The new No. 1, Rory McIlroy, is the same as the old No. 1. McIlroy is the reigning FedExCup champion for a third time and has returned to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Other than that, though, pretty much everything else is different heading into 2023.
The PGA TOUR is changing dramatically, from new pathways to the TOUR to newly designated events and a new commitment from the top players to square off more often.
“Every single member of the PGA TOUR is going to benefit from the changes that we’re going to be making,” PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan said at the TOUR Championship in August. “The TOUR is going to continue to grow by having the best players in the world committed to it, by us continuing to lean into and invest in our ethos, which is the single-best competitive platform.”
Here are 5 things to know for the New Year:
1. NEW LOOK
The most notable change for 2023 is the commitment from the game’s top players to compete against each other more often, most notably in the series of designated events that encompasses the majors and THE PLAYERS, FedExCup Playoffs and several more high-profile weeks on the schedule.
“We’ve all made a commitment to get together more often to make the product more compelling,” said McIlroy, Player Director on the PGA TOUR’s Policy Board. “When I tune into a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, I expect to see Tom Brady throw a football.”
Now fans will have more certainty about when their favorite players are teeing it up.
“Our top players are firmly behind the TOUR,” Commissioner Monahan said. “Helping us deliver an unmatched product to our fans, who will be all but guaranteed to see the best players competing against each other in 20 events or more throughout the season. This is an extraordinary and unprecedented commitment, a testament to who these guys are and what they believe in.”
The player-hosted invitationals (Tiger Woods’ Genesis Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament presented by Workday), World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play and Sentry Tournament of Champions also will feature elevated purses and participation from the top 20 players in the Player Impact Program, as will the WM Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship and Travelers Championship. Those top players also must commit to compete in three additional PGA TOUR events beyond the designated events.
The Sentry Tournament of Champions, being played in the first week of 2023, will be the first of these events, and it will feature new qualification criteria.
Two players coming off impressive debut seasons on TOUR — Rookie of the Year Cameron Young and fellow TOUR Championship participant Sahith Theegala — are among the players taking advantage of the new avenue to the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Finishing in the top 30 of the FedExCup will once again earn players a tee time at Kapalua’s Plantation Course. Players who finished in the top 30 of the FedExCup were first allowed into the Sentry after the pandemic-marred 2020 season, but that criteria was discontinued the following year. This time, the change is for the foreseeable future and not in response to a global crisis.
Players who finish in the top 30 of the FedExCup also will earn a two-year exemption on TOUR. These two rewards, which were once reserved only for tournament winners, recognize the magnitude of finishing among the top 30 in the season’s final FedExCup standings (the two-year exemption for making it to East Lake is not in addition to the two-year exemption a player gets for winning).
Besides Young and Theegala, other players to qualify for the Sentry by making it to the FedExCup finale include Presidents Cup International Team members Adam Scott, Sungjae Im and Corey Conners, as well as Viktor Hovland, who recently won a second consecutive Hero World Challenge.
How big a deal is this? Harris English qualified for the 2021 Sentry after making it to the previous year’s TOUR Championship, then won the Sentry for his first win since 2013. He went on to win again at the Travelers Championship and make his Ryder Cup debut later that year. Can Theegala or Young use this new criteria to take a similar path? We will see.
2. PLAYOFF TIME
The caliber of play on TOUR has always been high. Qualifying for the FedExCup Playoffs is about to get even more difficult. Fifty-five fewer players will qualify for the 2023 FedExCup Playoffs, with only the top 70 making it to the FedEx St. Jude Championship. The reduction will add new urgency and drama to the final weeks of the Regular Season, culminating with the Wyndham Championship.
Those 70 players will also be fully exempt for the following year’s PGA TOUR season.
The BMW Championship, which will be played at Olympia Fields’ North Course outside Chicago, will feature only 50 players (down from 70), and the season-ending TOUR Championship at East Lake in Atlanta will have a 30-man field, as per tradition.
3. WRAPPED UP
The wraparound season began with the 2013-14 campaign. It is coming to an end after a decade-long run, as the TOUR schedule is set to return to a calendar-year configuration.
This season’s fall action began with the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, California, where Max Homa successfully defended his title. After a one-week pause for the Presidents Cup (won by the U.S. Team), the TOUR moved on to complete its final fall under the old format.
We saw Tom Kim win the Shriners Children’s Open to become the first player since Tiger Woods to win twice on TOUR before turning 21. Familiar faces like Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau and Keegan Bradley also picked up titles.
The PGA TOUR will return to a calendar-year schedule in 2024. The players who don’t qualify for the smaller FedExCup Playoffs field or are not previously exempt for 2024 will compete for their TOUR cards in a new fall series, with details and a schedule expected to be announced in early 2023.
4. Q SCORE
For the first time in over a decade, TOUR cards will once again be available at Q-School. The top five finishers (and ties) at Q-School will go straight to the PGA TOUR while the remainder of the field will play for Korn Ferry Tour status.
“Bringing back the awarding of PGA TOUR cards at Q-School will be exciting for our fans, membership and potential new membership,” said Korn Ferry Tour President Alex Baldwin.
And that’s not all. Beginning in 2023, the top 10 finishers in the DP World Tour’s season-long points race (who are not already exempt on TOUR) will receive PGA TOUR cards, a product of the strategic alliance between the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour. And the top 30 from the Korn Ferry Tour Points List will earn PGA TOUR cards, up from 25.
The No. 1 player in the final PGA TOUR University presented by Velocity Global Ranking also will earn PGA TOUR membership, making him eligible for all open, full-field events following the conclusion of the 2023 NCAA Championship. Texas Tech’s Ludvig Aberg currently holds that top spot. The Swede also is No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
5. A REIMAGINED SEASON
The Korn Ferry Tour Finals will no longer be a competition between the top 75 players on the Korn Ferry Tour and Nos. 126-200 in the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup. Instead, the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, the last four events of the season, will feature increased money and points for the players seeking to earn one of the 30 TOUR cards available via the Korn Ferry Tour.
Also, the Korn Ferry Tour’s 26-event season will stretch into October to allow for more natural breaks and peak course conditions and give graduates time to prepare for the PGA TOUR.
“The additional TOUR cards available and reimagined Korn Ferry Tour Finals will more properly reward players for season-long success,” Baldwin said.