If you’re wondering why the PGA Tour’s final fall season is needed for 2024, you’re not alone.
Take the example of a veteran PGA Tour golfer, whose name is no doubt but whose identity is withheld here and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. He said at a tour event last month that he had no chance of reaching 50 FedEx Cups and a spot in next year’s signature events, but told a veteran member of the media that he might take the plunge.
But a strong performance in the fall could land him in the first two signing events in January, and then…
“Well, I might need to add in a fall event or two,” he said.
That golfer is on the field this week at the Fortinet Championship in Napa.
The next seven events are significant, although few will notice the qualification and qualification for the upcoming season. The short version: After the fall, the top 10 golfers in the FedEx Cup (2022-23 points through the end of the calendar) who did not qualify for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Genesis Invitational with larger purses, limited fields and no cuts.
For that reason, this fall carries even more intrigue than before. Big-name golfers like Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Billy Horschel and Shane Lowry all finished 70-under this season. Changes made to the tour last year had real consequences for those who fell. And now they have to find their way to the big events.
Well, maybe. One slightly controversial choice on the Tour was to include four sponsor exemptions at Signature events (the PGA Tour changed its name to Signature at the time). If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, it’s hard to imagine Thomas not being invited to most of the events he wants to go to. Same for some other big names.
John Rahm was against these sponsor exemptions. That’s not to say they shouldn’t necessarily exist — Rahm got his PGA Tour card through free opportunities — but he said he wants to make sure they go to people who deserve or need them and can take advantage of the opportunity.
“I hope those events will give people who can recognize the situation they’re in and really, really do something about it,” he said. “There’s a way for players to get into those events that they don’t get into, so I hope they use some of that for the people who have been close and haven’t been able to, the players that they’ve had throughout their game. The past. I hope you use them in a way that makes sense for someone’s year or their golf career.
Whatever those freedoms are, there are only four. Big players are likely to be left behind. There’s quite a bit on the line this fall. Here are the players who need a strong finish to the year.
Justin Thomas’ slump was arguably the biggest story of the final month of the season, but he lost some good players in the FedEx Cup game and provided some cover to make a big move. Thomas playing in Napa will be the most-followed narrative, considering he’s in good shape for the Ryder Cup this month.
Team America is well represented at the Fortnite Championship! Don’t miss your chance to see it before the Ryder Cup 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/KZubflZLmi
— FortinetChampionship (@FortinetChamp) September 12, 2023
Adam Scott had the worst hitting season of his career and had 6 top-20 finishes all year. Of course, Scott is a handsome, wealthy 43-year-old major league winner, so maybe he’s not sitting around panicking about his 2024 schedule, but still, he’ll be looking to return to form after putting together an excellent 2022 campaign. Back to the debate. Like many big-name non-American golfers, Scott is playing in the BMW PGA Championship in London this week, but it will be interesting to see if he plays any of the fall tour events.
Shane Lowry is still on the Ryder Cup team and playing in London, but has yet to play his way into the signature events. He’s a major winner, but he’s not as big a name in America as Thomas or Scott. I don’t know if he can bank for free. Of course, Lowry’s year didn’t include as many missed cuts or rounds as JT did in the 80s. He simply didn’t put himself in a good enough position.
Billy Horschel was candid about the difficult season. In the year He looks set to have a great second season of his career, winning the Memorial in 2022 and finishing second at Bay Hill that year. In the year He entered the 2023 calendar year in August with only two top 20 finishes. It was very strange but encouraging to see his strong finish. He finished T13 at the 3M Open before playing a fantastic Windham Championship as he tried to make the playoffs. He would qualify if he finished first or second, but he finished fourth.
And Joel Dahmen has become one of the most iconic figures in golf — the likeable and self-deprecating 35-year-old won the 2022 US Open and won over fans as the subject of Netflix’s “Full Swing” documentary. He had just one top 10 in 2023 and finished 84th in points. It will probably grind this fall.
The young people
There is a very interesting group of golfers under 30 who haven’t quite cracked 50 but have the skills to enjoy a good fall. Taylor Montgomery had such a great fall last year that he got his tour card, but has struggled since February. Can it come back after a few months? Or there’s Nick Hardy, 27, who missed nine cuts in 2023 but won the Zurich Classic team event. So is Hardy’s Zurich partner Davis Riley, who has made a name for himself by being in the mix at the 2022 PGA Championship. Hardy and Montgomery finished 52nd and 53rd in points entering the qualifying round.
Then 21-year-old Akshay Bhatia won the alternate field Barracuda Championship but got zero points because he was a non-member, finishing 102nd. Most of them are held in college but instead meet on the Corn Ferry Tour and now the PGA Tour. At the end of the day, he had a win and four top-10s in 2023, and this fall is a great opportunity to make a name for himself and earn some points in the process.
The offseason is over
— Akshay Bhatia (@akshaybhatia_1) September 11, 2023
Justin Suh is a 26-year-old who doesn’t live up to the hype but has shown the ability to hang with the best when given the opportunities. He finished T6 at the Players Championship and then finished in the top 30 at both majors. That’s okay.
My favorite golfer: 24-year-old Oklahoma State product Austin Eckroat. Former Walker Cooper has been nothing this season. He missed a lot of cuts. But he caught fire at the big tournaments, going T2 at Byron Nelson, T16 at Charles Schwab, T30 at the Memorial, T10 at the US Open with a nine-hole record 29, and T24 at the Travelers. That’s a huge talent, and Eckrott is a fantastic ball-striker. But he later fell off the cliff and missed the final two cuts to finish tied for 74th. I really wonder if Eckroat can fall well.
The trickier storyline this fall will be whether or not we see Will Zalatoris and/or Daniel Berger return to action after back surgery ends the season.
It’s embarrassing. Zalatoris was obviously on this Ryder Cup team. At 26, he had six top-10 finishes in the majors. He won the playoffs at Memphis last year (within the playoffs), then finished fourth at Riviera this spring before back problems struck. Hopefully one of the most exciting players in the game will emerge.
And at 28, Berger is on the 2021 Ryder Cup team after a win at Pebble Beach and two top-10 finishes in majors. He was there on arrival, but a back problem appeared and he has not played since June 2022. He teased a comeback on social media two weeks ago, but it’s unclear when he might make that move.
(Top photos: Andrew Reddington, Mike Mulholland, Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)