Russell Knox knows he has an immediate future on the PGA Tour for 2024. He just has no idea what it will look like under the radical new model that divides golf into the elite and the others.
Knox has been fully exempt the last 10 years, with two victories and one Ryder Cup snub (2016). But he lost confidence in his driver this year and paid the price, finishing at No. 147 in the FedEx Cup. He still has conditional status for players who finish inside the top 150.
Last season, Harry Higgs was in the No. 147 spot and played 24 times (from September 2022 through August).
But in a year in which the top 50 are guaranteed eight “signature events” with all but one (The Sentry) offering $20 million, what does that mean? Players like Knox also lose a half-dozen starts in the fall now that the PGA Tour has returned to a calendar year.
“To be honest, I don’t know if it’s going to be more than normal or less than normal. It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out,” Knox said. “Are the top guys going to stick to elevated events and majors? Is there going to be 30 or 40 guys who play everything?”
Knox said there typically are several players in the Nos. 126-150 range who have higher status from recent wins. Only five players have that, such as 2022 winners Cameron Champ and Trey Mullinax, and Aaron Wise, who got a two-year exemption from reaching the Tour Championship in 2022.
Knox decided to enter Q-school two weeks from now. The top five earn full cards. Otherwise, he’s trying to spend energy on getting better instead of wondering what’s in store for him.
“I have to come to peace that it wasn’t a very good playing year for me,” he said. “That’s where I’m at and do my best where I get to play. Fortunately, I’ve had a decent career. Just because it’s one tough year doesn’t mean it’s over. That’s been the tough thing — 80% of the time I’m a world-class player, and the other 20% I’m a 20-handicap.”
Camilo Villegas alluded to the uncertainty in Mexico earlier this month when he was outside the top 150 and trying to get into the top 125. “It’s huge, especially next year when we’ve got all those elevated events and who knows what the fields are going to be?”
He was runner-up in Mexico and won the following week in Bermuda. Problem solved.
Good golf still goes a long way even in these uncertain times, and that’s how Knox says he will approach 2024. For now, he is trying to prepare for Q-school. “Other than that, I’m try to rest my pea brain and regroup and see if we can come up with a plan,” he said.