News & Opinion

Should PGA Tour require stars to play in fall?

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods at 2020 PGA at Harding Park
The appearance of a top player such as Rory McIlroy (left) or Tiger Woods can help make or break a tournament on the PGA Tour. Should the game’s elite performers be required to play a certain number of events in the fall? Hawk & Purk tee it up in their weekly point/counterpoint.

As independent contractors, touring pros can pick their spots, but many events need the juice that only the big names can deliver

Hawk & Purk Podcast Hero Article

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Should PGA Tour players be required to participate in a certain number of tournaments during the fall season?

Hawk’s take: Such legislation would be unfortunate, given that tour pros are independent contractors, but it’s also necessary. The autumn events ostensibly are added to the schedule as a means of providing additional competitive opportunities for young guys and those with limited status. That said, those tournaments need a bit of star power to satisfy sponsors and generate civic interest.

Last week’s field in the Dominican Republic was a joke. Fattening the pockets of the Tour’s least-productive performers is a waste of time, in my opinion, but it’s part of Camp Ponte Vedra’s mission as a member-based organization.

Not long before he retired in 2017, former commissioner Tim Finchem issued a mandate requiring that each pro add a new event to his schedule at least once every four years. It’s a law with similar implications to this hypothetical proposal – a rule that paid huge dividends last fall when Tiger Woods entered the Tour’s first-ever gathering in Japan and beat Hideki Matsuyama by three.

Woods surely received some type of financial compensation for making the trip, which would have been against Tour guidelines. If that’s what it takes to get the world’s best players to participate in some of the so-called lesser tournaments, however, so be it. Just do it discreetly…. Or pay the consequences of having to find a new title sponsor every three or four years. Neither option is favorable, but that’s the world we live in nowadays.

Purk’s take: Look, this idea of having top players prop up events that don’t normally get a strong field is not new. Deane Beman, the former PGA Tour commissioner, cooked up an idea in 1974 to create “designated tournaments,” which were events that all players had to compete in at least once every three years.

The top players, including Jack Nicklaus, hated it, and the concept quickly and quietly disappeared. The reason is obvious: professional golfers always have been independent contractors, free to choose when and where they play. It’s one of the enduring attractions of the professional game – that, and players are paid purely for performance.

Forcing players to enter events against their will does no one any good. Players don’t want their arms twisted, and sponsors don’t want less-than-enthusiastic players. Having Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson play in a fall event on the PGA Tour might seem like a boon for a lesser tournament, but if they don’t really want to be there, it’s a net negative.

One of the “designated” events in 1974 was the Kemper Open in Charlotte, N.C. Nicklaus didn’t like the old Quail Hollow Club course, which is why he never played. Compelled to enter in 1974, he didn’t contend and never was seen again at Quail Hollow. Was the Kemper Open better off having Nicklaus in the field just that once? Only if it had been his choice to play.

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