The PGA Tour (stylized in all capital letters as PGA TOUR by its officials for marketing purposes) is the organizer of men’s professional golf tours n the United States and North America.
It organizes most of the events on the flagship annual series of tournaments, also known as the PGA Tour, as well as PGA Tour Champions (age 50 and older, formerly known as the Senior PGA Tour) and the Korn Ferry Tour (the minor League or developmental tour).
It is headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida – a suburb southeast of Jacksonville. Originally established by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, it was spun off in December 1968 into a separate organization for tour players, as opposed to club professionals, the focal members of today’s PGA of America.
Originally the “Tournament Players Division”, it adopted the name “PGA Tour” in 1975 and oversees most of the week-to-week tour events fans watch on TV, including The Players Championship and FedEx Cup with its finale at The Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
“The Players” and Tour Championship are its flagship events, while the FedEx Cup (stylized as one word as FedExCup by tour officials for marketing purposes) is the tour’s season-long points system.
The four major events, which are part of the PGA Tour’s schedule, are run by different organizations.
PGA Tour History
The tour began in 1929 and at various times the tournament players had attempted to operate independently from the club professionals. With an increase of revenue in the late 1960s due to expanded television coverage, a dispute arose between the touring professionals and the PGA of America on how to distribute the windfall.
The tour players wanted larger purses, where the PGA desired the money to go to the general fund to help grow the game at the local level. Following the final major in July 1968 at the PGA Championship, several leading tour pros voiced their dissatisfaction with the venue and the abundance of club pros in the field.
The increased friction resulted in a new entity in August, what would eventually become the PGA Tour. Tournament players formed their own organization, American Professional Golfers, Inc. (APG), independent of the PGA of America. Its headquarters were in New York City.
After several months, a compromise was reached in December: the tour players agreed to abolish the APG and form the PGA “Tournament Players Division”, a fully autonomous division under the supervision of a new 10-member Tournament Policy Board. The board consisted of four tour players, three PGA of America executives, and three outside members, initially business executives.
Joseph Dey, the recently retired USGA executive director, was selected by the board as the tour’s first commissioner in January 1969 and agreed to a five-year contract. He was succeeded by tour player Deane Beman in early 1974, who served for twenty years. The name officially changed to the “PGA Tour” in 1975.
In 1978 the PGA Tour “removed its restrictions on women.” However, no women have qualified for the tour since this date.
In late August 1981, the PGA Tour had a marketing dispute with the PGA of America and officially changed its name to the TPA Tour, for the “Tournament Players Association”. The disputed issues were resolved within seven months and the tour’s name was changed back to the “PGA Tour” in March 1982.
Tim Finchem became the third commissioner in June 1994 and continued for over 22 years; on January 1, 2017, he was succeeded by Jay Monahan.
Without the tour players, the PGA of America became primarily an association of club professionals, but retained control of two significant events; the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.
The former was an established major championship, but the latter was an obscure match play team event which was not particularly popular with golf fans, due to predictable dominance by the United States. With the addition of players from continental Europe in 1979 and expanded television coverage, it became very competitive and evolved into the premier international team event, lately dominated by Europe. Both events are very important revenue streams for the PGA of America.
Tours Operated by the PGA Tour
The PGA Tour does not run any of the four major championships (Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, The Open), or the Ryder Cup. The PGA of America, not the PGA Tour, runs the PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship, and co-organizes the Ryder Cup with Ryder Cup Europe, a company controlled by the PGA European Tour.
Additionally, the PGA Tour is not involved with the women’s golf tours in the U.S., which are mostly controlled by the LPGA.
The PGA Tour is also not the governing body for the game of golf in the United States; this, instead, is the role of the United States Golf Association (USGA), which organizes the U.S. Open.
What the PGA Tour does organize are the remaining week-to-week events, including The Players Championship and the FedEx Cup events, as well as the biennial Presidents Cup.
It also runs the main tournaments on five other tours: PGA Tour Champions, the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly known as Web.com Tour), PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour China, and PGA Tour Latinoamérica.
The PGA Tour operates six tours. Three of them are primarily contested in the U.S., and the other three are international developmental tours centered on a specific country or region.
- PGA Tour: The main pro TV tour, based in the United States. However, some events take place outside the United States, including Canada, Mexico, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, the Dominican Republic, Bermuda and the U.S. possession of Puerto Rico host one sole-sanctioned event each year.
- PGA Tour Champions: For golfers age 50 and over, based in the United States.
- Korn Ferry Tour: The PGA Tour’s main developmental tour, based in the United States.
- PGA Tour Latinoamérica: The PGA Tour’s international developmental tour in Latin American.
- PGA Tour Canada: The PGA Tour’s international developmental tour in Canada. Historically known as the “Canadian Tour”, it was taken over by the PGA Tour in November 2012. The 2013 season, the first under PGA Tour operation, began with a qualifying school in California, followed by nine tournaments in Canada.
- PGA Tour China: Also an international developmental tour. Launched in 2014, it is independent of the former China Tour, which folded after its 2009 season.
- Qualifying Tournament: Known colloquially as “Q-School,” the annual event is held over six rounds each fall. Before 2013, the official name of the tournament was the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament; it is now officially the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament. Through the 2012 edition, the top-25 finishers, including ties, received privileges to play on the following year’s PGA Tour. Remaining finishers in the top 75, plus ties, received full privileges on the Korn Ferry Tour.
- Since 2013, all competitors who made the final phase of Q-School earned status on the Korn Ferry Tour at the start of the following season, with high finishers receiving additional rights as follows:
- Golfers who finish 11th through 45th (including ties) are exempt until the second “reshuffle” of the following season (first eight events).
- On the Korn Ferry Tour, a “reshuffle” refers to a reordering of the tour’s eligibility list, which determines the players who can enter tournaments.
- After four tournaments, and every fourth tournament thereafter until the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, players are re-ranked according to their tour earnings on the season. However, the ranking position of players who are exempt from a “reshuffle” does not change.
- Those who finish 2nd through 10th (including ties) are exempt until the third reshuffle of the following season (first 12 events).
- The medalist (top finisher) has full playing privileges for the entire regular season, which carries with it automatic entry to the Tour Finals.
The PGA Tour’s broadcast television rights are held by CBS Sports and NBC Sports, under contracts most recently renewed in 2020 to last through 2030. While it considered invoking an option to opt out of its broadcast television contracts in 2017, the PGA Tour ultimately decided against doing so.
Golf Channel (which, since the acquisition of NBC Universal by Golf Channel owner Comcast, is a division of NBC Sports) has served as the pay television rightsholder of the PGA Tour since 2007.
Under the contracts, CBS broadcasts weekend coverage for an average of 20 events per-season, and NBC broadcasts weekend coverage for an average of 10 events per-season. Golf Channel broadcasts early-round and weekend morning coverage of all events, as well as weekend coverage of events not broadcast on terrestrial television, and primetime encores of all events.
On March 9, 2020, the PGA Tour announced that it had reached an agreement to renew its contracts with CBS and NBC, which expire after the 2021 season, through 2030, maintaining most of the existing broadcast arrangements.
Tournaments typically featured in NBC’s package include marquee events such as The Players Championship, the final three tournaments of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and the biennial Presidents Cup event. The 2011 contract granted more extensive digital rights, as well as the ability for NBC to broadcast supplemental coverage of events on Golf Channel during its broadcast windows.
Beginning in 2022, coverage of the final three FedEx Cup playoff tournaments will begin alternating annually between CBS and NBC, rather than having them exclusive to NBC.
The PGA Tour operates a streaming service known as PGA Tour Live, which carries early-round coverage of events preceding Golf Channel television coverage, including featured groups.
The service is offered as a subscription basis; until 2019, it was operated by BAMTech (formerly MLB Advanced Media), and for a period, was also carried as part of ESPN+. From 2019 to 2021, it has been operated under NBC Sports’ subscription streaming platform NBC Sports Gold, adding featured holes coverage during Golf Channel’s windows.
Since 2017, following a pilot at the end of the 2016 season, portions of the PGA Tour Live coverage are also carried for free via the PGA Tour’s Twitter account. Under the 2022-2030 contract, the service will move back to ESPN+.
In 2005, the PGA Tour reached a deal with XM Satellite Radio to co-produce a channel, the PGA Tour Network (now Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio), featuring event coverage, and talk programming relating to golf (which, since 2013, has also included audio simulcasts of selected Golf Channel programs). Its contract with Sirius XM was renewed through 2021.
The PGA Tour is also covered extensively outside the United States. In the United Kingdom, Sky Sports was the main broadcaster of the tour for a number of years up to 2006.
Setanta Sports won exclusive UK and Ireland rights for six years from 2007 for a reported cost of £103 million. The deal included Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour events, but like the U.S. television deals it does not include the major championships, and unlike the U.S. deal, it does not include the World Golf Championships.
Setanta set up the Setanta Golf channel to present its coverage. On June 23, 2009, Setanta’s UK arm went into administration and ceased broadcasting. Eurosport picked up the television rights for the remainder of the 2009 season. Sky Sports regained the TV rights with an eight-year deal from 2010 to 2017.
In South Korea, SBS, which has been the tour’s exclusive TV broadcaster in that country since the mid-1990s, agreed in 2009 to extend its contract with the PGA Tour through 2019. As a part of that deal, it became sponsor of the season’s opening tournament, a winners-only event that was renamed the SBS Championship effective in 2010. In 2011 however, Korean automobile manufacturer Hyundai took over the title sponsorship, but SBS still remains a sponsor of the event.
In June 2018, it was announced that Eurosport’s parent company Discovery Inc. had acquired exclusive international media rights to the PGA Tour outside of the United States, beginning 2019, under a 12-year, US$2 billion deal.
The contract covers Discovery’s international channels (including Eurosport), sub-licensing arrangements with local broadcasters, and development of an international PGA Tour over the top subscription service—which was unveiled in October under the brand GolfTV.
The service will replace PGA Tour Live in international markets as existing rights lapse, beginning with Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia and Spain in January 2019.
GolfTV also acquired rights to the Ryder Cup and European Tour in selected markets, and signed a deal with Tiger Woods to develop original content centered upon him.
Outline of the Season
Since 2013-14, the PGA Tour season spans two calendar years. It starts with the Fall Series, a nine-event “wrap-around” portion of the season which runs from from September through November. These tournaments are primarily filled with journeymen and up and comers who are looking to rack up some money and points before the marquee players show up in January.
Starting on the first weekend of January, the season kicks into “regular” gear with the traditional “West Coast Swing” – a series of seven events taking place in Hawaii, California and Arizona.
This is followed by the four-stop Florida Swing, headlined by The PLAYERS Championship, which launches what is now known as “The Super Season” – a six-month span with one “super” event each month: the four majors contested between April and July, bookended by The Players in March and the three-event FedEx Cup Playoffs in August.
This gives the tour (and its fans) a marquee event in six consecutive months.
Up until 2007, The Tour Championship was contested in November with a full fall season between the final major (PGA Championship) and the Tour Championship, which was not contested until November.
Once the majors concluded with the PGA Championship in August, though, the season became anti-climactic as many of the top players competed less from that point on. In response, the PGA Tour introduced a points system sponsored by FedEx, titled The FedEx Cup.
Also in 2007, so as to have a marquee event in six consecutive months (April through September), The PLAYERS event was moved from March to May and The Tour Championship moved from November to mid-September, anchoring the new four-event FedEx Cup playoffs.
Following the new playoffs, the Tour continued through the fall, with the focus on the scramble of the less successful players to earn enough money to retain their tour cards via Top 125.
A circuit known as the Fall Series, originally with seven tournaments, was introduced in 2007. In its inaugural year, its events were held in seven consecutive weeks, starting the week after the Tour Championship.
The Fall Series saw major changes for 2009, with one of its events (Valero Texas Open) moving to May and another (Ginn sur Mer Classic) dropping off the schedule entirely, leaving it with just four events.
In 2010 the Fall Series grew to five with the addition of the Sea Island, Georgia event (now titled The RSM Classic) but it returned to four for its remaining two seasons (2011 and 2012) as the Mississippi event (now titled the Sanderson Farms) moved back to a July date.
In 2013, the Fall Series was removed altogether, and the season spanned from January (Tournament of Champions) through September (Tour Championship).
The PGA Tour 2013-14 was the first season to introduce a split calendar year. While it removed the end of season ‘Fall Series’ it was replaced with a beginning of season ‘Fall Series’ meant for the same purpose: to help players rack up some points and money ahead of what’s known as the ‘regular season’ when the marquee players participate more. The first season using a split calendar year included six fall events with a two-stop Asian Swing (Malaysia and China).
The 2014-15 season, the 100th of the PGA Tour, saw the return of the Sanderson Farms after a year off as the tour transitioned out of the old Fall Series. It also added another alternate-field event (Barbasol Championship), opposite the British Open in July.
The 2017-18 season had some slight alterations with the tour comprised of 48 events, including two new ones: The CJ Cup in South Korea and the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship, a former event on the Web.com Tour based out of the Dominican Republic. With the addition of the CJ Cup, the PGA Tour now had a three-stop Asian Swing: Malaysia (CIMB), Korea (CJ), and China (WGC-HSBC).
Also, the Barbasol Championship moved from Alabama to Kentucky, the first non-major PGA Tour event in the state since 1959. The Puerto Rico Open, an alternate event, became a charity event in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The 2018-19 season, however, was a campaign of big changes. The schedule contained 46 events, two fewer than the previous season and was shortened in an effort to complete the FedEx Cup Playoffs by the end of August, thereby avoiding head to head competition with football.
The PGA Championship was moved from August to May on the weekend before Memorial Day. The PGA of America cited the cooler weather enabling a wider array of options for host courses, as reasoning for the change. Additionally, The Players Championship was moved from May back to March, while the FedEx Cup playoffs was reduced from four events to three.
These changes allowed the PGA Tour to bookend the four successive majors with its two flagship events, building what is considered a six-month super season with one marquee event each month: PLAYERS (Mar), MASTERS (Apr), PGA (May), U.S. OPEN (June), BRITISH OPEN (July), and Tour Championship (Aug).
Two new events were added to the schedule as well: the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, Michigan, and the 3M Open, played at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota.
The geography of the tour is generally determined by the weather. For instance, the Fall Series is contested in warmer climate U.S. locations (California, Nevada, Texas, Mississippi and Georgia) and similar international venues (Bermuda, Mexico).
The PGA Tour Fall Series, which once provided a final opportunity for golfers to make the top 125 in season earnings and thereby retain their Tour cards, now offers similar type golfers (journeymen, season strugglers, up and comers) with the chance to earn money/points ahead of the “regular season” when the marquee players fill out the fields.
As part of the Fall Series, there is the “Asian Swing” which is a three-stop swing in three major Asian countries: South Korea, Japan and China.
Following the Fall Series is the “Regular Season” which runs from January through August. (The Fall Series is officially the “regular season” too but this is what its called colloquially and refers to the traditional schedule.) It starts with a two-stop “Hawaiian Swing” in early January and then tees it up for five more events in California and Arizona, during what is known as the “West Coast Swing.”
The tour then moves to the American Southeast for the “Southern Swing,” with the famed “Florida Swing” batting leadoff, and featuring The PLAYERS Championship which signifies the beginning of the “Super Season” – a six-month span of monthly marquee events.
The Southern Swing starts in Florida and includes stops in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, the Carolinas, and even a stop in Mexico. The headline event of the Southern Swing is The Masters Tournament which launches the four-event “Major Series,” which runs from April through July.
The summer months are spent mainly in the Northeast and the Midwest.
- Majors: The four major championships are The Masters Tournament, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, and The (British) Open Championship.
- World Golf Championships (WGC-): For several years, there were four WGCs annually. But in 2022 there will only be a single WGC event (WGC-Dell Match Play). WGCs are co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and European Tour, offering large purses and very limited size fields (World Top 60).
- Legends Invitational Series: Invitationals associated with golf’s three biggest modern day legends – The Genesis Invitational (Tiger Woods), Arnold Palmer Invitational (Arnold Palmer) and the Memorial (Jack Nicklaus). Each event is a limited 120-player field and offers a $10,500,000 purse with a three-year PGA Tour exemption to the winner.
- Other Invitationals: Charles Schwab Challenge and RBC Heritage are also invitationals but have slighter larger fields (132) and smaller purses ($8-8.5 million).
- Tournament of Champions: The first tournament of the calendar year, has a field consisting of winners from the previous season’s competition only. This results in a field much smaller than any other tournament except for The Tour Championship, with no cut after 36 holes of play.
- The Players Championship: Considered golf’s “fifth major,” The PLAYERS is the only event, apart from the majors and the World Golf Championships, which attracts entries from almost all of the world’s elite golfers. It is the designated OWGR flagship event for the PGA Tour and awards 80 OWGR points to its winner. Only major championships can be awarded more OWGR points. For purposes of the FedEx Cup standings, The Players offers 600 points, the same point allocation to that of the majors. It also offers the largest purse in golf, which will be $20 million in 2022.
- PGA Tour Team Event: Riding the 2016 Ryder Cup hype, the PGA Tour transformed the Zurich Classic to a two-man team event as part of its annual schedule. The field includes 80 teams of two. One player must qualify via the Tour’s priority rankings with his partner being either a PGA Tour member or earn entry through a sponsor exemption.
- Playoff Events: The final three events of the season. The top 125 players on the points list are eligible for the first event (FedEx St Jude Championship) and the field size decreases to the top 70 for leg No. 2 (BMW Championship) and the top 30 for The Tour Championship.
- Regular Events: Routine weekly tour events. The “regular” events vary somewhat in status, but this is fairly subjective and not usually based on the size of the purse. Some of the factors which can determine the status of a tournament are:
- Its position in the schedule, which influences the number of leading players that choose to enter.
- Its age and the distinction of its past champions.
- The repute of the course on which it is played.
- Any associations with “legends of golf”. yed on a course he designed, and annually honoring a selected “legend”.
- Alternate: Events which are played in the same week as a higher status tournament and therefore have weakened fields and reduced prize money. They are often considered an opportunity for players who would not qualify for certain events due to their world rankings, positions on the FedEx Cup points list, or position on the Tour’s priority list to move up more easily or have an easier attempt at a two-year exemption for winning a tournament. Because of their weaker fields, these events usually receive the minimum amount of world ranking points reserved for PGA Tour events (24 points) and fewer FedEx Cup points than most tournaments (300 points instead of 500). Alternate event winners also do not earn Masters invitations. Fields for alternate events have 132 players. These events have 12 unrestricted sponsor exemptions, four more than the regular events.
- Playoff Events: The final three events of the season. The top 125 players on the points list are eligible for the first event (FedEx St. Jude Championship) with the top 70 moving on to leg No. 2 (BMW Championship) and the top 30 qualifying for The Tour Championship.
- Offseason Team Events: A United States team of 12 elite players competes in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup in alternate years. The Ryder Cup, owned and managed by the PGA of America, pits U.S. golfers against a European team, is arguably the highest profile event in golf, outranking the majors. The Presidents Cup, owned and managed by the PGA Tour, which matches a team of U.S. golfers against an international team of golfers not eligible for the Ryder Cup, is less well established, but is still the main event of the week when it is played. There is no prize money in these events, so they are irrelevant to the money list, but players receive professional notoriety and become more marketable as members, particularly related to the Ryder Cup.
Money List Winners and Most Wins Leaders
Players who won the PGA Tour’s Money List are awarded the Arnold Palmer Award.
Content was created using the PGA Tour page on Wikipedia, but was modified with additions and modifications. The work is licensed under fair use via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Other Sources: PGATour.com, PGA.com