Golf

The PGA Tour Has an Unfair Advantage Heading Into the Restart of the Season

Beginning this Thursday, world number one Rory McIlroy will lead an amazing field of 148 players into the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club for the restart of the PGA Tour season. While golf fans have been able to enjoy a couple of live events during the three-month hiatus, including the “The Match” featuring Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning defeating Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady, this will be the first round of official golf on the PGA Tour in quite some time. Yes, it’s a good thing to have live golf back but this week’s restart brings with it a little controversy.

The PGA Tour shut down in mid-march due to COVID-19, as did the Official World Golf Ranking

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Along with the rest of the sports world, including every major golf tour around the globe, the PGA Tour halted its 2019-2020 season in mid-March following the first round of its flagship event, The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

Not long after the golf world shut down, the Official World Golf Ranking was frozen, which obviously makes sense seeing as how there was no golf being played. However, with the PGA Tour and its developmental tour, the Korn Ferry Tour, restarting this week, the OWGR is resuming as well.

The Korn Ferry isn’t as big of a deal in the rankings as they’re more like a minor-league affiliate, similar to the Sunshine Tour in South Africa or the Challenge Tour in Europe. But the PGA Tour restart obviously has a huge impact as it pertains to the OWGR. Naturally, the other major tours aren’t happy about the decision.

The PGA Tour will play at least five tournaments before the European Tour resumes in late July

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It’s certainly understandable to see why golfers on the European Tour, which is the biggest tour affected by the OWGR decision, are upset. When the pandemic hit, those who don’t reside in the U.S. returned home and haven’t returned due to certain restrictions and/or not wanting to take any risks. Take world No. 10 Tommy Fleetwood, for example. He splits his time between the European Tour and the PGA Tour but now might not play until the European Tour resumes in late July with the Betfred British Masters. He’s one of just four of the top 20 in the world that won’t be at Colonial when the PGA Tour resumes play this Thursday.

With five PGA Tour events on the schedule before then, and maybe a sixth, Fleetwood could lose his spot in the top 10 since those participating in PGA Tour events can rack up points while players on the European, Japanese, and Australian tours can’t. While the decision may not have a huge effect on a high-ranking player like Fleetwood, it could certainly impact those who might be on the bubble when bigger events come around over the next year, including next year’s Olympics.

Officials from the OWGR say they’ll be monitoring the situation

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With the uproar they knew would come with the decision, officials from the OWGR released a statement in an attempt to clarify things. They noted that certain fields are already set using the frozen rankings on March 11 and that they’ll continue to monitor the situation moving forward with the hope that this doesn’t become a major issue.

“The safeguards in the OWGR system alongside the continued recognition of the frozen Ranking will help players globally, and the Board will continue to monitor developments in these difficult times.”

Official World Golf Ranking chairman Peter Dawson

How big of an issue this becomes remains to be seen. But even the slightest advantage for those players on the PGA Tour will be looked at as unfair by the rest of the world, especially by those who feel that the American tour gets preferential treatment anyway. We’ll see how the rankings shake out next week following the conclusion of the PGA Tour’s first tournament back.