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Super for the stars, but not all are pleased with the Tour's designated details

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ORLANDO, Fla. – There’s a PGA Tour cameraman whose laid-back demeanor cut through the tension of a live telecast and a demanding director a few years back with a wash of perspective and peace – "Give it a beat, bro."

Those words, made immortal by the incomparable Gunnar Garrity, whose images continue to fill Tour telecasts, echoed across Bay Hill Wednesday as casual whispers turned to more serious talk of designated events and limited fields - and a PGA Tour that will look dramatically different beginning next year.

The Tour unveiled its plan for 2024 and beyond in a two-page, 15-bullet point memo. The condensed version is a schedule with 16 designated events - with eight of those tournaments featuring limited fields (70 to 80 players), average purses of $20 million and, this is important, a higher allocation of FedExCup points.

Memo: Monahan outlines changes for 2024

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan informed members Wednesday of sweeping changes to the 2024 schedule.

It's the latter that’ll likely be the devil in the designated-event details – with a widening gap between the Tour’s haves and have-nots only fueled by such distinctions – but in the short term, it was the limited fields that left many of the circuit’s middle class in a mood.

“How are players supposed to play their way into these events consistently?” asked one player. “If those events have elevated status and points, how dramatically will this skew the points list?”

Both valid questions and something that’s sure to come up next Tuesday when commissioner Jay Monahan sits with the membership at TPC Sawgrass for what promises to be a lively Q&A.

“If you finish 70th [on the season-ending FedExCup points list] and keep your card, how many elevated events are you qualified for? One [The Players],” another player asked and answered.

Is having no cuts good for the PGA Tour?

Is having no cuts good for the PGA Tour?

The frustration is real and had been, until now, hidden away in private conversations as the Tour inched toward a star-driven circuit. There had been an understanding that whatever changes commissioner Monahan and the policy board pursued, they were well-intentioned and much needed.

The threat of LIV Golf and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia’s $2 billion investment into a true rival didn’t leave much room for players to get into their feelings. Some might not have liked the direction the Tour was heading, but faced with an existential threat there wasn’t a lot of room for what-about-ism.

Now, however, there’s the very real outline of a product that will create a very real class system. There will be those who finished in the previous season’s top 50 on the FedExCup points who are all exempt into the eight designated events, excluding the majors, The Players and playoffs. And then there will be those on the outside.

“This is about making a tour for the future and the future stars. This is for the future product,” explained another player.

To that point, there will be an avenue into that designated-event promised land for those on the outside. The Tour plans to rework its schedule to create a flow of designated and non-designated events that would allow the top performers (five) over a two-to-three week run of non-designated events to play their way into the “show.”

PGA designated events will have no cuts in 2024

PGA designated events will have no cuts in 2024

“There's ways to play into it. It's trying to get the top guys versus the hot guys, right?” said Rory McIlroy, a player director on the Tour’s policy board and one of the architects of the new system. “I think that creates a really compelling product. A way that you don't have to wait an entire year for your good play to then get the opportunity. That opportunity presents itself straight away. You play well for two or three weeks, you're in a designated event. You know then if you keep playing well you stay in them.”

According to one source, the Tour ran multiple models using the new qualification criteria and field sizes, with a focus on “churn,” which is how the circuit quantifies whether the system will create what many fear would be a closed shop. Increased churn means an increase in different players who are eligible and those models, reportedly, suggest plenty of churn.

One player compared the circuit’s new eight designated events to nothing more than World Golf Championships with bigger purses and a better PR firm. It’s worth pointing out that at various times in the last two decades, the Tour has had as many as 10 limited-field events – including four World Golf Championships, the Tour Championship, BMW Championship, CJ Cup, Zozo Championship, Tournament of Champions and CIMB Classic.

“No one had a problem then,” another player observed.

None of this dispels player concerns about the new designated reality. Change can be scary, and this is monumental change on an unprecedented scale, but doing nothing wasn’t an option.

Perhaps the changes to field sizes and qualification criteria will be the crack that topples the entire meritocracy dam, but in the unrattled words of Gunnar Garrity, give it a beat, bro.