New signature event format and playoff structure to be key topic at player meeting
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The broad strokes of next year’s PGA Tour schedule are still being digested, and players will certainly have plenty of questions Tuesday afternoon when they meet with commissioner Jay Monahan at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, but initial reaction to the new lineup has touched on some areas of interest.
Monday’s announcement outlined a 36-event schedule with eight signature events and a return to a calendar-year lineup. It also represents one of the most dramatically altered schedules since the introduction of the FedExCup in 2007, with significant tinkering to create a better cadence between full-field and signature events (which were called designated events this season).
But it wasn’t the improved cadence to the season or the rebranding of designated tournaments that piqued player interest. Instead, most questions focused on the limited fields at the signature events and the continuation of the top 70 qualifying for the postseason.
“Obviously 70 is a hard number. Our Tour is very deep. There’s a lot of parity, a lot of talent,” Brian Harman said. “There’s been several years where I wouldn’t have been inside the top 70. It’s just really difficult, and I think the Tour is in a spot where they’re as open-minded as they’ve ever been as far as being able to change and adjust, and if this doesn’t feel right, then I’m confident that we’ll get it right.”
Players were also asked about sponsor exemptions into the signature events. Other than The Sentry, which kicks off the year and will include Tour winners and the top 50 from the previous season, the fields for the signature events will include the top 50 from the previous year’s points list, along with anyone who is ranked inside the top 30 of the world ranking. Fifteen players will qualify via the current season FedExCup list or mini-lists from full-field swings.
Each tournament will also have four sponsor exemptions earmarked for Tour members. The three player invitationals – the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial and The Genesis Invitational – will also have an additional exemption for a non-member. Given the signature event’s heightened status, elevated purses and FedExCup points, players questioned how those exemptions would be awarded.
“I’m hoping those events realize the position they’re in and give it to people that truly, truly can do something out of it,” Jon Rahm said. “There is a way for players not into those events to somehow qualify into those events, so I’m hoping they use some of those for people who were close and didn’t quite make it, players that have earned it throughout their play in the past. Just hope they use them in a way that it can be meaningful for somebody for the year or their career in golf.”
The top 5 points earners from each mini-swing who are not otherwise exempt will earn spots in the next signature event and the top 10 from the season-long points list will also earn spots, which is why players urged officials at designated events to be cautious with exemptions.
“I wish it would just go right down the list and just be a pure meritocracy, but I understand that there’s some gives that you have to give to the sponsors,” Harman said.