PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – To hear Rory McIlroy tell it, the PGA Tour player meeting held at TPC Sawgrass, the home of the Players Championship, bright and early on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. served its purpose of informing the membership on the changes approved by the Tour Policy Board last week.
“When more information and data was presented to them, the people that maybe had reservations about it I think came around, or at least were more informed on their opinions,” McIlroy said.
He noted that Tour executives walked the players through a scaled-down slideshow of what was presented to the board during its meeting, which lasted nearly seven hours.
“Obviously we’re all here trying to get ready for one of the biggest tournaments of the year. So with that time crunch, they took the most important slides and showed them to the membership,” McIlroy said. “Yeah, I think it was good for them to see that and to see what the thinking is behind what we’re really trying to do here. I think the temperature in the room was nowhere near as hot as I anticipated it to be once the information was sort of laid out.”
Last week, James Hahn brought the heat in an interview with Golfweek, becoming the first rank-and-file player to voice his displeasure at changes that will take away playing opportunities for players outside the top 50 and create guaranteed, no-cut events for the best players.
McIlroy conceded that the presentation in Delaware at the BMW Championship in August when the top players gathered on their own to create a unified front against LIV Golf was “very self-serving for the 20 players in that room.” He said that the approved plan beginning in 2024 is vastly different from what he and Tiger originally pitched.
“We were looking at fields of 50 to 60. We were looking at only 10 players dropping out of that top 50 every year, so a retention rate of 80 percent,” he said. “The Tour were like, look, the typical retention rate for the top 50 has historically been around 60 percent, so let’s try to get back to that number.”
McIlroy said the original proposal in the Delaware deck had 14 elevated events before settling on eight in addition to the Players, the three FedEx Cup playoff events and the four majors. McIlroy argued that the changes are for the “betterment of everyone.”
“I think if we had have went down that road, it doesn’t serve the membership anywhere near as well as what this structure does,” he said. “You look at the entire schedule, there’s eight designated events outside of those tournaments that I just mentioned. But then there’s 29 full-field events during the rest of the calendar year.”
McIlroy added, “there’s enough jeopardy built into the system.”
The schedule for next season hasn’t been announced yet but McIlroy said the cadence of the schedule should follow a rhythm of two designated events followed by three regular events, rinse and repeat.
“I don’t particularly want to take three weeks off in between big events. I’m going to play at least one of those three to try to keep my game sharp,” he said, explaining that the top players likely will play more than just the 16 designated events. “You’re going to play more than that to feel sharp and ready to go at the biggest events.”
Rahm echoed McIlroy that he anticipates playing in at least some non-elevated events, including the Farmers Insurance Open at his favorite course, Torrey Pines. But as for the temperature of the players meeting, Rahm had little to offer.
“Listen, when they told me it was at 7:30, and I didn’t really have anything else to do until 10:00, I was going to take my time to be with my kids in the morning,” he said. “I wasn’t sleeping; I was playing with my kids.”