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From softball games to European starts, top players have the fall at their disposal


It remains to be seen how the reimagined fall schedule will play out following the PGA Tour’s move back to a calendar-year lineup, but whatever becomes of the post-Tour Championship landscape it will likely be with fewer stars.

When the new FedExCup Fall gets underway next week at the Fortinet Championship, it will do so with a field light on heavyweight names. Two-time defending champion and world No. 7 Max Homa will be at the fall opener, as will Justin Thomas, who is in a precarious spot having failed to qualify for the playoffs but needing a tune-up before next month’s Ryder Cup. They are the headliners in Napa, California, on a tee sheet with familiar, if not star-studded, names.

That’s probably going to be the story across the fall as top Tour players embrace an entirely new concept – an offseason.

The seven-event fall schedule will now serve as a type of seeding/qualifying series for next season, with players who finished outside the top 70 on the regular season points list vying for better status. But with the top players locked in for next season – particularly those inside the top 50 who are also qualified for nearly every signature event in 2024 – and no FedExCup points being carried over from the fall, many of the game’s best will do what they’ve always said they wanted and take a break.

“I’m not going to do much. I’m going to play the Ryder Cup. I don’t know what I have planned after that, but it’s not going to be much. You won’t be seeing much of me,” laughed Scottie Scheffler at the season finale. “I’ll be hiding.”

The world No. 1 isn’t the only top player poised for an extended break, with most of those who qualified for East Lake planning dramatically reduced schedules in the fall.

“I’m going to have a really busy October at home. It’s been 12 straight years of playing fall golf, so I’m going to put everything I’ve got into the Ryder Cup and I feel like I’ll deserve an October off,” said Open champion Brian Harman, whose playing plans include the Ryder Cup, RSM Classic and the unofficial Hero World Challenge to close out 2023. “It’s nice to have the option to feel like you’re not getting so far behind. I do think there will be plenty of guys who will play a pretty full schedule in the fall just because they want to keep their game sharp.”

If anyone needs a break it’s Lucas Glover, whose torrid finish to the season was as inspiring as it was exhausting. Glover’s run included nine events in 10 weeks and back-to-back victories at the Wyndham Championship and FedEx St. Jude Championship.

“After Memphis I was really looking forward to [taking an extended break],” said Glover, who plans to play the Bermuda Championship and perhaps one other event in the fall. “I’d like to play a little bit to stay fresh, but I’ll be at a lot of softball and ice hockey practices, that’s for sure.”

The theory of a full offseason vs. the reality of roughly four months away from competitive golf will likely set in for many. At the season-ending Tour Championship one long-time player manager scoffed at the idea of a player, even the game’s very best, taking four months off, and most players acknowledged that “offseason” doesn’t necessarily mean time off.

“This week feels different. It’s always the end of the season, but you’re always two weeks away from the season starting again. Whereas this time, you’re finishing and you know it doesn’t start until January,” Tommy Fleetwood said at East Lake. “It’ll be interesting. All that time off feels great, but I don’t know how many players will start getting itchy feet after a month or two. Who knows, it might prolong careers.”

The Tour’s move back to a calendar-year schedule – and a standalone fall that doesn’t carry over to the new year – had been a priority of many top players (most notably Phil Mickelson) who would have preferred a true offseason. But even if these players don’t compete regularly on Tour, it doesn’t mean they’ll be sidelined for the fall.

Rory McIlroy, for example, took a week off after the Tour Championship before picking up his schedule at this week’s Horizon Irish Open followed by next week’s BMW PGA Championship.

“I’ve got a buddy’s bachelor party in Mykonos after Wentworth for a few days, and then I have a few days to dry out before the Ryder Cup,” McIlroy said. “I’ve got a big, whatever that is, six-out-of-eight [event] run culminating with the Ryder Cup where I’m hoping to play a lot of golf.”

It will be a similarly busy fall for Fleetwood who will take advantage of the reimagined fall schedule on the Tour to pad his DP World Tour starts, including next week at Wentworth followed by the Ryder Cup, Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Nedbank Golf Challenge and the European finale in Dubai.

“I don’t particularly want four months off because by the time I come back I’ll be probably very rusty. I’ve got to say, I really like that once we get to January everybody is starting from scratch,” Fleetwood said. “Every year since I’ve been on the PGA Tour, we’ve had the Zozo [Championship] and CJ [Cup] but if you didn’t play well in those you come back out and play the Middle East in January [on the European tour] and then you’re just playing catchup on the PGA Tour. It’s a nice feeling knowing that in January everybody starts the same.”

The Tour’s new-look fall promises to be much different than what players and fans have seen in the past. For the top players it offers a choice: play whenever and wherever you want, or don’t play at all.