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Rory McIlroy has responded to the simmering controversy regarding the PGA Tour’s “elevated events”, insisting: No-one’s trying to screw the bottom half of the tour. 

Rumours are intensifying that these designated tournaments will have vastly reduced fields next year and no cut, guaranteeing huge payouts for the highest-ranked players on the PGA Tour at the expense of card-holders with a lesser status.

That has created a lot of unease and uncertainty at what some have perceived as a “them and us” split.

According to McIlroy, that’s not the case.

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“The best players should be playing in [the “elevated events”] because ultimately the PGA Tour needs to be built around the best players,” said the world No.2. “That’s what will maximise the value of the product.

“But that doesn’t mean that there’s not great storylines further down that list, which we’re all very cognizant of. I’ve had tons of conversations with guys that are worried about what events they’re going to play next year and all that.

“No-one’s trying to screw the bottom half of the tour here. If anything, we’re trying to lift it up. I hate calling it a product but if you have a product that this year’s forecast to do $2 billion in gross revenue, you’re trying to grow that product as much as possible.”

McIlroy used the growth of the NBA over the last 20 years to illustrate his point.

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“They’ve built that league around their best players and their stars, not around the 12th guy on the team,” he said. “But because they’ve built that league up around the stars, the 12th guy on the team does way better than he used to.

“Does it mean that the tour’s going to get more competitive? Yes. Look at the [FedEx Cup] Playoffs. Like, 125 used to make the Playoffs. Now it’s 70. It’s just become a more competitive product. I think honestly that’s a good thing.”

The four-time major winner added that he has heard rumblings of dissent from various players on the PGA Tour about how composition of the “elevated events”.

Indeed, his former European Ryder Cup teammate Thomas Pieters yesterday tweeted his frustration about not getting into this week’s Genesis field, despite being ranked No.34 on the OWGR.

“The top half of the membership is really happy that they’re in them but then the guys maybe on the outside are looking in being worried about if they’re always going to be on the outside looking in,” he said.

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“I think that the big thing has been, is this going to be like a closed shop for the same guys every single week, and it’s not. This tour was built on meritocracy. This tour was built on if you shoot the scores, you can move up the levels and play the biggest events. That’s not going to be taken away.

“As I said at the start, it’s just about making it more competitive. Ultimately, I think that’s a good thing. I’m not saying that we’re going to have field sizes of 50. It’s going to be closer to what you’ve seen in the past. Again, we’re not trying to limit opportunities out here but we also want to make sure that when people get opportunities, it’s the most competitive, most competitive tournaments and the most competitive product that we can put out there.”

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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