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Monday, January 12, 2015

On Expanding the Hyundai's Field

Since the Limerick Summary is delayed a day this week (Monday finish in Hawaii, you know), I thought I'd look at a question that's been discussed quite a bit this past week...

How can you expand the number of players at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions? (I'll just call this event the HToC from here on.)

The discussion seems to be spurred by a desire to make more players want to show up, which is a win-win for sponsors, fans, and TV networks alike. But there are a number of issues that make this a tricky situation...

Matsuyama tees off at the Hyundai

By my count there are only 48 official PGA Tour events each year. (Some of these are alternate events opposite invitationals like majors and WGCs.) So theoretically, you could have at most 48 individual winners in the field as it is currently set up.

But let's be honest. It will be a special year when you have NO multiple winners in a given season. That cuts the number of eligible players considerably.

And it's unlikely that some of those winners will ever show up. For example, Rory isn't there (he won 3 events), Adam Scott isn't there (he won 1), and Martin Kaymer isn't there (he won 2). And although they weren't eligible this year because they didn't win, Tiger and Phil NEVER show up. It's fair to assume that "no-shows" will account for at least 8 to 10 wins in a typical year.

Furthermore, some players might have other obligations. For example, had Ernie Els won this past year he still would have gone to the South African Open where he's the host.

Consequently you end up with a total field like this year's 34 entries... and Kevin Stadler had to withdraw after 2 rounds with hand problems.

Some have suggested that the field be expanded to include past winners from the last 2 years or so. But to me that feels like you're watering down the field since these added players aren't necessarily playing well now.

As you probably already suspect, I have a suggestion of my own. I don't expect it to be particularly popular, but I feel that it fits the spirit of the event.

Simply put, PGA Tour members play all over the world. So why not include any PGA Tour member who wins an event during the year, whether that event is a PGA Tour event or not?

For example, Jordan Spieth won the Australian Open and Lee Westwood won the Thailand Golf Championship in December. Brooks Koepka won the Turkish Airlines Open in November. Louis Oosthuizen won the Volvo Golf Champions and Sergio won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters last January. They're all PGA Tour members; why not let them into the HToC on the strength of those wins?

I'll take it a bit further: Allow any player who is a member of the PGA Tour on January 1st before the HToC who won an event anywhere in the world to play IF the event they won awards world ranking points.

Now you could include players who managed to qualify for conditional PGA Tour membership before the HToC who had won elsewhere, or PGA Tour players who win the Hero World Challenge or the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

I realize that this idea is unlikely to gain any traction since no tour wants to share its players with any other tour. Still, I think it's fair that any PGA Tour player with a victory anywhere should be eligible for a berth in the Hyundai.

After all, a champion is a champion. And nothing proves that "these guys are good" more than showcasing that they can win anywhere.

So that's my two cents. The Limerick Summary will be here tomorrow.

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