The World Golf Tour idea
Last week was a pretty standard one as far as golf tournaments go, with the four biggest tours in the world (PGA, European, Web.com and LPGA) all having events at various locales on the map, but a few things stood out while watching the coverage:
- Royal County Down, obviously, is a treasure that should be seen more often.
- TPC Four Seasons is the complete opposite of that.
- Potentially because of the first two points above, the field at the Irish Open was far more compelling than at the Byron Nelson.
Now, I’m not saying anything that wasn’t already known in the first place. When Rory McIlroy put his name behind the Irish Open, he was bound to attract a high quality field, and that field will probably just get even better as the years go on, especially if RCD returns as host, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it really is ridiculous that these two events are competing with each other for talent.
The idea of a world golf tour, similar to the way tennis operates, isn’t a new concept. Greg Norman was talking about this over twenty years ago, players like Matt Kuchar have talked openly about the idea in recent years, Patrick Reed has taken up European Tour membership (Rickie Fowler is considering as well) and writers like Kyle Porter at CBS have even put together potential schedules for how this could work if it were to ever come together. Now, do I think we’re close to seeing this happen? No. There’s far too much money already committed from sponsors, courses are already set to host events years in advance and on top of that, there’s far too many people in the game who have prominent roles that likely wouldn’t want to see that role diminished all for an amalgamated tour. Too many factors are blocking this from happening right now, but it’s a fun thing to think about, so let’s do it.
Kyle’s piece linked above with a schedule is solid, and outside of a few tweaks like playing twice in Australia to start the season and maybe dropping some of the US events in favour of a couple more in Europe, I think his layout works, especially with moving the PGA Championship to February so we don’t have too many majors bunched together. Ending off with a team event and then shutting down until January makes the most sense too, although as long as we’re talking about fantasy scenarios, I’d probably dump the Presidents Cup entirely in favour of a yearly Ryder Cup, or if that wasn’t in the cards, some kind of team fantasy draft event where the players pick who they want to be paired with and they play somewhere new and fresh. If the players want to stay sharp and keep some form of live golf on the air from October to December, the return of the “silly season” events like the Skins Game, Monday Night Golf and other fun exhibitions could be staged.
What interests me is how we go about merging the tours into a collaborative effort that goes under one umbrella. The PGA Tour has already started to expand their international effort in recent years with mini tours in Canada, China and Latin America, so there’s no reason to believe that the same kind of thing couldn’t be done in South Africa, Australia and various locations around Europe and the United States. All of these smaller tours could feed into something like the Web.com Tour, which would still lead to this new world tour where the best players would play. Just as a hypothetical exercise, I’ve devised the following structure.
Using a revamped version of the Official World Golf Rankings, which currently gives out far too many points for below average events, take the top 150 players in the world and have them play on the top tour, with the next 150 on the secondary tour. Below that, players would have to go to a local tour to earn their spot instead of the current system of relying on exemptions and invites to get into events. Looking at the current rankings, Aaron Baddeley is ranked 301st in the world and while it would absolutely suck for someone like Baddeley to have to go back and earn their spot, it would theoretically ensure that the best players were playing the best tournaments at all times, which is what we should all want to see, right? Watching Mike Weir MC or WD each week is rough, especially when you know that there’s someone on the Web.com Tour right now who is a far superior player.
Of course, there would have to be some guards in place for injuries. Perhaps the penalty for falling down in the rankings due to lack of starts wouldn’t be as severe as it is now because relegating a player to a mini tour in Colombia because they had a bad back seems a little harsh, but you also can’t just give those away either. There would also probably have to be some discussion around players with a certain level of past success not having to go through that grind, mostly because of a certain player who is currently ranked 172nd in the world sandwiched between Prayad Marksaeng and Jaco Ahlers, but again, you can’t get carried away with that and still have the best tour possible. There comes a time when you just have to cut it off. You’d also have to figure out some kind of promotion and relegation system for subsequent seasons, but something around the top 100 players on the money list keeping their cards while the bottom 50 battle it out with the top 50 on the Web.com Tour for the remaining spots after the team event ends the season makes sense to me.
There’s obviously a lot that would have to happen for this sort of thing to even be considered, and you can bet that the majors would still run independently because good luck telling the boys at Augusta National that they can’t run their tournament as they see fit, but I really think that this is the best way to optimize the professional game moving forward. The best players playing on the best courses at all times is already something that’s starting to happen, and you can bet that more players are going to follow in the footsteps of Reed and Fowler as they start to tailor their schedules towards their own personal goals instead of just running out to wherever the PGA Tour is going that week.
We might as well put it all under one roof.