The PGA Tour has gone woke.
OK, that’s not completely fair. The PGA Tour, as evidenced by new rumors leaking out ahead of the 2024 schedule, could better be described as having gone haywire.
More specifically, the PGA Tour is embracing participation trophies and destroying meritocracy in professional golf. This comes in the form of eight (at least) no-cut events for the 2024 season.
Eamon Lynch in Golfweek has some of the details. “Multiple sources say only four of the dozen designated Tour events will feature a 36-hole cut – the Players Championship, the Genesis Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.”
I’ve racked my brain searching for the benefit of this drastic change.
Fans don’t typically follow groups 20+ shots out of the lead on Sunday, do they?
Do you want to watch a guy stumbling around on Sunday 35 shots off the lead? Even if it was your own child would you want to witness that spectacle? I mean, really?
And how embarrassed is the player having to drag himself around playing horrible golf? Do you think Jordan Speith – who missed the Wells Fargo cut by 8 shots this year and was 15 shots off the lead after two rounds – wanted to play the weekend?
Next year he’ll have to slog on since that event will be a no-cut contest.
Surely TV executives and sponsors don’t care. I certainly hope they don’t cut away from the leaders on Sunday to show me Lanto Griffin chipping in for birdie to move him within 26 shots of the lead.
So fans don’t care. TV and sponsors gain nothing from no-cut events. Does Taylormade want to show their sponsored player gaming the latest driver that he’s plowing into the forest? I doubt it.
The only benefit appears to be that players who would have missed the cut will still get paid.
Here’s your participation trophy. It’s accepted at most major banks. Have a nice day.
Fine. Great. But how is all this “growing the game” or “engaging the audience” in any manner?
Of course, it’s not.
And that seems to be the point of the “new” PGA Tour.
Pay players more and rip the traditions of the game to shreds.
Professional golf was, until now, one of the most dramatic sports on TV. Players were out there playing for their dinner money (and enough left over to buy that Porsche they always wanted.)
It was sports great meritocracy. You ate what you killed. The journeyman pro was to be respected because he lived on a razor’s edge every year, fighting off the potential loss of their Tour card.
Now? The rich will get richer. Fans will see fewer Cinderella stories. The elite players are now royalty with elevated events and what amounts to appearance fees at lower tournaments regardless of their play.
Second-tier players and emerging stars will have to wait their turn for the big payout unless they capture lightning in a bottle at a Major.
In one fell swoop, Saudi money and American greed have stolen decades of tradition and replaced it with what can charitably be called a sporting caste system.
Until now, we fans were the driving force of the game.
Our dollars fed the game. They made the equipment manufacturers rich, they created sponsor and advertising dollars for corporations and TV networks, and they rewarded players with million-dollar purses.
That’s gone. Money is no object for the Saudi PIF. Now, the fans’ dollars are just icing on top.
Crime shows remind us to “follow the money” to find the guilty party. In golf, that trail now leads halfway across the world, through a Royal palace, and comes to rest in the pockets of players and golf executives who already have ten-figure bank accounts.
Competition has been weakened, participation trophies are in effect, and fans have less impact on the game than at any point in the last 50 years.
If you think this is all good for the game, we will just have to disagree on what that phrase actually means.