Russell Knox, of Scotland, reacts to his putt on the...

Russell Knox, of Scotland, reacts to his putt on the first green during the final round of the PGA Zurich Classic golf tournament at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., Sunday, April 24, 2022. Knox has limited status on the PGA Tour next year and doesn't know how the new schedule will affect how often he gets to play. Credit: AP/Gerald Herbert

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.

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, talks to Paul McGinley, right,...

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, talks to Paul McGinley, right, on the 17th tee box during a practice round ahead of the British Open Golf Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland, Wednesday July 18, 2018. McGinley will be the booth analyst for NBC at the Hero World Challenge this week in the Bahamas. Credit: AP/Peter Morrison

“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.

Viktor Hovland of Norway plays his second shot on the...

Viktor Hovland of Norway plays his second shot on the second hole hole during the final round of the DP World Tour Championship golf tournament, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. Credit: AP/Kamran Jebreili

DISTANCE UPDATE NOT FAR AWAY

Any decision on what the governing bodies plan to do involving distance might not be too far in the distant future.

Martin Slumbers, the R&A chief executive, told Golf Digest that officials have listened to strong opposition from the PGA Tour, the PGA of America and various players. At issue is a “Model Local Rule” to roll back the golf ball starting in 2026.

“There was a view that it would create a bifurcated game at the elite level,” Slumbers told Digest, meaning the rule would be adopted by some tournaments but not at every level. Recreational players, for example, could still use their regular golf ball.

“But our responsibility is to the long-term future of the game,” Slumbers said. "Along with the USGA, the R&A is a custodian of the game. We’re responsible for our period of time, something that has gone on for hundreds of years and will go on for hundreds more. So, we are listening. And we have made a decision about what we are going to do. We’re working that through at the moment and will make it public before the end of the year.”

IRISH IN THE BOOTH

Paul McGinley is stepping in as the lead analyst for NBC’s golf coverage, at least for now.

The Irish Independent and Golf Digest report that McGinley, who does work as a studio analyst for Golf Channel, will be working the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, where Tiger Woods returns against a strong field.

McGinley was the winning Ryder Cup captain at Gleneagles in 2014 when Europe handily defeated the Americans. He also made the winning putt for Europe at The Belfry in 2002.

Paul Azinger had been the lead analyst since 2019. But when he made a counteroffer, NBC chose to withdraw its offer. NBC has three events left this year — the Hero World Challenge, the mixed team Grant Thornton Invitational and the PNC Championship.

“They obviously need a fill-in this week and as I’ve done some work with them this year and am part of the Comcast group I’m filling in,” McGinley told Golf Digest. “That’s all. No more than that.”

SENDEN'S STRUGGLE

The start of the Australian swing got off to a somber start when John Senden disclosed he has been experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease for the last 18 months.

Senden, who has two PGA Tour wins and captured the Australian Open in 2006, said he plans to keep playing.

“I’ve got to stay in the gym, stay fit and stay open, because Parkinson’s wants to close you down, wants to make you feel a bit more depressed,” Senden told ABC Sport at the Australian PGA Championship. “It’s not going to go away, but I’m still able to play and still enjoying golf.”

Senden finished at No. 83 in the Charles Schwab Cup on the PGA Tour Champions this year, making 19 starts.

While he missed the cut by one shot last week, inspiration came from having his son, 19-year-old Jacob, caddie for him. His son was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 13. Senden took a leave to be with his son during multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.

“It’s really something else to see him out there thriving,” Senden said.

BONUS POINTS

Justin Thomas finished fourth at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. He finished fifth in his previous tournament, the Fortinet Championship. That gives him consecutive top 10s for the first time since May 2022, and he now is No. 27 in the world.

The next tournament could be important. Thomas plays in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas this week. The 20-man field receives world ranking points, and even with a small field, it figures to offer plenty of points given the strength of field.

Thomas is not eligible for the signature $20 million events because he finished out of the top 50 in the FedEx Cup. But there is a spot in those fields for players in the top 30 in the world. Thomas is likely to get sponsor exemptions, but if his ranking is high enough, that would free up a spot for someone else.

DIVOTS

Tiger Woods is a career-low No. 1,328 in the world ranking. He moves back inside the top 1,000 as long as he finishes the Hero World Challenge this week. ... The first big change could be coming to LIV Golf. The Telegraph reports that Graeme McDowell is leaving the Cleeks team to join Brooks Koepka on Smash. ... Among those in the second stage of PGA Tour Q-school this week are former Phoenix Open winner Kyle Stanley and Nick Watney, who played in the 2011 Presidents Cup and has six PGA Tour victories, including a FedEx Cup playoff event and a World Golf Championship.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Viktor Hovland made $37,112,235 this year from his PGA Tour earnings, FedEx Cup bonus and Player Impact Program bonus. The total purse for the 1988 season was $36,959,307.

STAT OF THE WEEK, PART II

Curtis Strange became the first player in PGA Tour history to go over $1 million in earnings in 1988. The tour had 139 players go over the $1 million mark this year.

FINAL WORD

“The cocky little (expletive) from the North and the fat kid with glasses from Offaly. ... Could we have imagined where it would end? Rory probably had those dreams, but I certainly didn't. So yeah, it's pretty cool.” — Shane Lowry in the Irish Independent on his longtime friendship with Rory McIlroy.

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