The PGA Tour schedule has changed for 2023, ushering in the era of designated events and tournaments featuring purses of $15 million, $20 million and $25 million. And that doesn't include the bounty of the FedEx Cup.
For the best and most popular players, they not only have access to these events but also to a $100 million bonus pool called the Player Impact Program (PIP). However, taking PIP money is attached to a few strings -- namely, a player agreeing to play in 20 total PGA Tour events and all of the designated events (at least 16 of the 17) for which they are eligible.
The top players, then, know their schedules for the year. They're going to be at the majors, The Players, the WGC Match Play, the three invitationals, the four rotating designated events and, most likely, the FedEx Cup playoffs. That leaves three, maybe four events to fill out a busy schedule.
That's why so many observers were surprised when this year's edition of The American Express had its best field in a generation. However, Jon Rahm was not particularly shocked that seven of the world top 10 were in attendance.
As it turns out, the schedule of designated events creates some choke points for players, and they needed to find opportunities to play three more times. Why not, then, do it early in the year?
"I chose to play only once in the fall (at The CJ Cup), so now I need to play 19 events this year," Rahm explained at The American Express, which he won. "I'm playing all these elevated ones, I had to add two more. So it was a very simple way to decide. I think I'm going to get it done by playing here and Torrey Pines."
In fact, Rahm said making his 2023 schedule was easier because he knew the biggest events.
"In the past we've had a lot of freedom on what we wanted to play," he said. "And we still do. The only reason for us to want to play all of this is the PIP reward, let's be honest. And the fact that they're bigger events and bigger purses. We all want that. So it's similar to the Rolex Series events in Europe. They're basically giving you all these big events. It's a lot easier to work around it."
Rahm even went so far as to say that the new schedule has created opportunities for him to play events he wished he could more frequently patronize, like the Travelers Championship and RBC Heritage.
"I'm getting to play two amazingly good events that maybe in the past I wouldn't have thanks to this situation," he said. "So again, I welcome the change. And in a simple way, giving up some of that freedom was nice. Because it is less of a headache thinking of what to do and what not to do. It was very, very easy to figure out what to play."