Rickie Fowler isn’t old, but he’s old enough to recall the days before the PGA Tour’s wraparound season began in the fall of 2013. At first, there were mixed reviews.
The 34-year-old remembers a funny but frustrating moment two years into the experiment, in the early portion of the 2015-16 schedule.
“I think I went over and played [WGC-HSBC] China in November and finished third and by the time we started up on the West Coast [in January] I think I was like 68th on FedEx points,” Fowler told Golf Digest at the Tour Championship.
The problem with the wraparound was that top players like Fowler—who had won the Players and the Deutsche Bank playoffs event in 2015 but it did not count toward his current season—were punished on the points tally for taking time off the in the fall.
It’s safe to say that the top 30 players who made it to East Lake this year are welcoming the changes to the schedule that better reflect an offseason. Starting at the Fortinet Championship next month in in Napa, Calif., the PGA Tour will stage a seven-event Fall Series. FedEx Cup points will be issued but not counted toward 2024 like they would have in the past. Instead, the points will be used to determine two things: the top 10 players not previously eligible, who earn exemptions into the two signature events in 2024 after January’s Sentry event in Maui; and the top 125 category who get into regular PGA Tour events for those who finished outside the top 70 in the 2022-23 FedEx Cup standings. A Fall Series win comes with a two-year PGA Tour exemption, 500 FedEx Cup points, entry into the Sentry, Players Championship and majors.
For the top players, it means it’s possible to take September through November off, depending on a player’s eligibility for the Ryder Cup and various sponsor commitments.
“It’ll be nice to be able to pick and choose how much you want to play [in the fall] and not necessarily have that count against you at the start the year,” said Fowler, who was at East Lake and now eligible for all the big events next year.
However, Fowler, whose drought-breaking sixth PGA Tour victory came at the Rocket Mortgage event this summer, will still play a handful of times the rest of this year, saying he thinks a lot of players will balance their fall schedule between the desire to compete and sponsor commitments.
“Yeah, it’ll be a combination,” Fowler said. “Sometimes you don’t want to go too long without playing competitive golf. I’m planning on playing the Zozo Championship [in Japan mid-October], the Hero [early December in the Bahamas] and Grant Thornton [an unofficial event in Florida in mid-December].
Another top player who intends on teeing up a couple times in the fall is Lucas Glover, one of the hottest golfers at the end of the 2023 season. The former U.S. Open champion won back-to-back starts at the regular season-ending Wyndham Championship and the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
“My schedule really depends on the Ryder Cup,” said Glover, who at 16th in U.S. team standings was waiting to find out if he was receiving one of Zach Johnson’s captain’s picks, which will be revealed Aug. 29. “I’ve played some pretty good golf lately, but we’ll see if it’s enough. I want to be there, badly, but if not, I’ll understand.
“I’ll play Sanderson Farms because I love that event and the community gets behind it,” Glover said. “And also Bermuda because one of my good buddies, Michael Sims, is [a tour pro] from Bermuda and he normally plays in that event.” (Sims has qualified for the event every year since its inception in 2019.)
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick is among the European Ryder Cup team members who play on both the PGA and DP World tours. After the Tour Championship, the 2022 U.S. Open champion will tee it up in the BMW Championship at Wentworth, then the Ryder Cup in Rome, followed by the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland. He’ll close out the year with the Hero in the Bahamas.
“I personally want everything to be done by September, or the middle of September, and have a proper offseason,” he said. “People then miss the game and want to tune in [come January].”
Some players, though, don’t intend on playing much of anything.
“I think maybe one, but I’m not sure,” said 13-time PGA Tour winner Jason Day, whose wife Ellie is due with their fifth child in September. “I’ll have some time at home with our new baby, and I’d like to take at least two months off. 2016 was last time I took even one month off. I’m going to work more on my body for 2024.”
Sam Burns, who was also waiting on a potential Ryder Cup wildcard, wants to put the clubs down for a while.
“Probably not,” Burns said when asked if he’d play in the fall. “I don’t have any plans to, currently. But everything’s kind of up in the air, still. I will take a pretty long break and then ease my way back into it. Totally reset. Guys want to get their bodies healthy and just take a break mentally. I think it’d be really good for a lot of guys.”
So, what will players who made the Tour Championship do with their weeks off?
“Hopefully, we’ll get to take at least one trip down to our house in the Dominican at Playa Grande; that would be a nice little vacation,” Fowler said.
Glover, 43, will also log some quality family time with his wife and two children.
“Good question,” said the Clemson graduate. “We used to have six weeks off between [Tour Championship] and Kapalua. I’ll definitely watch some football games.”
Burns, who lives in Choudrant, La., said that he intends to go hunting.
No matter the player, or the fall workload, one goal they all had was around recharging.
“These last couple of months I’ve been beat from the year and how much we’ve been on the road,” Fowler said. “Had a stretch starting at the PGA Championship through the Open Championship … it was 10 weeks and I was home for eight days. I’m ready to relax a little bit, get recharged and ready for the next year.”