PGA Tour’s Strategy to Combat LIV with Star Power Is Brilliant: 17 Majors

Will Zalatoris, 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions,Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Will Zalatoris, 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions,Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

What with all of the changes to the PGA Tour this season, it was hard to see the overall brilliance of the PGA Tour’s strategy for combating LIV.  But a few of Will Zalatoris’ comments before the Sentry Tournament of Champions made it come to life. It was just hard to see it through all the noise.

The noise included the retooling of the Tour calendar to include elevated events;  the top 20 required to play 20; a few of the top 20 players saying they wanted to have the chance to opt-out of one or two of the required events; non-elevated tournaments complaining about their changes in status;  players, media, and fans wondering what the Masters and other majors would do in the future with LIV players; lawsuits filed back and forth; Greg Norman’s continued insults to the PGA Tour and more.

Due to the surrounding issues, it was really hard to see the most important thing.

The PGA Tour decided to lead with its strengths going forward.

Its strategy is brilliant.  It’s creating more “majors.”

You think I’m crazy? Here’s what Will Zalatoris said at the Sentry Tournament of Champions:

"“I think that’s what makes the majors so much fun is you look up on a leaderboard and typically you’ve got a lot of the top — or leaderboard at majors or leaderboards at in the playoffs or whatever,” he said. “Now instead of having ’em just stuck in four weeks, five weeks whatever it is, now you’re going to have it spread out throughout the year.”"

It’s like getting 17 majors a year.

Duh! Now I get it.  It’s like getting 17 majors a year.  How cool will that be? Think I’m kidding?  Pay attention to the Sentry Tournament of Champions leaderboard.

The PGA Tour’s strength is a full year of events, massive depth of star power, and a rich tradition of competition pre-dating the formation of the PGA Tour itself, none of which LIV has. The Tour has never focused as much on its stars although the stars are what carry it.

Now, the Tour is putting that strength front and center.  They are saying, you think your big-money tournaments are impressive?  Watch us! We can do this spread out for 9 or 10 months. We have the best of the best of the best, and we can keep this up because we have for more than 50 years.  (Technically, the PGA Tour was formed in 1968. The first commissioner was Joe Dey who took that post in 1969.)

Despite the efforts of the LIV backers, their tour has just five or six name attractions. Two of those are injured, three are well beyond their playing primes, and the final one isn’t a household name. Not naming them.  You can look at the roster and figure it out for yourself.

This is not about them or their skill sets or their health. This is about what the PGA Tour players decided to do to bolster their organization in the face of the LIV challenge.

While LIV makes noise – after all their slogan is golf but louder — the PGA Tour is concentrating on the best way they can do business because they know they have the best players and that history is on their side.

The Tour is loaded with golfers that people know and recognize and want to see in person and on television or other social media. Totally loaded.  We’re talking Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, and Adam Scott, just to name the most obvious.

Then there’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, Hideki Matsuyama, Viktor Hovland.  Newcomers Will Zalatoris, Tom Kim, Cameron Young, Sam Burns, and Sahith Theegala. And that’s not even counting Tiger Woods, who might appear five or six times during the year; if his body lets him.  He’s a game-time decision for the rest of his life.

Making matters more impressive, the top 20 PGA Tour players have agreed to play in:

Three FedExCup Playoffs events (FedEx St. Jude Championship, BMW Championship, TOUR Championship)
• Three player-hosted invitationals (Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, Memorial Tournament presented by Workday)
• Sentry Tournament of Champions
• WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

• Four Elevated Events (WM Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship, and Travelers Championship, and these will rotate around the Tour calendar)

•All Four Majors

That’s 17 times that they will play.  That’s the new 17 majors.

Then, in addition, the top 20 players have committed to entering three additional events of their choice for a total of 20 events.

One or two players who support the European Tour may get special dispensation to subtract one event, and only play 19, but they may have to give up something to do that. They may be out of PIP (Player Impact Program) points or something.  It will be a decision made by the Commissioner, Jay Monahan.

The only thing wrong with this new brilliant plan is that Monahan isn’t quite egocentric enough to say “Look, we’re going to have 17 majors on our Tour this season.”  But maybe he should because this new plan will be good for the first year’s 17 events, the 13 that remain elevated, plus the rotating four events that get elevated each year.  (In theory, after five years, every tournament will get elevated at least once, if they do rotate them as promised.)

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So, upon reflection and a new year’s restart of brain cells, it’s now clear that the PGA Tour has a brilliant strategy to combat LIV’s promises.  It’s the players and tournaments.  It’s 17 majors every year from now until as long as it takes. This will be the most exciting year golf has seen since Tiger Woods said “Hello, world.”