Camilo Villegas secured an emotional victory at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship on Sunday. His two-shot victory comes nine years after his last win on the PGA Tour, a nine-year period full of ups and downs both on and off the golf course.
The 2023 FedEx Cup Fall isn’t generating massive viewership numbers, but it has been rich in storylines. Sahith Theegala notched his first win on the PGA Tour, Erik van Rooyen improved his playing status with a meaningful victory in Mexico, and now Villegas returned to the winner’s circle after a decade spent grinding his way back.
While the fall swing remains far from must-see viewing, the PGA Tour is seeing positive early returns on the decision to explicitly stratify tournaments. By designating specific events as Signature Events, the PGA Tour has essentially created A-level events and B-level events. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to characterize the two classes of tournaments as A-level events and then tournaments that help you get into the A-level events.
In theory, this model should result in more tournaments with exciting finishes. Players within each tournament should be closer in skill level to one another than under the tour’s previous configuration, in which every event was placed on nearly the same level. The previous model incentivized players of all skill levels to pick off cheap FedEx Cup points at weak-field events. Tony Finau took advantage of the system last fall and won the Houston Open by four strokes. I’m sure the fans in Houston appreciated the opportunity to watch an elite golfer tee it up at that tournament, but from a competitive parity standpoint, decreasing the incentive for Finau to show up at a weaker event is a good thing.
If Viktor Hovland or Scottie Scheffler had been playing this past weekend, we might be talking about a four-shot victory that means very little to either superstar’s career. Instead, we’re talking about a meaningful narrow victory for Camilo Villegas.
To be clear, the new system does not guarantee exciting golf tournaments. Collin Morikawa elected to tee it up at the Zozo Championship a few weeks ago and lapped the field by six shots. But under the new model, close finishes should happen more often than before. Stars will be matched up against stars more often. Non-signature events will have fewer stars blowing out the field.
That dynamic is something for PGA Tour fans to be excited about for 2024.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.