Why Don’t Golfers Play Every Tournament?

If you like to watch golf tournaments every weekend during golf season, you will notice the tournament fields differ greatly week to week.  This is due to professional golfers not playing every tournament on the schedule.  Why don’t golfers play every tournament?

Golfers don’t play every tournament because they prefer to rest their bodies to be able to hold up over the course of a long season. Also, some golfers do not have enough Official Word Golf Ranking points to qualify for every event.

Playing and walking 72 holes every weekend of the golf season would wear down a golfer too much and would likely hinder their ability to play at their best every weekend. It could also put them at a higher risk for injury. And probably most importantly to golfers, they wouldn’t be rested for the biggest tournaments of the year.

Why Do Players Rest?

Top players usually don’t have to worry if they will be able to keep their tour card each year, so they want to plan their schedule around the “big events”.  For the PGA Tour, the “big events” are usually the majors, which are the Masters, PGA Championship, US Open, and The Open (also known as the British Open or The Open Championship).  Other “big events” are the World Golf Championships and The Players championship. 

The World Golf Championships are tournaments that are only available to the top 50 in the world golf rankings Though if someone in the top 50 can’t play or decides not to play, the next player in the world golf rankings is invited until they fill the field with 50 players. 

The Players Championship invites the top 125 players in the world golf rankings.  This event is very prestigious and is often called the unofficial “fifth major”.  While it isn’t an official major, it often has the deepest and and best field in golf. It has the highest amount of ranked players in the field because it doesn’t restrict the field (to allow for other qualifiers) like the majors do. 

These premium tournaments pay the most money, and reward the golfers with the most points towards qualifying for the Fedex Cup playoffs held at the end of the season.  Since these tournaments are so important to golfer’s career, they will often rest up around these tournaments so they can be a fresh as possible. 

With that said, golfers that are new on the tour or struggling to keep their card will likely play every tournament to garner as much money and points as they possibly can.  So resting really only applies to well established golfers that are high in the world ranking points and don’t have to worry about being able to keep their tour card.

World Ranking Points

While some players choose to rest, other golfers simply don’t have enough world ranking points to play every tournament.  There are many tournaments throughout the golf season that restrict players from even qualifying based on their Official World Golf Ranking points.  

There are four World Golf Championship events held each year.  To qualify to play in these events a player must be tied or within the top 50 either the week before or at the end of the previous golf year.  These are elite fields that play for a lot of money and for a lot of playoff points (PGA Tour playoffs is the Fedex Cup and the European PGA Tour playoffs is the Race to Dubai).

One way to qualify to get an invitation to the Masters is to be within the top 50 Official World Golf Rankings as well.  If you are within the top 50 you will qualify to play in the US Open and if you are within the top 60 you will qualify to play in the The Open Championship (also known as The Britsh Open). 

For the PGA championship, if you don’t meet any of the automatic qualifying criteria and there are still spots open, they will fill the field in order of the Official World Golf Ranking up to the top 70.  So if you aren’t in the top 70 and don’t meet any other qualifications, you won’t be able to play. 

There are other tournaments around the world that require Official World Golf Ranking status as well.  As you can see, it is very important for a golfer to be ranked in the top 50.  Being able to qualify and play in these events also helps you stay in the top 50 as these tournaments are worth more ranking points than other tournaments throughout the year.

Partial Status PGA Tour

Some players simply don’t have enough status on the PGA Tour to get into tournaments.  Partial status means players have only qualified to play in certain events or a certain amount of events on the PGA Tour. 

There are many reasons why a player will have partial status.  Some players only have partial status because they played poorly the previous year and so they don’t have the rights to play a full tournament schedule.  Since they were a member of the PGA Tour the previous year, they still have some rights to play in certain tournaments. 

A golfer retains their right to play in certain tournaments usually because of one of the following circumstances:

  1. They had a high finish in that same tournament at some point in their career.
  2. They have a special sponsorship exemption.
  3. They qualified to have some playing rights to lower level tournaments.
  4. They gained access to the PGA Tour by playing well on golf’s minor league tour, the Web.Com Tour.   

Players can gain full access or partial access to the PGA Tour depending on how well they play on the Web.com Tour.  Therefore, some Web.com players will get access to a few tournaments on the PGA Tour, but still play the majority of their schedule on the Web.com.  This is also similar to players who qualify for the PGA Tour by going through Q-School.

Golfers Avoid Certain Courses

Professional golfers typically have certain ways they like to play a golf course. They usually tailor their game to their strengths and thus like to play golf courses where their strengths match the layout of the course. So if they feel a course doesn’t match well with their golf game, they may choose to sit it out. 

Some golfers don’t hit the ball nearly as far as others on the PGA Tour.  To make it on the PGA Tour, these players are likely very accurate drivers of the golf ball.  These players will typically favor shorter golf courses that have a lot of rough, which means that accuracy off the tee is more important than distance.  These types of courses will level the playing field for the shorter hitters. 

Conversely, for golfers that hit the ball a long ways but aren’t very accurate, they will favor courses that are longer where there isn’t as much of a disadvantage if they are playing from the rough.  This will allow them to hit it as far off the tee and when they miss the fairway it won’t matter as much.  This gives them a distinct advantage over shorter hitters. 

Some golfers prefer greens that are really fast while other golfers prefer slower greens.  Also another common preference for golfers is how the course is laid out.  Most professional golfers will tend to play either a draw, which for a right handed golfer is hitting the ball from right to left, or a fade which for a right handed golfer is hitting the ball from left to right. 

Elite golfers will usually be able to easily switch back and forth, but even for most professional golfers they will greatly prefer one shot shape to another.  So if a course is heavily designed for a right handed golfer to draw the golf ball and they prefer to hit a fade, they may choose to skip that tournament. 

Golfers also tend to be very superstitious.  There are many professional golfers that skip tournaments because they haven’t played well at certain courses and so they just don’t want to play in those events. 

As I have mentioned, golfers that purposely skip events (for reasons such as superstition or shot shape) are usually well established and don’t have to worry about their future on the PGA Tour.

Injury and Personal Reasons

There are also many life factors that contribute to players not playing every week.  Like in every sport, players will get injured and need to take off time to rest and heal.  Golf is very hard on the back and knees.  The golf swing naturally puts a lot of pressure on the knees while also requiring a lot of torque on the back.  With technology and knowledge of body, golfers will train specifically to prevent injuries. 

Today’s golfers are have realized that there is a great advantage to training specifically to golf exercises.  Not only does this training prevent injuries, it also enhances performance and stamina on the golf course. 

Players skip tournaments not only for injuries but for personal reasons as well.  Sometimes major life events like birth of a child, weddings, child graduations, and other family events conflict with tournaments and golfers choose their family over golf. 

Golfers also just get burnt out.  Fans typically view golf as a hobby we do for fun and to get away from everyday life.  For golfers, this is their job and at times can become more of a burden than a game. 

Just like we need vacations and breaks from our jobs, sometimes golfers need it as well.  During golf season, golfers are traveling large distances every week and are usually away from their families.  This can definitely have a drag on someone’s personal life, and so sometimes they just take a week off to be with their family and recoup mentally.

Joshua Lloyd

Joshua is lead content creator for basketball and golf at Sports Fan Focus. Golf is a passion of his and he enjoys both playing and watching golf in his spare time. To read more about Joshua, visit the SFF About Us page.

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