’t paid. The cut is taken.

No-cut events don’t seem like a new concept. A healthy portion of the record-breaking 142 tournaments where Tiger Woods didn’t miss a cut actually didn’t have one to miss. Although it doesn’t mean that there is no one-way ticket for those who aren’t performing well after 36 holes, it does reinforce the perception that the PGA Tour is too attached to the carrot and too scared of the stick.

There’s no reason to send a few guys home on Friday night if the fields at designated events have a maximum of 80 players. Send them home with a check if the issue is players being paid. FedEx Cup points and world ranking are another matter. Both will be awarded to anyone who attends the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The key qualifier is “earned”, meaning that it has not been handed. The same rules will apply next year when the API is an event that’s not cut. Performance will not be considered when calculating points.

Players should be allowed to leave designated events with a check, but not valuable points. Even if a cut is not taken, performance relative to the field should be a metric that determines how players are rewarded. Poor play should not only have negative consequences for the brains of a poor caddie, but also the bank deposit on Monday morning.

According to sources I spoke to, the Official World Golf Ranking is currently reviewing how it handles smaller events. They also consider whether points should be taken from the bottom and distributed at the top. The PGA Tour has the ability to make a quicker decision about how FedEx Cup points are distributed in limited-field events. If a player isn’t in the top 50 of an 80-man field, he shouldn’t expect to receive points that could keep him in these fields.

While we have seen a lot of emphasis placed on rewarding good play, such as bigger purses and elite events with greater bonuses, the Tour must not lose sight of the consequences for poor play. If this isn’t possible, then other consequences must be taken.

This plan for designated events will be adjusted over time, just like the FedEx Cup. It was created to satisfy player demands for rewards, in response to LIV’s now elusive threat. These are earned in elite sports. Fans should also see penalties more often.

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