April 17, 2024


The Tour And Travel Enthusiasts

Are The PGA Tours Signature Events Good For Golf

5 min read
Are The PGA Tours Signature Events Good For Golf

The PGA Tour’s new Signature Events have proven to be contentious. Golfshake’s Derek Clements – in his latest View From The Fairway – explains why he believes they are a bad concept for golf.

The PGA Tour makes a big deal of being a very different animal from LIV Golf – and in most respects that remains the case.

But I am having some issues with its so-called Signature Events. These are a series of eight tournaments with limited fields which, to all intents and purposes, are restricted to the tour’s very best golfers, And they offer huge rewards to the winners. There is a nominal 36-hole cut for the top 50 (across the three invitationals) and ties but the fact is that they deny the rank-and-file the opportunity to compete against the elite on eight given weeks.

It just doesn’t feel right to me.

Why? Jay Monahan was bitterly critical of the LIV Golf’s 54-hole format and its restricted fields but in many respects is now copying what the Saudi format in every respect bar reducing tournaments to three rounds – and for that, at least, we should all be thankful.

The top 50 from last season’s FedEx Cup standings are guaranteed entry to the signature events and there are various ways that golfers who finished outside that number can get in. If you win a regular event then you are in. If you fight your way into the top 30 in the world rankings you are in. There are several other qualification systems in operation but it just feels very contrived to me.

Once upon a time, if you finished in the top 125 in the standings in any given season, it guaranteed you entry into every tournament the following season. This is no longer the case.

And golfers who don’t make it into these eight tournaments have a serious disadvantage. Rory McIlroy’s retort to his peers last year was: “Just play better.” It won him few friends, just as his about-turn on LIV has left many of us utterly baffled. He was one of LIV’s harshest critics, right up to the point where Jon Rahm announced that he was joining the breakaway tour. And then McIlroy’s tune changed.

I just don’t get it.

Of course the best players should be fairly rewarded but my argument in all of this is that they already are – and the introduction of the signature events simply increases the gap between our sport’s haves and have-nots. There is a very fine line between golf’s superstars and the men who finished 2023 outside the top 50. In any given week in a regular event with a field of 144, every single player teeing it up is capable of winning, whether that golfer is the world’s top-ranked golfer or is ranked 100 in the world.

Bay Hill

(2024’s Arnold Palmer Invitational – A Signature Event)

This is Lucas Glover’s take on the subject: “I think the signature tournaments are terrible. I am glad I’m in them, but it’s terrible. I said that when I wasn’t in them. I don’t think it needs to be divided like it is. I mean, it’s basically two tours, and there’s no reason those fields shouldn’t be bigger.

“The ironic one to me is the Players at 144 guys is the flagship event of the PGA Tour with a cut and 144 guys, where the signature events with their massive prize funds are 70-man fields. So yeah, I thought they were terrible when they announced them, I think they are terrible now.”

Glover is perfectly placed to comment on this issue. He was well and truly on the outside looking in until winning the Wyndham Championship and FedEx St Jude Championship in successive weeks last year, changing his life, career and bank balance in a heartbeat. 

Apart from the prize funds on offer, there is also an issue to be addressed with the amount of FedEx Cup points awarded. 

Lanto Griffin summed this up perfectly when he said: “Give them all the money they want but when you start giving them the points, I’ve got a problem with that. Do you know what fifth in a signature event makes in FedEx Cup points? 300. It’s 110 for a normal event. So I go play Torrey Pines with 156 players and a cut and Rory McIlroy goes to L.A. the next week in a 78-players, no-cut field, and he gets nearly three times the points for the same finish.

“How is one going to compete with that? The guys that are making the decision are obviously going to look out for themselves. That’s where there is a disconnect for guys in my position, the normal guys. So having someone who will listen and not be only concerned about the top 10 is crucial for the rest of us.”

It is interesting to note that next week’s Players Championship, which boasts a gargantuan prize fund, is NOT a signature event. And that is because the PGA Tour regards the tournament as its flagship event. We constantly hear about it being golf’s fifth major. I have already made my views on this perfectly clear – it is no such thing. But it is a proper golf tournament and to maintain that status, Jay Monahan and cohorts have recognised that, like The Open, US Open and US PGA Championship, it must be a full-field event. And so, 144 golfers will be competing at TPC Sawgrass.

But that just goes to prove my point, surely! I know that the tour feels that it needs to compete with LIV when it comes to financial rewards, but nobody will ever convince me that this is the way to do it.

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