Rethinking Pro Golf

With the new big changes the PGA Tour is making, in response to LIV’s disruption I started thinking about how to make the entire golf world better.

To me, there are three fixable and big problems with PGA Golf compared to other individual type sports like tennis or Formula 1 is the fact that we have a huge field every weekend and yet the coverage narrows down quickly to the 5% of the field that is contending. The rest of the field is relegated to basically playing for FedEx points, most of which do not change much or do not change things in a way that anyone can really understand.

The second is we do not really have any sort of Title Race context, yes we have FedEx points but no one really understands them, and in the end they do not have a huge impact on the title race so are not very important to follow.

The third is being fixed, the fact that the field changes so much week to week since there are too many tournaments and players skip lots of events. Right now they are just juicing up individual purses which while is good for fans that we get good fields, players playing just for money is not ideal as it doesn’t change the context and hyperfocus on winning problems.

My Solution
PGA Tour splits into two pools, A and B. Pool A starts with the 50 highest rated golfers and plays the top locations: Augusta, Bay Hill, Riviera, LACC, East Lake, Dubai, Harbour Town, Memphis, Royal Liverpool, etc.

Pool B plays Detroit, New Orleans, Pebble, Scotland, Sea Island, Mexico City, etc.

The FedEx Cup points are shuffled to be much more comprehensible, like Formula 1

50 to winner
36 to second
30 to third
24 to 4th
20 to 5th/6th
16 to 7th-10th
12 to 11th-15th
8 to 16th-20th
4 to 21st-30th
2 to 31st-40th
0 to 41st-50th

the cut happens Friday and gets rid of bottom 10, then Saturday getting rid of the bottom 10 again. So just 30 of the 50 play Sunday.

Pool B gets half the points of Pool A. The twist is there are 4 rounds of 5 tournaments, and after each round of 5 the bottom 5 golfers from Pool A are relegated to Pool B, replaced by the golfers from Pool B.

I’ve run a bunch of sims, using a particularly exciting one I will run through how it might work

Round 1
Pool A Winners
Kapalua: Will Zalatoris
Phoenix: Scottie Scheffler
Riviera: Scottie Scheffler
Bay Hill: Jon Rahm
TPC Sawgrass, Players: Tyrell Hatton

Round 1 ends with a top 3 of
Scheffler, 124
Schauffele, 118
Rahm, 90

surprising relegation from Collin Morikawa, who made Sunday just one time in 5 tournaments scoring 18 points. Others relegated include Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, KH Lee and Seamus Power.

Promoted from B include Matthew NeSmith (50 points scored as he won at Colonial, meaning he slides into Pool A 16th overall in the standings). Adam Hadwin, Kurt Kitayama, Alex Smalley and Scott Stallings also climb in with Greyson Sigg missing out by just 2 points.

Round 2
Rory wins at the Masters to climb into 3rd place, Rahm wins at Harbour Town and at the halfway point Rahm and Scheffler are tied at 230 points. Rory sits in third at 214 and the PGA geniuses have drama every single week as the 3 best go back and forth at the top.

Spieth misses 3 cuts and winds up relegated to Pool B.

Sergio wins twice, at Congaree and Mayakoba, and surges from Pool B to 17th overall. Morikawa bounces back by earning promotion again.

Round 3
Rahm wins in Saudi Arabia and goes 6th-2nd-10th-1st-10th in this 5 tourney span to open up a comfortable lead in the race for the title. JJ Spaun is the surprise of the season with a win in Memphis pushing him into the top 10 overall. McIlroy, Scheffler, Schauffele, Finau and Im are all quite close battling for the podium.

Lucas Herbert wins twice in Toronto and Greensboro to get promoted, Spieth remains in B finishing 11th and missing promotion by 4 points.

Round 4
Schauffele wins in Dubai but Rahm’s lead holds up and Jon Rahm becomes the first ever true PGA Season Long Champion. He scores 430 points, while Xander Schauffele finishes 2nd and Sungjae Im wins at Royal Liverpool meaning he finishes on the podium in 3rd.

Finau, McIlroy and Scheffler just miss the podium while Cameron Young, Cantlay, Cam Smith and Mito Pereira round out the top 10.

Spaun is the surprise of the season at 11th.

Tom Kim and Shane Lowry get relegated to Pool B, meaning next year they will start in Pool B, making a climb to the podium almost impossible.

At the end of the season, the bottom 20 golfers in Pool B are put into relegation playoffs.

MW Lee
J Smith

Kokrak and Howell just escaped the relegation playoffs by a point and a pair.

The top 10 golfers from the Challenge/Korn Ferry Tour are automatically promoted to Pool B

Carlos Ortiz
James Hahn
Thomas Detry
Robby Shelton
Eddie Pepperell
Callum Tarren
Ben Taylor
David Lipsky
Sam Ryder

congratulations you are into Pool B.

The next 30 from the Korn Ferry/Challenge Tour play a 4-round tournament with the bottom 20 from Pool B, the top 5 earn an automatic spot. After that we have 5 pools of 4, match play, the winner of each pod earns a spot.

Top 5 in Tournament
Luke List
Justin Suh
Thirston Lawrence
Rasmus Hojgaard
Andrew Putnamn

winners of the matchplay pods
Vegas (def SH Kim/Kirk)
Bramlett (def Armour/Macintyre)
Laird (def Harrington/Griffin)
N Taylor (def Dahmen/Fowler)
Day (def Riley/Hossler)

I think overall Rory and Rahm would win the title about a quarter of the time.
Scheffler 12%
Finau, Cantlay-7%
Xander, Zalatoris-3-5%
Fitzpatrick, Thomas, Im, Hovland, D Johnson, Morikawa: 1%

that looks roughly right for what golfer of the year should be.

The benefits from this for viewers would be almost impossibly high. Every week there would be lots to watch as moving from 20th to 6th on Sunday is worth a crucial 12 points which could be the difference easily at the end of the season. You have players fighting to stay in Pool A, rising from Pool B, the overall title race, staying in Pool B, etc.

It generates all the drama of soccer relegation, Champions League qualification, etc. There becomes all kinds of reasonably clear cutoffs and standards up and down the table, up and down the leaderboard to watch weekly and monthly.

This becomes a massively better TV product, the LIV style pylon leaderboard becomes must-watch and each tournament suddenly has context, stakes and gradations throughout.

What doesn’t work here? The Tour is obviously open to big changes right now, something like this seems much preferable than just “lots of cash” and thinking fans will care about someone moving from 7th to 6th because it’s an extra 30k.