PGA Tour players have the choice of playing in nearly 50 different events each season. Considered independent contractors by the Tour, the pros can make their own schedule, and they can change their mind as often as they'd like. However, PGA Tour players have to compete in a minimum number of events each season to remain eligible members.
Under PGA Tour rules, a member must compete in a minimum of 15 PGA Tour events each season as a condition of their membership voting rights. It can be any 15 events co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour, including the four majors and four World Golf Championships, as well any of the FedEx Cup playoff events. So long as a player competes in 15 events.
In recent years, a new wrinkle was added to the minimum requirements for maintaining membership.
If a player didn't have lifetime membership status -- that is to say, having 20 PGA Tour wins and a minimum of 15 years on the PGA Tour -- or veteran status -- being at least 45 years old -- then they have to add an event to their schedule each season they hadn't played in the prior four seasons. Unofficial events like the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup count toward the total event tally, but a player needs to add a new event to their schedule, provided they plan on playing less than 25 tournaments that season.
A number of PGA Tour-recognized events cannot satisfy the new-event requirement, including the four majors, The Players, the four World Golf Championships events, the FedEx Cup playoff events, the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup and any first-year official-money event.
If a player without lifetime status plays in 25 or more events in the immediately prior or current season, then they don't have to add a new tournament. Odds are, those players are grinders looking to preserve their PGA Tour status at all cost and will play whenever they have an opportunity. They don't need to be run ragged to add an extra event for which they may not be eligible (majors, WGCs, the playoffs, invitationals and other limited-field events knock out approximately 16 events off a lesser player's potential schedule).
If a player without lifetime or veteran status doesn't play in 25 or more tournaments in the immediately prior or current season AND doesn't add an event they haven't played in the prior four seasons, then that player is subject to a three-tournament suspension and a major fine of at least $20,000. No player has yet to incur that penalty.
In the event a player doesn't satisfy the minimum of 15 tournaments, what happens next depends on their status.
For example, if a PGA Tour winner who is already exempt for the next season in some way (win, lifetime membership, etc.) doesn't compete in 15 tournaments for reasons other than an injury, they maintain their status for the next season but lose their voting privileges as a PGA Tour member for the next season, or until they attain the minimum requirements again.
If a PGA Tour player who isn't already exempt for the next season fails to compete in at least 15 events for reasons other than an injury, then that player loses their status for the next season. This limits that player to the non-member maximum of 12 starts on the PGA Tour in a given season, even if they play their way into majors or Monday qualify to avoid needing to draw on sponsor's exemptions.
Playing on the PGA Tour requires a commitment, and these standards are reasonable to make sure professionals are supporting the Tour.