PGA Tour Rules: McGirt, Sanderson And Perils Of Membership

Thanks to the readers who sent in Rick Cleveland's look at world No. 42 William McGirt--winner of this year's Memorial Tournament--passing up this week's no cut, no blue skies, no good greens, WGC in Shanghai.

Why? To show his support for the Sanderson Farms Championship, even though Cleveland claims McGirt is not "allowed, by PGA Tour rules," to play a non-WGC when you are eligible for the WGC.

“Last year, Joe Sanderson (Sanderson Farms CEO) stepped up and guaranteed to sponsor the tournament for 10 more years,” McGirt said. “That’s huge. We, as players, need to support that. We need to support what that tournament does for that children’s hospital there. That’s why I am coming there, to support all that.”

Joe Sanderson did sign an agreement with the PGA Tour to continue sponsoring Mississippi’s only PGA Tour event through 2026. Last year, the tournament raised more than $1.1 million for Batson Children’s Hospital at University of Mississippi Medical Center.

And this was nice:

“There’s something else. Joe Sanderson is bringing one of his poultry places to the area I grew up in in North Carolina,” McGirt said. “That’s going to be a lot of jobs for a lot of folks that need jobs where I come from.”

McGirt goes on to explain that the Asian swing isn't of much interest to him which (A) will probably get him a fine and (B) doesn't bode well for the PGA Tour's fall expansion into Asia. At least, if they want to draw players inside the top 50.

This WGC rule was a new one to me. And this, on top of an issue Rex Hoggard wrote about this week, makes one struggle to understand what exactly is the vision for the PGA Tour "product."

Hoggard examines the unintended consequences of a new PGA Tour rule asking players with less than 25 starts to add one tournaments they haven't played in the last four years.

“What you have to avoid this year is to not play a bunch of events that you haven’t played in five years,” Casey said. “I could shoot myself in the foot because if I don’t play 25, again, then you run out of options and you may have to play something that doesn’t suit you or doesn’t fit nicely in the schedule.”

For Casey, that means not returning to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which he hasn’t played since 2002 but was looking to add to his schedule thanks to the re-worked West Coast swing. Instead, he’ll wait a year or two to play Pebble Beach, just in case he doesn’t get his 25 starts in 2017.

While these various rules are no doubt well-intended efforts to get players to tee up more often, they ultimately speak to there being too many playing opportunities. Yet, the PGA Tour continues to look for more playing opportunities, which will, in turn, require more rules to make players show up.

But as the Hoggard examples highlight, there are unintended consequences galore. The only one he leaves out: an overworked, irritable athlete that begins to resent the structure of the tour asking them to play high-intensity golf without a break.

Yes, it's a first world problem. But one that is an outgrowth of trying to block off any growth by competing tours and chasing ever dollar imaginable. How can this end well?