Peter Malnati advocates a new designated event model for everyone
ORLANDO — Not long after the PGA Tour Board of Directors wrapped up Tuesday night’s meeting at Bay Hill Club and Lodge that lasted more than seven hours and changed the Tour for years to come, Peter Malnati sat down and poured his feelings into a journal Entry.
“I had to get that stuff out of my head,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe how much I had changed the way I looked at what we do.”
Until recently, Malnati, one of five player directors on the Tour board, was staunchly opposed to the concept of introducing eight designated events with no cuts and reduced fields for the best players, which would mean less play opportunities for rank and file, or as some like to say , the Peter Malnatis of the world.
Malnati knew his 180 flip would shock many of his brothers as well, so he sent what he wrote to several of his teammates.
He sent a copy to on Friday golf week and said, ‘Just print this, print it for me, let the world see this. Because I think everyone thinks we screw up and I really don’t think we do.
So, here is Malnati’s diary entry:
After golf week Having had the opportunity to read his mind, Malnati explained some of the key decisions and their content. (He’s done podcasts with Fire Pit Collective and No Laying Up that are worth listening to.)
“It was the only way to protect the little boys,” he said, supporting the Tour’s vision for the future. “If I was fighting for 120-man fields, we would end up with eight $20 million events on the tour and how many, you know, 26 $2 million events on the tour; it just wasn’t good. When I saw the numbers, there was no ignoring it.
“For example, you couldn’t ignore what the fields (of regular events) would look like if certain events were 120. Again, we don’t even need to have that much imagination. All we have to do is look at Honda this year and see they obviously screwed up with the schedule.”
What was the first reaction to Malnati’s diary entry?
“Probably similar to Twitter. But it’s amazing how quickly I got people who I really thought decidedly hated that and would be like, ‘Oh, I get it, it’s actually going to be okay. I thought there were more designated events,'” Malnati said. “It’s hard to digest because it’s a big departure. And it seems on the surface like it’s only good for the big ones. And I just think after giving him a week to settle in, not only does it help the big guys, it’s going to make this tour stronger from top to bottom. I know people won’t believe it at first, but it took me a long time to change my mind.”
Malnati acknowledged there could be a different sentiment among the grassroots battling for a $3 million prize pool in the tour’s counterfield event this week in Puerto Rico.
“I bet people might freak out a little bit more, because just on the surface, we’re taking events that we’ve always played at 120 or more — like Travelers — and making them 70, mid-70 fields. On the surface, we can.” it’s just taking away play opportunities, but I think now that I’ve been exposed to the data and seen what those eight events are playing as little fields, what does that do to the other events on the tour, the events, that was the bread and butter for the middle and bottom third of members, it empowers and thrives,” he said.
“I want more members to be able to gamble for $20 million as if that is the whole point of the PGA Tour to provide opportunities for members to earn the financial rewards of playing here. So I think that’s our mission. Why are we even telling 50 people you can’t attend these $20 million events? But it really dawned on me because if we make those events 120-man fields, they’re going to be the only events that have a chance to grow on the tour.”
Malnati said he advocated making some cuts in the scheduled events, but that has been shelved.
“I don’t hate a cut,” he said. “I even brought it up in the meeting, I said, ‘You sold me in small fields. What if we made a small field but cut down to 40 and a tie or something? could we do that And they said that they think it’s hard enough – that that differentiates them enough from what LIV does, the fact that LIV handpicks people and puts them on the field.
“The response from some of the independent directors and tour staff is that it’s going to be really difficult to qualify for these events. So if you qualify for those events, you’ve essentially earned whatever paycheck you get for last place.”
Malnati noted that the approved changes also created a path for players in the regular events to advance to the tournaments with the strongest fields and biggest purses.
“It’s quite likely that Rory (McIlroy) and Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas will be the guys that will make the top 50. But it’s not given to them, it’s still something they have to earn. There really is no handout here. They will be hard to come by. I don’t know if I’ve ever qualified for any of these events in my nine-year career. But if you play well, you always have access. None are ever closed.
“Is it perfect? No, but I think that’s where we have to go.”
Malnati recalls hearing Monahan’s television interview with Jim Nantz during the RBC Canadian Open when the commissioner said the difference between the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf League is that the Tour is the place for real and pure competition.
“It’s only through real and pure competition that you can identify the best players in the world,” said Monahan.
“It was a big hurdle for me to overcome this notion that a small field with no cuts can be a true and pure competition,” Malnati said. “But I appreciate and appreciate the fact that it’s going to be difficult to compete in these events, you either have to have played super consistent golf for a whole season over the past year or you have to be really, really hot now. And you either have to have won that season or played that last little stretch really, really well to get into the men’s designated.”
Of all the reasons that influenced Malnati, none was more compelling than the data provided by PGA Tour staff showing that there will be more churn in the top 50 than he anticipated.
“I’ve learned over the years that my gut feeling is good on the golf course but bad when it comes to analytical stuff like that,” he said. “As my gut would have told me, if you give the top 50 eight events, no cut, slightly increased FedEx Cup points, you know 42 of them will stay in the top 50. Over a thousand simulated seasons, the average retention of the top 50 was 64 percent. My gut tells me it will be more than that. But I have to trust those numbers that the tour isn’t manipulating any of those numbers that they showed us. I mean, they ran it on their software and said in a thousand seasons the lowest churn was going to be 14 guys and 14 in and the biggest churn was 22. Like it’s good, that’s good. Like it’s really good. I would not have thought that; it seems kinda hard to believe.”
And that’s why he did a 180-degree turn, helped ensure the vote in favor of the tour’s plan was unanimous, and why the former University of Missouri journalism major was forced to put his thoughts down .
“Because I really didn’t think I was going to vote for it,” he said. “They needed two of us to oppose this idea so that this idea can go back to the drawing board and be discussed more. And I was sure they had someone in me who would resist it.
“And then you just sit there and look at that data and think about the events on the Tour that you love – John Deere and Valspar and Sanderson Farms – to see how playing the designated events with full fields clears the field for.” an event would decimate as John Deere was incredibly powerful.
“Anyone who voted against would have been the only ones voting against, so it wouldn’t have made a difference. But I would not have served the people I promised if I had tried to refuse. This will help preserve the events where the middle and bottom thirds of the PGA Tour play the vast majority of their playing opportunities. It would have made them weaker and evolving this model will make those events stronger. It’s really.”
Malnati ended his writing with this profound statement: “Last week I was afraid, today I couldn’t be more optimistic about the PGA Tour for our sponsors, fans, media, partners and most importantly each and every member.”