Every week on the PGA Tour, Tuesdays are typically when we find out about the tee times and groupings for that week’s tournament.
Typically, we find out about the groupings, which are usually done in threesomes, for the first two rounds. (At some tournaments, we might only find out about the first round, with the field repairing after each round — a luxury tournaments with small fields can afford.) Fans are always wondering how certain players seem to keep winding up with each other or how that awesome featured threesome was selected.
As it turns out, there are rules for where PGA Tour players are slotted in their first- and second-round groupings and tee times. It’s a merit system based on a player’s status on the PGA Tour. Basically, there are four buckets into which a player can fall for the first two rounds.
How PGA Tour tee times, groupings are determined for the first two rounds
The players who get the best tee times and land in featured groups are those who are PGA Tour winners, including major championship winners, The Players Championship and Tour Championship winners, those who have won World Golf Championships and those who have won official PGA Tour events in the last two seasons. PGA Tour life members — those with at least 20 wins — fall in this bucket, too. Also, players in the top 25 of the career PGA Tour money list. So, too, do players who sit in the top 20 of the Official World Golf Ranking, whether they’re a PGA Tour member or not. After the US Open in June, players in the current top 20 in FedEx Cup points get in this group, too.
The next bucket is a subset of the first bucket, reserved for major winners, The Players winners and Tour Championship winners who did so at least five years prior to the current date. These players have to have competed in at least five PGA Tour events or a combined 10 PGA Tour, Web.com Tour and PGA Tour Champions events in the last year. This is also true for official tournament winners of official PGA Tour events who no longer fit in this bucket. Basically, you’ve proven yourself but haven’t been in form for a while.
The third bucket is for players who finished in the top 125 in the prior season’s FedEx Cup list, either as a member or non-member. Also eligible are players who have made at least 50 official-money PGA Tour cuts in their career and have competed in at least five PGA Tour events or a combined 10 PGA Tour, Web.com Tour and PGA Tour Champions events in the last year. Players ranked 21st through 50th in the Official World Golf Ranking, including non-members, also fall in this bucket.
The final bucket is everyone else, and they get the worst tee times.
Obviously the PGA Tour has created an incentive for players to improve their tee times if they win or have a great first half of the season. Players in the final bucket can move up to the third bucket if they reach a certain standing on the FedEx Cup points list through the Masters (top 60) and the US Open (top 100).
In the event there aren’t enough players to round out each group for a tournament, players in the second bucket get bumped into the first based on their prior season finish in the FedEx Cup. Under that scenario, players can also move from the fourth bucket into the third bucket based on current season FedEx Cup points.
Players are then typically randomly placed together via draw (though featured groups are sometimes hand-picked with a wink and a nod), then slotted into tee times available for those buckets of players. If there is a two-tee start, each threesome will have a morning tee time and an afternoon tee time over the first two days. They will alternate starting holes each time, typically the first and 10th holes.
How PGA Tour tee times, groupings determined for third and final rounds
After the first two rounds and a 36-hole cut is made, the PGA Tour then determines pairings based solely on score through the preceding round. The lowest combined score from the preceding rounds goes out in the final pairing with the next-best (or tied) player. In the event of ties, the player who finished their round first goes out last (first in, last out, or FILO).
In the event a two-tee start is needed to complete weekend-round play, the tee sheet looks like a V of sorts, with the lowest scores going off last off the first tee and the worst scores going off last off the 10th tee. The middle of the field goes off first from both sets of tee boxes.