Johnson Wagner has recently diverged from playing in between the ropes and instead dabbled in golf-course analyst and reporting roles over the past year.
The 42-year-old pro is playing on a past champions and veteran members exemption this season, although he’s skipped some starts in favor of his new media duties. Wagner said he’d like to get into the Wells Fargo Championship later this summer, played at his home course Quail Hollow Club, before he hangs it up.
But as an analyst, the ability to convey one’s opinion is important, and Wagner certainly has one when it comes to the PGA Tour’s recently announced changes to its designated events.
Wagner, a three-time winner on Tour, was the guest on this week’s Subpar Podcast with Drew Stoltz and Colt Knost, and he was asked about the Tour’s decision to make some of its designated events beginning 2024 limited fields (70 to 80 players) and no cuts.
“I’m furious about it,” Johnson said. He talked about the entertaining designated events the Tour already had in 2023 and how good the entire West Coast Swing was in general, and how a lesser-known Nick Taylor, playing alongside stars like Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, almost won in Phoenix. Taylor likely wouldn’t have been in the field under the new plan. “Next year, we aren’t going to have that story. And Nick Taylor is a baller. He’s a two-time winner; I love me some Nick Taylor. I think what makes the PGA Tour so great is having those guys in those events, and I’m shocked and disappointed. I’m a company man and I love the PGA Tour, but I cannot believe they made this decision.”
Johnson said for the last several years the Tour worked so hard to have the World Ranking system, which doesn’t always favor small events, on its side.
“Now what are we going to do?” he said. “Go back to the Official World Golf Ranking board and say, ‘Hey, we want our 70-man fields, we want them to have big points because look at the [big-name] players.’”
The new designated events model was praised by some and criticized by others. LIV Golf members — who play no-cut, limited-field events already and are currently battling for Official World Golf Rankings points — found irony in the Tour’s announcement.
“I think LIV was dead in the water, and it’s like they went down and resuscitated it with this decision,” Wagner said. “Completely boneheaded to me. I just think you are getting to the point where you have two tours.”
Wagner said he liked the idea of 120-player fields, where it was smaller but not so exclusive and still offered up more opportunities for players in the back-half of the FedEx Cup standings.
“Unless they come out with some kind of qualification status where the top 60 get in or the top 50 get in to those designated events, and the other 20 or 25 spots can be filled by current-year guys that are playing well, that could make some sense,” he said. “But still, I’m shocked.”
You can listen to the complete Subpar episode below.
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