What Happened To The World Golf Championships?

The number of WGC events has been cut by half this year – we look at the reasons why

Collin Morikawa after winning the final round of the 2021 World Golf Championships-Workday Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

World Golf Championships have been a fixture of the calendar since they were introduced in 1999, with one of the purposes to bring the world’s best players together more often than just the Majors.

It’s difficult to argue against the idea that they have been successful. After all, they have integrated well into the schedule and nowadays enjoy a reputation as events just one tier beneath the sport’s four most revered tournaments. The reasons for their success are at least twofold – they do indeed generally showcase the talents of the world’s best, and the prize money they offer is often as attractive as the purses offered by the Majors. 

As a result, a glance down the list of WGC winners reads like a who’s who of the last quarter of a century of golf. Tiger Woods – almost inevitably – leads the way with 18 WGC wins. Meanwhile, other household names who’ve picked up titles include Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Collin Morikawa.

Even so, the 2022 schedule is notable for its lack of WGC tournaments. The WGC-Mexico Championship and WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational are no more, and only the WGC-Match Play and the WGC-HSBC Champions, taking place in November, survive. But why is that? A small part of the decision could be the impact of Covid, which put paid to two WGCs in 2020 and one last year. With the world tentatively reopening its borders after two years, it’s not implausible that the authorities have decided continuing the less-is-more approach is the correct move.

However, a more significant factor is the increasingly global reach of the game. For example, even though the Mexico event no longer exists under the WGC umbrella, there will still be a Mexico Championship in April. However, it takes place as a PGA Tour co-sponsored event instead. This is to encourage more Mexican players in the field to, in the PGA Tour’s words, “help inspire and grow the game in one of golf’s key emerging markets.” In a similar move, the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational is now the FedEx St Jude Championship and will be the first FedEx playoffs tournament.

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour have also attempted to bring the world’s best together more regularly in a strategic alliance that will see three tournaments – the Genesis Scottish Open, the Barbasol Championship and the Barracuda Championship – feature players from both tours. The tournaments will also have the incentives of both FedEx Cup playoffs and Race to Dubai points. Also thanks to that alliance, another change is the strengthening of the Irish Open, with the purse nearly doubled to $6m.

Of course, as a backdrop to this move, there are some lingering unknowns, too. First, there’s the Premier Golf League – an idea said to be funded through private equity and proposing big money to the world’s best 48 players to compete in 12 teams of four, with a promotion and relegation structure. 

Elsewhere, the recently launched LIV Golf Invitational Series begins in June this year. While many are sceptical of its chances of success, equally, it could evolve into something more extensive than the eight-event affair of its inaugural year. With reports suggesting the Premier Golf League will launch next year and the Greg Norman-fronted series just months away, part of the thinking in forming that strategic alliance and halving the number of World Golf Championships may be with those in mind.

As to the future of the two remaining WGC tournaments, it’s currently anyone’s guess. However, with the game undergoing apparently seismic shifts, it would probably be prudent to enjoy them for as long as we have them.

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.