PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Jack Nicklaus thinks the Honda Classic should have a chance at a stronger field because of looming changes to the PGA Tour, which he said Sunday would mean Pebble Beach getting elevated status and the tour going to Mexico before the Florida swing.
Nicklaus, appearing at the final round Sunday at PGA National, said a reworked schedule in 2024 will give South Florida’s lone tour event — by whatever name it will be known — a chance at attracting higher-ranked players.
None of the top 17 players in the world ranking played Honda this week.
Nicklaus said the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Genesis Invitational at Riviera will be elevated tournaments next year with $20 million purses, while the WM Phoenix Open would lose that status.
This year, the tour had two elevated events before the Honda, with two more to immediately follow at Bay Hill and The Players Championship.
Honda is ending its title sponsorship of the tournament at PGA National, but Nicklaus said the event will remain the start of the Florida swing in 2024.
The great @jacknicklaus spending time with @DanHicksNBC and @PaulAzinger in the booth at @thehondaclassic! 🙌
📺: @NBC and @peacock pic.twitter.com/Jnp84mHw2z
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) February 26, 2023
“Next year’s schedule are Pebble and LA are their elevated tournaments,” Nicklaus said. “Phoenix is not. Then they go to Mexico, then they come here. So, we will have players next year. And then they’ve got Bay Hill and Players. The tournament’s going to be just fine.”
The PGA Tour is in the middle of revamping its 2024 schedule, including the size of fields and eligibility, as it responds to the threat of Saudi-funded LIV Golf. A 2024 schedule is not expected to be announced until the summer.
Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, make their home near PGA National and have deep charitable ties to the tournament. The event has raised millions for the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation.
“This town has supported this event without having a great field,” Nicklaus said.
Many of the tour’s top players have skipped Honda in recent years even though some of them live just a short drive from PGA National. But Nicklaus has never lobbied players to play the event and said he won’t change that policy.
“I don’t do that. I don’t do it for the Memorial Tournament. I don’t do it for any tournament,” Nicklaus said. “I didn’t like when people did it to me. If you’re going to play, you’re going to play. If you’re not going to play, you’re not going to play.”