WM Phoenix Open to be part of ‘elevated events’ on PGA Tour
RIDGELAND, S.C. (AP) — The PGA Tour will have a four-month stretch of 12 tournaments that are either majors or have $20 million purses in what figures to be a taxing year for the elite players.
The tour will announce Wednesday that the WM Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, Wells Fargo Championship and Travelers Championship will be part of the “elevated events” the top players will be required to play, a person with direct knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press.
The concept of elevated events was first announced in late August as a response to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league, aimed at bringing the best players together as often as 17 times, including the majors and the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The elevated events average $20 million purses.
Golfweek first reported the addition of four elevated events. It was confirmed to the AP on Tuesday by a person who spoke on condition of anonymity pending the Wednesday announcement.
The additions create a crowded schedule. Starting with the Phoenix Open on Feb. 9-12, there will be four elevated events in a five-week stretch, followed by the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, and then a week later, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship in consecutive weeks.
The odd tournament out is the Honda Classic, and Jack Nicklaus expressed concern in a recent interview it might lead to a two-tiered schedule.
“All of a sudden the other tournaments become feeders,” Nicklaus said.
Two of the elevated events, the RBC Heritage and Travelers Championship, are the week after the majors. The Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow is May 4-7. That starts a stretch of five big events in an eight-week stretch, including the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open.
“I’m not keen on playing after a major, but I’ve seen people do it and I’ve seen people do well, so there’s no reason why you can’t,” Jon Rahm said.
The last player to win a major and the following week was Tiger Woods in 2006, when the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone followed his PGA Championship win at Medinah.
For the Texas-born Jordan Spieth, May becomes a problem. He hasn’t played the Wells Fargo Championship since 2013 when he was needing sponsor exemptions. Spieth plays the two Dallas-area events, Colonial and the Byron Nelson, which now are sandwiched around the PGA Championship.
He would be looking at a schedule that takes him from the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina to the AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas, the PGA Championship in upstate New York, the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Memorial in Ohio.
After a week off, he would go to the U.S. Open in Los Angeles and the Travelers Championship in Connecticut.
“I don’t particularly like doing more than four in a row, but I love my hometown events,” Spieth said. “I’ve been playing them really well as well. Then just played the Presidents Cup well there at Wells Fargo, so with a major in there and then Jack’s event (Memorial) … I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but it looks like probably five in a row.”
The concept that came out of a players-only meeting in August was to boost prize money to get the best players in the same tournaments.
The plan that PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced was for top players to commit to a 20-event schedule that would include 12 “elevated events,” The Players Championship, the four majors and three tournaments of their choice.
Top players were defined as those who finished among the top 20 in the old and new model of the Player Impact Program. The PIP offers $100 million in bonus money that can only be paid after a player competes in 16 of the biggest events.
“Sometimes when the schedule is set and you have to go play it makes things easier, at least in my mind,” Rahm said. “You have to play these events and then you organize the rest, which there’s a simplicity to it in that sense. Plus, you’re elevating great events. They’re all amazing golf courses, all amazing events, a lot of history, all of them. So they’re worthy of it.”