Debate on full fields and signature events. Sync can speak from experience


HONOLULU (AP) — Stewart Cink knows just about any change, a combination of good sports and his birth certificate. At 50, the former British Open champion is the only player at the Sony Open who will be in Hawaii next week for the PGA Tour Champions Open.

Cink played at Firestone when it hosted the World Series of Golf. He missed out when it became the World Golf Championships for only Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup players. And then he won it in 2004 when it was in the top 50 in the world.

“If I was in the top 50 I would feel really good. But I'm not, so I don't like it," Cink said.

He is in the final year of his full exemption by two wins in the 2021 season, but he fell out of the top 50 (No. 153) at the FedEx Cup. That's all it takes to secure a spot in the eight major events this year.

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This change was a response to the ongoing threat of Saudi-funded LIV Golf. The idea was to bring together the best players on the PGA Tour more often and reward them with $20 million in prize money, not to mention the new PGA Tour requirement of having flushable toilets on the course for player families.

"Unfortunately, I think that's probably the right thing for golf fans," Cink said. "If all the players play in them and we get great fields to play on for a lot of money, that's great. It's just that I don't think it serves everybody. And the PGA Tour serves everybody. For, it is all about showcasing the best for professionals and members.

“So I'm a little mixed on that.”

That's what the PGA Tour is facing this year. It is easy to find players who oppose the new system. Keep moving further down the FedEx Cup standings.

There are a lot of unknowns with such a radical change, and the Sony Open began to highlight some questions.

This is the first of a three-tournament that will determine the "swing" five players who will be involved in the next $20 million event at Pebble Beach. Sony Open was always a good starting point for newcomers. This year, there was no room for nearly half of the players who earned cards from the Korn Ferry Tour.

Those with conditional positions – from No. 126 to No. 150 – can expect to play even fewer events than normal for that category.

What's troubling Cink — and he's not alone — is the distribution of FedEx Cup points that hold more weight for signature programs. It describes British Open champion Brian Harman (who qualifies for everything) as a "cut-throat" model.

The PGA Tour has crunched the numbers and believes the turnover rate – people who fall out of their specific position and whoever replaces them with good play – will be similar for the top 50. Still to be determined is what kind of advantage the top 50 gets in reaching East Lake.

A berth in the FedEx Cup Finals grants players a berth in three of the four majors (possibly all four) and a two-year exemption. Who would have thought Atlanta would be the promised land for the PGA Tour?

Sink thought of the precursors to "signature" events. This was all a year ago, and they were described as "excellent" events. The purse was $20 million, but the fields were full.

The cream rose in most of those events. Jon Rahm held off Max Homa and Patrick Cantlay at Rivera. Sunday afternoon at Bay Hill featured Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler. The winner was Kurt Kitayama,

But the fields were filled to their previous levels (120 at Bay Hill and Riviera, 156 at Quail Hollow) and there was a curtailment.

Now their number is estimated to be 70 to 80 players. Only player-organized tournaments (Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial and Genesis Invitational) make the cut.

“I played in advanced tournaments the first year. They were full-field tournaments with mostly cuts and all the top players played,” Cink said. “I thought they were absolutely brilliant. It's difficult to explain to me and many players who are not in those areas why having a smaller area makes sense.

At the beginning of the year approximately 20 players will compete for three consecutive weeks, and three of them will remain in the competition longer than the others. Too much.

Herman and Tyrell Hatton took the short hop over to Maui to play in the Sony Open. They left on Sunday night for the 9,000-mile journey to the Dubai Desert Classic.

Let's not forget Tommy Fleetwood.

He left The Sentry on Maui for the Dubai Invitational and Dubai Desert Classic. Fleetwood was scheduled to begin his trip from Kapalua Sunday night, except he was booked on an Alaska Airlines flight to San Francisco, and it was the same plane that was grounded from the panel that took off from Portland, Oregon. Was. He had to wait till the next morning.

Hatton left London for Maui. Next is a trip to Dubai and then back to Florida to prepare for a trip to the West Coast.

“Body feels amazing. Why not?" Hatton said. "Just another long flight and will feel even more loose at the end of it."

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