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A Tiger Woods exemption? PGA Tour changes could be coming

The question of which players get in to Signature Events — the premier, mega-money tournaments held eight times annually on the PGA Tour — has been controversial in the schedule’s debut season. Tournament sponsors are granted four exemptions to offer to Tour members of their choosing, with many of those exemptions going to a similar list of names in 2024. Webb Simpson and Adam Scott — two Policy Board members — have benefitted greatly, earning the ire of some critics.

With the first year of Signature Events now nearly complete, the Tour membership is considering various tweaks to the makeup of those fields, led chiefly by a new sponsor exemption for one player in particular: Tiger Woods.

According to a monthly newsletter of updates shared with Tour members, the Player Advisory Council (PAC) — one of the middle-rungs of Tour governance — supports the creation of an extra, special exemption for Woods and Woods only, given his immense and unmatched career success. The idea was discussed officially for the first time at a PAC meeting on May 21, during the Charles Schwab Challenge, and will be voted upon during a Policy Board meeting Tuesday during next week’s Travelers Championship.

With 82 career wins and more than $120 million in lifetime, on-course earnings, Woods’ career speaks for itself. Any event would move mountains for him to take part. But Woods does not automatically qualify for these events. He has barely competed in recent years and hasn’t fared well enough to earn his way in on his scores alone. With just four exemptions on offer in a 70-80 player field competing for $20 million, those sponsor exemptions are in high demand. Accomplished players not already in those fields have found themselves writing letters to sponsors for the first time in years. If Woods were to show interest in, say, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he would absolutely earn one of those spots, eliminating a chance for others who, frankly, could use it more than the 48-year-old worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“These exemptions are intended to capture players who are important to the tournament sponsor but who are not otherwise qualified,” the GREENSHEET newsletter says. “To maximize these spots for the membership and to provide optimal flexibility for the tournament sponsor, the PAC supported adding an additional sponsor exemption recognizing Tiger Woods in his own category as a player who has reached an exceptional lifetime achievement threshold of 80+ career wins.”

Just because the PAC supports the idea doesn’t automatically greenlight it, though it is not expected to face much pushback. The PAC is a 16-player group that features members from various subsections of the previous season’s FedEx Cup standings. It includes the high-end likes of Max Homa and Scottie Scheffler as well as players further down the list like Josh Teater and Kevin Streelman. If the PAC supports something, in general the Tour membership supports it. First comes an official recommendation, then the Policy Board votes on it. That is coming this week.

The Tour Policy Board, which has been holding various meetings to decide its future — including some with the Saudi Public Investment fund — will use the final Signature Event of the year, the Travelers Championship, to take a serious look at what it wants to look like in 2025. (Woods himself is a member of the Policy Board, but would be expected to abstain from the vote.) If the Lifetime Achievement category is approved, it would be implemented at the start of 2025, though it is unclear if Woods’ exemption would apply to The Sentry, the annual season kickoff event held in Hawaii in January, which includes strictly the previous season’s tournament winners and top 50 finishers in the FedEx Cup.

An exemption category is only meaningful in the event that Woods actually uses it. He noted in December his intentions of, if healthy, playing one tournament per month in 2024, but has failed to make that happen. Through time constraints, rustiness or health, Woods has only played in one Signature Event this season, the one he hosts at Riviera Country Club in February. (He eventually withdrew early in his first round battling flu-like symptoms.) The only other tournaments he has played in 2024 were the year’s first two major championships, finishing 60th at the Masters and missing the cut at the PGA Championship. Woods has made a career out of winning numerous events he would thusly be exempt into, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational eight times and the Memorial tournament five times.

Additional Signature Event topics will be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, notably establishing a minimum of 72 competitors moving forward and implementing a cut in every Signature Event, or eliminating a cut from all of them.

According to the newsletter, the Signature Event System was created with an “ideal field size of 72 players,” and while, on average, the tournaments have seen that number qualify to play, only 68 to 70 players have been taking part. In other words, through injury or indifference or busyness, etc. a few spots in $20 million races have gone unused. On multiple occasions, the final field has included exactly 69 players, leaving one pro to compete by himself during tournament rounds. The PAC is looking to avoid that as it has supported the creation of an alternate list (via that season’s FedEx Cup standings) that would fill the field to a 72-player minimum (with the exception of The Sentry) whenever qualified players are unable to play. That will also be voted upon during Tuesday’s meeting, and with approval would be implemented in 2025.

As for a cut at Signature Events? The conversation is ongoing, and there won’t be a conclusion soon. Three of this year’s Signature Events — the Genesis Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial — trimmed the field after 36 holes. The other five did not. Players on the Advisory Council, according to the newsletter, agreed it should be consistent — either a cut at all or a cut at none — to make following the tour easier for fans. Signature Event cuts is also expected to be discussed during Tuesday’s meeting but not voted on in any official capacity.

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1 thoughts on “A Tiger Woods exemption? PGA Tour changes could be coming

  1. blank

    think all slots allocated should be filled, cut should be implemented and for some reason tv broadcasts seem to now list all kind of stats during broadcast, but seem to never list current scores of all players in the tournament, only the leader board-there must be alot of friends, family and fans who would like to know how their player is performing-i personally watch dvr recorded golf, so don’t want to check on line till I watch event

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