Rory McIlroy has jumped to the defence of the PGA Tour’s new schedule for 2024, believing there’s still plenty of jeopardy within the revamped format to combat the criticism the no-cut element of the roll-out has received.
Next year, the PGA Tour’s $20million designated series will see fields chopped to between 70 and 78 players, while the 36-hole cut-line, a hallmark of competitive pro golf, will also be removed from the eight elevated events.
It’s led many observers to highlight an apparent double standard between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf; the latter vilified and mocked for the no-risk element to its format that also boasts no-cut, limited field tournaments.
In a player meeting on Tuesday morning – not very well-attended on account of its 7.30am start – at Tour HQ, McIlroy was amongst those in attendance as the tour fielded questions from its rank and file about the impacts of the new changes, and the Holywood star admitted that the no-cut question mark was something that needed to be cleared up.
“Yeah, I think just more so that there’s enough jeopardy built into the system,” McIlroy explained. “Obviously there’s going to be eight events with no cuts, but with everything that you have to do to get into those events…”
Sorry to interrupt, but what McIlroy was alluding to is that the cut now comes before the tournament, rather than during it. For starters, you’ll need to be a top-50 player on the FedEx from the previous year to qualify for a designated event. Or you’ll need to be a top-5 points earner in the block of regular events leading into a designated one to earn promotion. Win and you’re a made man, eligible for all.
Rory, please continue…
“You know, Tiger Woods won 26 no-cut events in his career, right. There’s always been no-cut events. Jack Nicklaus won 20 no-cut events. Arnold Palmer won 17,” McIlroy continued.
“Again, as I said last week, there’s precedent for no-cut events. But I think the cuts that you have to make to get into those events, so making the playoffs, getting into the top 50, so there’s certain things that you have to do to qualify for those events. I think that’s more than fair to warrant eight events a year that are guaranteeing the players four days.”
McIlroy believes the restructuring is to the wider tour’s benefit, not just the top players, rejecting a claim that the world’s best golfers are pulling the ladder up on those striving to join them at golf’s top table. In fact, he concedes last year’s meeting in Delaware, initiated by, and for the top-20 players in the world, was far more self-serving than this new approach.
“Yeah, so I said this in the meeting today. The presentation in Delaware was very self-serving for the 20 players in that room,” he said.
“We were looking at fields of 50 to 60. We were looking at only 10 players dropping out of that top 50 every year, so a retention rate of 80 percent. The TOUR were like, look, the typical retention rate for the top 50 has historically been around 60 percent, so let’s try to get back to that number.
“So the structure that has been rolled out here is vastly different from the one that we all talked about and the guys saw in Delaware, and I think for the betterment of everyone. I think if we had have went down that road, it doesn’t serve the membership anywhere near as well as what this structure does.”
As for how the emergence of LIV Golf has contributed to the tour’s operating overhaul, McIlroy wasn’t about to deny the Saudi-backed circuit some kudos.
“A lot of it. I’m not going to sit here and lie,” he said.
“I think the emergence of LIV or the emergence of a competitor to the PGA TOUR has benefited everyone that plays elite professional golf. I think when you’ve been the biggest golf league in the biggest market in the world for the last 60 years, there’s not a lot of incentive to innovate.
“This has caused a ton of innovation at the PGA TOUR, and what was quite, I would say, an antiquated system is being revamped to try to mirror where we’re at in the world in the 21st century with the media landscape.
“You know, the PGA TOUR isn’t just competing with LIV Golf or other sports. It’s competing with Instagram and TikTok and everything else that’s trying to take eyeballs away from the PGA TOUR as a product.
“So, yeah, you know, LIV coming along, it’s definitely had a massive impact on the game, but I think everyone who’s a professional golfer is going to benefit from it going forward.”
Unsurprisingly, McIlroy, who looked quite fatigued fielding questions given his double duty as player/commissioner of the tour, was looking forward to a day where his golf can do the talking, though he rightly credited himself for what’s been a demanding juggling act over the past few months.
“I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of trying to balance both of those things. I feel like over the past 12 months I’ve played pretty well, but at the same time, I’ve had all of this other stuff to deal with,” he added.
“When I went on the board of the PGA TOUR, I didn’t imagine it would take up this much time. But I think it’s been important work, and I’m proud of the steps that we and the PGA TOUR have made to try to make everything better for the membership and try to stem the flow of players that have went to LIV.
“But yeah, hopefully with these new changes that have been announced, hopefully the majority of my time will be spent on concentrating on getting ready for golf tournaments and trying to be the best player that I can be. Not that I feel like it’s taken away any of that, but it might give me a bit more free time to do other things that I enjoy, as well.”
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