In the PGA Tour’s new system, who will look inside from the outside?
Right now, the future of the PGA Tour is up for debate, both in board meetings and around the water coolers and specifically on the TPC Sawgrass grounds. But really, the future exists entirely on a computer, in thousands of simulations and dozens of slides in a powerpoint presentation. The models, if you will.
That’s being sold to everyone right now with the tour’s new designated events model, which sees eight select big-money events played next year with smaller fields and no cuts. You, me, James Hahn, Cameron Young, Jim Nantz, the people who run NBC, the CEO of Mastercard – all of us. We are asked – or rather asked – to trust the systems that the Tour puts in place. Do you like what you hear? Generally yes. As Rory McIlroy told the Golf Channel this week, the people making the decisions are “very competent”.
There’s a lot of trust, which is good because the PGA Tour needs our trust for the next 12 months or so. Commissioner Jay Monahan knows. “Will this model be perfect from the start? Maybe not,” Monahan said Tuesday afternoon. “But as we have done throughout our history, and using FedEx Cup as a prime example, we will listen, we will learn and adapt to the evolving needs of our players, partners and fans each year.”
That last part isn’t supported by a ton of evidence. It is true that there are many, many mouths to feed and it is not easy to feed them all. But part of the Tour’s need for drastic changes is the result of an inability to do so listen, learn and adapt in the past few years. The tour was more of a cruise ship consumed by its indolence and unable to turn a dime than a nimble speedboat. See: Turning the FedEx Cup Playoffs from an elusive points bonanza into a handicap tournament. This change has been years in the works and has largely fallen flat with players, despite being easier to understand.
If the ball has been dropped in the past two weeks, it has been sheer communication. Slides from a deck finalized after a seven-hour board meeting were currently only shared with the most important people: players, sponsors, broadcasters, some of which were shared with various media. But before all of that happened, there was Golfweek’s first report, prompting many of the tour members to find out about their future on Twitter.
Now that we’re on the other side of the news leaks, the hunt for the top 50 in the FedEx Cup begins. It’s worth analyzing the potential results we were sold for. These simulations of an algorithm based on decades of previous Tour seasons have been made fairly public by Peter Malnati, a player director on the board.
The average future season, according to the models’ simulations, requires approximately 36% churn of names in the FedEx Cup Top 50. Eighteen out and 18 in. That’s a fair number, according to Malnati and the Tour Policy Board, and a much larger number than some elite players wanted at the Delaware meetup in August. But since that’s just an average, we can deduce a few things. According to the model, there will be future seasons when churn is 44%, a win for those looking from the outside in. And for each of those seasons, there will be one with only 28% churn.
What if the latter comes first? Like next year. Much bitterness is seen at the moment as the changes are ratified and explained to members, even with an additional six months of FedEx Cup points on offer. What happens if 36 of the top 50 from 2023 automatically qualify to enter all big money events in 2025? Saying it doesn’t mean it’s likely, just that it’s possible. And that possibility would further embolden the many pros currently upset by taking to Twitter with a Notes app screenshot and Instagram with petty comments.
Another comment McIlroy made to the Golf Channel struck me as important. When asked if Tuesday morning’s tour felt consistent, he paused, hemmed and hawed, and finally said “no,” before admitting that those disgruntled ones will ultimately have to “shoot the scores.” McIlroy always pronounces his phrases very thoughtfully, but it’s still a harsh message some members are getting this week. Your good may not be good enough.
Churn notwithstanding, the discourse on the system oscillates between the values of a top 10 and a top 5. Between one season with four top 8s and another with 10 missed cuts but two top 3s. Or a top 5 at the no-cut Genesis Invitational vs. at the Full Field Valspar Championship. How does winning the Puerto Rico Open compare to finishing second behind Jon Rahm at Bay Hill? There won’t be much of a difference in FedEx Cup point distribution, and those kinds of hypotheses are already on the minds of Tour pros for nearly a full year before the new system becomes a reality. Viewpoints won’t solidify until we find out who Mr. 51 is.
https://golf.com/news/pga-tours-new-system-who-left-outside/ In the PGA Tour’s new system, who will look inside from the outside?