What Is An Opposite-Field Tournament in Golf?

When a pro golf tour has two different tournaments scheduled on the same dates, the lesser of the two events is called an "opposite-field tournament."

How do you know which of the two is the lesser event? It's pretty obvious, as some examples below will show. But the tournament to which the term "opposite field" is applied is the one with the weaker field and lower purse.

As for the origin of the term, it's just another way of saying alternate tournament or alternative field. Where are the golfers who aren't playing this event? They are in the opposite (or opposing) event. Another expression for the same type of tournament is "an encumbered event."

Opposite-field tournaments are not that common in professional golf, but they do happen a couple times a year on the PGA Tour. The European Tour has also staged opposite-field tournaments.

But why? Why would the PGA Tour, for example, schedule two tournaments on the same dates?

Let's say it's the week of the British Open. The PGA Tour knows that its best golfers will be playing in England or Scotland that week. But it also knows that many more of its golfers won't qualify for the British Open, and the tour wants to provide those golfers a place to play, a chance to earn money and FedEx Cup points.

So the PGA Tour might choose to play an "opposite-field tournament" on the same dates as the British Open. In fact, that is what the PGA Tour has often done. For several decades the now-defunct event traditionally called the Greater Milwaukee Open was played opposite the British Open. That gave golfers who failed to qualify for the Open — or who simply preferred not to travel overseas — a chance to play that week.

Another reason for an opposite-field tournament: when the main event has a limited field. The PGA Tour sometimes scheduled opposite field tournaments the same weeks as the old World Golf Championships (WGC) tournaments. WGC events had limited fields, and some of those limited spots were taken by international golfers. That left many PGA Tour players on the outside, so the tour sometimes played an opposite-field tournament those weeks.

When, in the 2020s, the tour added "elevated events," which, like the previous WGC tournaments had only about half the competitors as a "normal" PGA Tour event, the tour also scheduled some opposite-field tournaments. The opposite-field tournament has a field of lower-ranked golfers, a lower purse, and it awards fewer FedEx Cup points and fewer world-ranking points than the "elevated" tournament the same week — but it's a place to play for those golfers who don't qualify for the better event.

Further examples, using the randomly selected year of 2013, the European Tour that year played two opposite-field tournaments: the Madeira Islands Open opposite the Volvo World Match Play Championship; and the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open opposite the U.S. Open.

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