The long, dark offseason in golf has finally come to an end. The PGA Tour returns this week to begin its 2022-23 season, a 47-event marathon that will culminate in the Tour Championship and the crowning of a FedEx Cup champion at the end of August 2023.
It’s difficult to imagine what the Tour will do for an encore after such an insane 2022, but there are several storylines, players, and events to keep an eye on over the next 11 months. Of course, LIV Golf will pervade everything, as it has for the past six months.
Five storylines to follow
1. Top-down cohesion
The primary reason is that the Tour has effectively divided itself into two separate tours. There will be 12 elevated events, the Players and the four majors, with the top 50 players in the world expected to compete at each event. That could only have been saying about the Players and the four majors in previous years, and it’s both thrilling to imagine the top players at 17 of the same events and also clarifies which weeks are most important; no sport has a 47-week schedule that everyone pays attention to all of the time.
2. What do major tournaments and the Official World Golf Rankings decide?
While everyone is focused on Phil Mickelson and others vs. the PGA Tour, the true defining legal battle will most likely occur elsewhere. So far, the major championship organizations – Augusta National (Masters), USGA (U.S. Open), PGA of America (PGA Championship), and R&A (Open Championship) – have been irritated by the changing pro golf landscape but have yet to prohibit LIV golfers from competing in their events. I don’t think they’re going to do it outright. The OWGR board, which is made up of representatives from these organizations, could prevent LIV from obtaining OWGR points, effectively keeping the majority of their players out of the major championships.
That appears to be the path we’re taking, though I’m sure there will be many detours along the way.
3. What is Tiger’s strategy?
Tiger Woods had a strange year. He only played nine rounds last year, but he created perhaps the year’s most memorable moment when he waved his cap across the Swilican Bridge at The Open in July. His performances at the Masters and the PGA Championship were also memorable.
I’m guessing Tiger will have a very similar schedule in 2023, with perhaps the US Open at Los Angeles Country Club or an Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill thrown in, as well as an elevated role on the US Ryder Cup team as Zach Johnson’s vice-captain in Rome.
4. Strategic alliance between the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour:
In 2022, the DP World Tour will become more of a feeder system for the PGA Tour. The announcement that the top ten players on the DP World Tour each year will receive PGA Tour cards for the following season exemplifies this, as it is the definition of a feeder system.
However, there are numerous opportunities for the PGA Tour and DP World Tour to collaborate in the future, as they did this year with the Scottish Open. I’m not sure if they can pull it off, but I’d love to see some of the PGA Tour’s elevated events co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour. It’s a good way to keep LIV players from joining the rival tour simply because it has a more global schedule. You could rearrange the elevated PGA Tour events and have two or three tournaments in Europe each year in addition to the Open Championship.
“I think a handful of those [elevated] events need to be in Europe for the benefit of the global game,” Rory McIlroy said last week at the BMW PGA Championship. “I’ve said it from the beginning. This can’t be about America.”
5. Who will leave next? I don’t know the answer to that question because no one does, but it’s a safe bet that the next player to leave the PGA Tour to play in the LIV Golf League will be a non-American. LIV has positioned itself as the world tour.The PGA Tour has an opportunity to respond by playing more co-sanctioned events in Europe alongside the DP World Tour, but I believe any LIV defectors in late 2022 or 2023 will be mostly non-American players.