The PGA Tour is awarding 10 tickets to European tour players, bringing a straight path from Q-School back to the big leagues as part of an expanded partnership with Europe aimed at strengthening itself against Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf.
The joint venture with Europe is a 13-year deal that runs through 2035, and the PGA Tour is increasing its stake in European Tour Productions, the Tour’s media and commercial arm, from 15 percent to 40 percent.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan last week outlined significant changes to the schedule that will span a January-August season beginning in 2024 and will average $20 million across eight elite events.
The changes, outlined in a conference call Tuesday, will give European Tour players immediate access to the PGA Tour. The top 10 players – excluding those who are already on the PGA Tour like Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm – have full cards for the following year.
The partnership will likely result in better coordination of a global schedule for both tours. Next week’s Scottish Open is the first tournament to be co-sanctioned by the two and the field is the strongest in tournament history.
“While this closer collaboration between our tours has always been part of our strategic alliance, it’s quite obvious to say that the current situation in golf has accelerated this process significantly,” said Keith Pelley, CEO of the European Tour.
In addition to accessing the top 10 European Tour players, the PGA Tour is restructuring its players domestically.
The tour now features tickets for the top 25 players on the Korn Ferry Tour, with an additional 25 tickets from a three-tournament series for Korn Ferry Tour players and PGA Tour members who finished outside the top 125.
Starting in 2023, the top 30 players on the Korn Ferry Tour will get tickets. For everyone else, there will be a Q-School where the top five players and ties go straight to the PGA Tour. The tour has not offered direct access from Q-School since 2013. That means top collegiate players have a chance to avoid a year on the Korn Ferry Tour.
The PGA Tour believes that with 30 tickets for Korn Ferry Tour players, 10 from Europe and five or more from Q-school, it will create more opportunities for those who finished just outside the top 125 and have limited access.
“Ultimately, what we’re about is creating the best, most efficient competitive platform for the best players in the world to… establish context, establish historical relevance, and establish relevance in the eyes of fans around the world,” said Monahan.
Based on last year’s European rankings, the top 10 players would have moved up to Laurie Canter of England in 24th (Canter is now part of LIV Golf).
Pelley said the European tour should not be viewed as a “feeder tour” as the schedule includes national openings across continental Europe and the Middle East such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Still, with historically two dozen of the top finishers in Europe on the PGA Tour – the top 10 and current US members – they would play fewer events in Europe.
Previously, players from the European Tour and other Main Tours around the world could earn money at Majors, World Golf Championships or sponsored starts on the PGA Tour and earn a card by finishing 125th or better.
The new system would have helped US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick. He made the world top 50 in 2015 but consistently missed the number 125 and only earned a PGA Tour card after the 2019 season. Under the new system, he would have been eligible to compete on the PGA Tour three years earlier.
Pelley, meanwhile, said he met with Golf Saudi in Malta last summer, made his presentation to the European board and decided the offer was less convincing than the one it had been rejected by the Premier Golf League nine months ago.
The European tour previously worked with Golf Saudi when the Saudi International was part of their schedule for three years. Pelley said he proposed to Golf Saudi to join Europe’s Feeder Challenge Tour.
“I’ve been consistent that if they’re actually interested in playing within the ecosystem and not starting a competing tour, which I think is detrimental to the game overall, I personally would be open from a DP World perspective – and they know it – to have a conversation,” he said.
“But I’m not interested and that’s why there hasn’t been a conversation since summer 2021.”