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Opinion & Analysis

Is a “Single-A PGA Tour” needed in the United States?

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The road to the PGA Tour is not an easy one to take. Thousands try, only a handful get in, even fewer of the handful stay. However, with the thousands of professional golfers that don’t get in, they need a place to play.

The Web.com Tour has the been the direct feeder and developmental tour for the PGA Tour since 2013. Since its inception in 1990 under the “Ben Hogan Tour” name, there has been multiple variations that slowly evolved into the highly coveted developmental tour we know today. Top 25 finishers in a year long money race get their PGA Tour cards for next season, and 25 more in the playoffs also receive their cards. However, some pros don’t ever make it this far, and there are some that don’t stay long either.

Enter in the third-tier tours of the PGA Tour, that would be PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latin America, and PGA Tour China. Now, each of these three tours operate very similar to the Web.com and the PGA Tour. The same is true with the Web.com, finish high in the money list for the year, move up to the Web.com the next season. With varying statuses, Q-Schools, tournament cuts, and unreal talent across all levels, this system has proven itself to be the best in who can make it on the PGA Tour. However, if you look at the third-tier tours, you come to realize there is no direct route to them besides Q-School and the occasional Monday qualifier. Which comes to to bear the question, is a fourth tier “PGA Tour” needed?

An easy way to look at this is to look at the baseball farming system. Obviously you have the major leagues, but the minor leagues in regards to the major leagues makes the transition to move up as a pro really obvious. From Rookie Ball, to Single-A, Double-A, and finally to Triple-A, the idea of moving up the farm system to get better as a professional to eventually make it to the major leagues is common sense. However, not everyone moves up, some people stay stagnant, and unfortunately some people move down, not everyone can get what they want.

If baseball can have a farm system, why can’t golf? If you want to get technical, we do have one with the various mini tours around the United States that are smaller than the PGA Tour affiliates, but in the grand scheme of things, they just build up your competition skills with no direct way of moving up, and it also doesn’t help the prize money is not high either, but that’s expected at the developmental level.

What if there was a “Single-A” PGA Tour? What if it could feed into PGA Tour China, PGA Tour Canada, and PGA Latin America? Who would play in it? A lot of what ifs and guesses, but here would be my guess on the scenario.

For the PGA Tour to do this, it would need interest in a fourth level to begin with. Who would that level be? I could see scratch golfers, high level amateurs, or even PGA and other club professionals that didn’t quite have the playing resume to play on the higher tours to play in them. They would develop their skills and see how far it would go.

What do you think? Is another tour needed? Is it necessary for the PGA Tour to have a “farm system”? I’m curious to see your thoughts, GolfWRXers.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Tiger Noods

    Mar 4, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    This makes no sense on its surface. “Single-A” is a development team, subsidised to some degree, and is not out to sell a lot of tickets generally.

    Any sort of fourth tier wouldn’t be profitable. It already sounds like the regional systems generally in place, and is a tester for getting into the third-tier tours outside the US. If you set aside the NCAA, you are essentially looking at some sort of pseudo-amateur thing, and I think that there’s no need to further organise beyond the regionals that already exist.

    The only interesting thing for me would be the “Team Golf” concept, where cities get “franchises”, and you have some interesting content that way.

  2. Morgan

    Mar 4, 2019 at 9:45 am

    The Great Lakes Tour has some in-roads to the PGA Tour Canada and to final qualifying (I think) for the RBC Canadian Open. There are ways to gain some exemptions from other mini-tours to the web.com tour as well.

    The fact that the PGA-TourC, and PGALTA, and PGA China are running at basically full steam now, has provided the A or AA level. There’s not need for a level below that affiliated with the PGA Tour. There’s no advertising money in that. Without Advertising money, there is no purse. Without a purse there are no pros. We see this with local state and provincial tournaments. There are some pros trying to hack it as playing pros and some pros there for the occasional tournament. The view of those pros is that their entry fee is just padding the pockets of the pros that play more often.

    Once you get below the PGA Tour Canada, you’re looking at club professionals.

    Sorry if this is pessimistic, but I’m a realist and below those three tours are guys that are NEVER going to make the PGA Tour.

  3. Joel Thelen

    Mar 4, 2019 at 8:21 am

    I just got home yesterday from PGA Tour China Q school where I finished 22nd and got some status, I also played PGA Tour Canada in 2015-2016, and I Monday’d into 3 Web.com Tour events in 2018 with a best finish of 14 under par, 34th place in Springfield, MO. So I have definitely thought about this idea! One barrier is that one country can’t have more than 3 tours with world ranking points (PGA, Champions, Web). But what you see if you look at tier 3 is how many Americans are traveling outside the country to try and get on the American owned PGA Tour and playing for very little money. Look at the Aruba Cup (Ryder cup between PGA Tour Canada & Latin America), it’s guys from Texas, California, Florida, Etc. leading both Tours.

    The challenge is that there are only so many spots in the fields. PGA Tour fields are mostly 144 players, and 125 guys each year make the playoffs. So there aren’t many PGA Tour players losing their status every year. The PGA Tour has arranged the system to reduce turnover, and bring in more international fields. Which I understand helps with marketing for sure. As long as the formula is how it is, what would guys in tier 4 play for? A couple spots on tier 3 tours?

    I’m a fan of capitalism, not socialism. But I would love to see the money being paid out more equivalent to the level of play. The PGA Tour purses these days are astounding how big they are, and not one person on the planet believes PGA Tour players are 10x better than Web.com, but they play for 10x the money. Just doing simple math, each tier plays about 40 tournaments per season (a little less on the Web.com). But if all 3 play one week there is ($7,000,000+$700,000+$220,000=$7,920,000 being paid out). I think the money should be closer to

    Tier 1: $5,000,000
    Tier 2: $2,000,000
    Tier 3: $790,000

    While giving PGA Tour players a 30% pay cut, you almost triple Web.com earnings, and over triple Tier 3 earnings. Clearly guys will still want to be on the PGA Tour! But at least the other guys can pay their caddies and start a family. This will only make more kids want to play pro golf and in my opinion, be better for growing the game.

  4. Pro

    Mar 3, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    What needs to change, Chris, is an entire paradigm shift in America’s educational and cultural attitudes towards teenagers.
    Why can’t teenagers just turn Pro in anything they’re good at doing, if that’s what they want? Why do you take the choice away from them? It teaches them personal responsibility to own their choice that they make, if they want to become a Pro as a teenager in high school. Why is there such a stigma with that in the US? Why do people have to go to college before their life gets started?
    If they want to be a Pro before college, let them!

  5. JP

    Mar 3, 2019 at 11:51 am

    If you aren’t going to make it, you aren’t going to make it. There is no need to give golfers of every skill level a tour. What’s next? Grandfathers mini tour for those 65+ year olds that think they should make it on tour, but now lack the physical ability to compete at the PGA tour level?
    .
    Is it at the point we need to award everybody participation trophies for trying?

  6. John

    Mar 3, 2019 at 10:25 am

    No this feels like heading the participation trophy route. Get through q school, Monday qualify, or leave your family and friends and earn it in Canada or the Latin American tour.

  7. The dude

    Mar 3, 2019 at 3:48 am

    This article is cringeworthy….

  8. A. Commoner

    Mar 2, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    How can one write an article like this while ignoring the incredible expansion of intercollegiate athletics over past several decades? These programs might be thought of as a filtering (farm) system whereby those deserving to advance do so. Like it or not, there is a ‘sorting out’ process in operation throughout life in all aspects of life. Many are called; few are chosen. Accept it and live with it.

  9. Phil D. Snuts

    Mar 2, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    Why does it need anything? The cream rises to the top regardless of how many minor leagues a particular sport has.

  10. Hawkeye77

    Mar 2, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    Ask the question but provide absolutely no analysis of how it could even work, and of course it would not. PGA Tour already invested and subsidizing what it thinks is necessary, pretty smart outfit – who does this “4th Tier”? When do they play? Where? WHY?

    Do we need more pro golfers? You aren’t good enough to make it on Tour or make a living as it stands playing golf, why subsidize a lower level of golf? Who isn’t making it that “should”?

    Golf has a “farm system” it’s called mini-Tours and other Tours and there are plenty of opportunities if you are truly talented. If not, no reason to guarantee some standard of living to people that should probably be doing something else. You’ll just have more people chasing that “scrape by” dream at yet another level lower.

  11. ChipNRun

    Mar 2, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Chris,

    You have an interesting idea but don’t link it to a business model. Some considerations…

    * Where will you get the sponsorships for the tournaments? Can the PGA Tour find enough slack marketing desire among corporations to pay for the tournaments? Consider the MacKenzie Tour (PGA Tour Canada). MacKenzie evidently has 12 events last year. The 2018 top player was Tyler McCumber – 11 events, $139,000 total with three wins. Only one other player crossed the $100,000 mark. So how much of a purse can you guarantee for your Single A tour? And, what does a Single A win count toward a PGA Tour slot?

    * What about regional PGA events? Can up-and-coming non-traditional tour pro hopefuls play in these and score some points toward entering the current mini-tours?

    * You lament the demise of the Q-School, but it’s still here. It just moved down a notch to the mini-gours. PGA Tour Canada has a Q-School tourney, and PGA Tour Latino American has a qualifying tournament.

    * You imply but do not state that lots of people could make the pro tour if the only got “another chance.” Happy Gilmore and Augie Baccus (The Squeeze) are entertaining movie characters, but in real life their chances of breaking through to the PGA Tour are very slim. If they can’t advance through the mini-tours to Web.com, I doubt that a Single A tour would increase their chances that much.

    * Your Single A Tour would be the equivalent of Fantasy Football… except the players to out to a real golf course rather than fuming over the computer screen.

    • Chris Mari

      Mar 2, 2019 at 9:11 pm

      Hi ChipNRun,

      So the original idea for the article is a hypothetical, would I want to see a Single-A PGA Tour in the United States. Yes. Would I want to run it myself with the ideas mentioned in the blog, not really. It’s more of a question to the Golfwrx community of could you see it working or not, and you are asking the right questions above, in which I do appreciate the deep thought in this, thanks for reading!

  12. Q

    Mar 2, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Terrible comparison to baseball.
    Teams don’t get relegated nor promoted in baseball like the players do in golf, like soccer teams do in Europe or around the world. That’s the problem with Major sports in the US, so this argument is backwards.
    The Major sports in US needs to change its system where the leagues have promotion and relegation.
    The golf system is fine. Except for the bit where they removed the Q-school. By elimination Q-school direct entry into the top flight, the PGA made it almost like the other major sports in America, into the Elitist system that it wanted it to be.
    At least golf has its promotion-relegation system. And it has to.

    • Chris Mari

      Mar 2, 2019 at 9:13 pm

      Q,

      I like this point you mentioned above, personally I think the system is fine as well, but I am curious to see would you want to actually see it work or would it just be a complete failure due to your said points? Thanks for reading!

  13. Peter

    Mar 2, 2019 at 9:39 am

    The difference between golf and baseball is that the scouts in the big leagues are evaluating different positions and wide array of specialized talent. It doesn’t work like that in golf. It’s all about your score. When it comes to prize money, Web.com players can barely scrape by a living, let alone people on the smaller tours. Bottom line is that if the PGA thinks they can make money from sponsors and media by putting this together, they’d do it.

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Hideki Matsuyama from Low Am to low man at the Masters

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They say the Masters does not start until the back nine on Sunday, but by that time, this year’s iteration was all but wrapped up. Hideki Matsuyama stepped onto the 10th tee with a five-stroke lead and the volatile back nine in front of him. The Augusta pines would be void of roars, though, as Matsuyama’s pursuers near the top of the leaderboard struggled to mount a significant charge. The closest challenger was a late-charging Xander Schauffele, who made four straight birdies to get to within two of the lead heading to the 16th tee. His hopes were then quickly dashed when he dunked his tee shot in the water and eventually made a triple-bogey. Augusta National Golf Club played difficult this spring. Contrary to the record-setting November version, the greens were more brown and firm than typical and required precision. Luckily for Matsuyama, precision has made him one of the elite golfers in the world. He earned this green jacket. He just happened to earn it on Saturday where his 65 was three strokes better than the next-best round. Using V1 Game to analyze his Strokes Gained performance shows Matsuyama gained 6.7 strokes on the average PGA Tour field on Saturday and 4.2 of those were from his iron game.

Matsuyama has always been a premier ball striker and, if anything, poor putting has held him back from winning more. Augusta National is no place for a balky putter and Matsuyama has made some significant strides in that category. While he did not gain strokes on the field in putting this week, he managed to get to average and, with his elite ballstriking, that was enough. Augusta National’s lightning-quick, undulated greens reward a properly-struck shot and punish even the slightest mishit. Matsuyama made 96 feet of putts Saturday (the PGA TOUR average is around 70 feet), including birdie putts of five, 19, 10, four and 10 feet. He also made a six-foot eagle putt on 15. You don’t have to be an elite putter when you have opportunities that close. Good for Matsuyama, because while he filled it up on Saturday, for the week, his putting was sub-standard.

V1 Game breaks down putting performance by distance from the hole, where we can see that Matsuyama lost strokes to the field in all but four distance buckets. He gave significant strokes back to the field from 4-6 feet, 11-15 ft, and 31-50 feet. Matsuyama had four 3-putts on the week, including one on Saturday and one Sunday. That’s progressing in the right direction, but still with room for improvement for the 29-year-old Matsuyama.

If you are going to win the Masters, it always starts with the par 5s and Matsuyama took advantage, playing them in 11-under for the week. He played the par 3s in +1 and the par 4s in even par for the week. Clearly, the par 5s were vital to him being able to get to the required -10 to win the tournament by just a single stroke. Augusta National has arguably the finest set of par fives in golf, each of them scorable and each of them dangerous. With V1 Game’s Hole History, Hideki played the 13th the best at -4 and the 8th the next-best at -3. Hideki made three eagles on the par 5s and averaged 4.3 strokes on the par 5s. That even includes the near-disaster on 15 on Sunday. Matsuyama was consistently in play off the tee and able to challenge the greens with his approach shots throughout the week.

All of the above added up to a healthy lead and afforded Matsuyama some cushion coming down the stretch, cushion that he needed as he got closer to earning his first green jacket. The golf tournament could have turned out significantly differently if young Will Zalatoris could have found a way to play better around Amen Corner, but instead Matsuyama was able to stumble a bit down the stretch and still maintain a two-stroke cushion until the final putt was holed. The Strokes Gained Heatmap from V1 Game for his final round scorecard shows exactly which part of his game became unsteady. Matsuyama overshot the 15th green into the lake and made bogey (Approach). Then three-putted the 16th green and missed a short putt on 18 (putting), knowing bogey was enough to win the golf tournament.

Still, a well-earned victory for Matsuyama. He struck the ball better than anyone else this week and did enough to claim the victory. Augusta National showed its teeth with firmer, faster greens and challenged the field to be precise. Matsuyama has made a career out of being precise. The same strength that brought Hideki Low Amateur honors more than 10 years ago brought him the green jacket as low man in the 2021 Masters.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Starting the outdoor golf season with minimal damage

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With all the courses opening in the Northeast and the Northwest, we are transitioning from the indoor training facilities to the great outdoor abyss. This talk will help you stick to your guns with conviction and avoid all the new distractions that are going to come your way.

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On Spec: Hideki Matsuyama wins the Masters!

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Host Ryan Barath breaks down the Masters after Hideki Matsuyama’s historic win, including his what’s in the bag.

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