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PGA Tour changes worry some, not Farmers Insurance Open

No one could blame PGA Tour stops like San Diego’s Farmers Insurance Open for sounding internal alarm bells amid reports of the PGA Tour increasing purse sizes at select tournaments and requiring elite players to play in those.

The Farmers isn’t panicking, though. Not yet, anyway.

In the wake of a Golf Digest story explaining how tournament directors of some events became as heated as potted lobsters at the idea, the mere suggestion of broadening the haves and have nots week by week jarred.

What does it mean to us? How many top golfers of our past will not be a part of our future? Is this the first step in trimming events from the schedule?

As the gold-plated voice of The Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus shared with the Associated Press, “What it’s done is made the PGA Tour almost two tiers. All of a sudden, the other tournaments become feeders.”

There’s a well of confidence for a place like Torrey Pines and a tournament like slot deposit pulsa the Farmers to draw from, though, as the Tour pumps in money to counter the threat of LIV Golf departures. It’s not just another tournament.

To cast Torrey and the Farmers as a simple face among the stick-swinging crowd would be like describing Del Mar as just another racetrack or the San Diego Zoo as a run-of-the-mill animal park.

Some things are special. Some things represent more.

The Farmers, with breathtaking cliffside vistas framing gliders soaring judi slot online deposit pulsa above the bobbing blue of the Pacific, is a destination. Torrey Pines South is a U.S. Open-caliber course and massively needed early season test as top golfers shake off cobwebs.

It’s a favorite of hometown star Xander Schauffele and pseudo-San Diegan and fellow top-10 talent Jon Rahm, claiming history-rich roots connecting Palmer and Player, Nicklaus and Tiger.

“I haven’t lost any sleep over it,” said Marty Gorsich, the tournament director and CEO of the Century Club of San Diego that hosts it. “We haven’t had a single meeting to address it.”

Player decision-making remains the biggest question mark.

“On the West Coast swing, you can’t have three (so-called ‘elevated’ and required events) in five weeks, jamming players up,” Gorsich said. “You can’t force guys to play four or five weeks in a row. That gets really hard if you stack up too many.

“And how will the Top 30 feel about being made to play the (rowdy) Waste Management (Phoenix Open, one of the rising purse events), for example? That’s not as much a fit for some guys, even though a lot of guys love it.

“That’s why I think the Tour is staying flexible.”

There’s no doubt the Farmers was shoulder-blocked into concussion protocol when the NFL shifted its schedule. The tournament lost its unchallenged sweet spot for TV and national interest nestled in the open week before the Super Bowl.

The event opted for an unusual Wednesday through Saturday format. Spin doctors can talk about the benefits of that uniqueness and how much players warmed to the change, but no one goes that direction willingly — at least initially.

When something isn’t broke, “fix” it at your own peril.

“My initial, ‘upset’ reaction was, let’s go to NBC (from NFL carrier CBS),” retiring Farmers CEO Jeff Dailey told the Union-Tribune in January. “Then cooler heads prevailed.”

Make no mistake. The Tour’s expansion of what are being labeled as “elevated” events, meaning more tournaments averaging $20 million in purse money with increased player participation leverage, signals real worry for some. (The Farmers’ purse was $8.4 million last year and will be raised by $300,000 for 2023.)

Torrey Pines does not appear in need of wrinkle cream.

“Will some events have concerns? Absolutely,” Gorsich said. “Maybe they’re between two (bigger events or majors) and marketing depends on players. They’ve don’t have an ocean. They don’t have a golf course that’s as enticing. Some events, yeah, I could see some anxiety about that.

“If we generally have the same field, I don’t see people saying, ‘Oh, I’m not going now,’ if one or two players aren’t there. We’re an experience. We’re Del Mar-ish in how we do it.”

Gorsich pointed to spiking hospitality sales, with some areas sold out eight to nine months in advance.

“We’re probably in as good a position as we’ve been organizationally after two years impacted by COVID, (former CEO) Peter (Ripa) left, a tent vendor going bankrupt the year before that,” he said. “This is the first year in a long time we’ve had a clean runway.

“We’ll take a year and see how it looks, but we’re cooking with gas right now.”

The biggest question mark for the Farmers is a leadership change at its sponsoring organization. It’s unclear how the company will feel about the evolving Tour changes, the newly adopted scheduling format and changing business climates moving forward.

Dailey officially steps down Jan. 1. New President and CEO Raul Vargas steps in. The four-day tournament begins Jan. 25.

“I’m sure the new CEO is drinking from a fire hose right now,” Gorsich said of the transition. “We had a weekly call with Farmers and (Dailey) would get updates here and there, but he was generally focused on running the business.

“I think (Vargas) is getting his first briefing (on the tournament) in a week or two.”

The bottom line: At this point, Farmers button-pushers seem less sleep-deprived than almost all others.

“If we had been quote-unquote elevated, I wouldn’t have come to work the next day and did anything differently,” Gorsich said. “I didn’t call a meeting. We could get the same field we normally get. But there’s no real change to us operationally that comes to mind.”

It’s not just another tournament, after all.