New York (AFP) – PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan on Wednesday announced a major overhaul of the circuit to discourage players from defecting to the Saudi-backed LIV golf series.
At a press conference in Connecticut on the eve of the tour’s Traveler’s Championship, Monahan confirmed details of a plan leaked Tuesday to overhaul the tour.
The sweeping reforms include a return to a calendar-year season from 2024 and the creation of three international events at the end of the season.
In addition, prize money will be significantly increased at eight designated tour events, averaging around $20 million in prize money.
The end-of-season FexExCup playoffs would also see revised field sizes beginning in 2023, with 70 players for the FedEx St. Jude Championship, 50 players for the BMW Championship, and 30 players for the Tour Championship.
The moves are the PGA Tour’s most significant response yet to the rise of LIV Golf, which launched earlier this month and has signed eight of the world’s top 50 players, including big winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka.
In a remark to reporters Wednesday, Monahan said the PGA Tour could not compete financially with LIV Golf, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, whose assets are estimated at around $620 billion.
“I’m not naive,” said Monahan. “If this is an arms race and the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA TOUR can’t compete.
“The PGA TOUR, an American institution, cannot compete with a foreign monarchy that spends billions of dollars to buy the game of golf.
“We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not.
“It’s an irrational threat; one that doesn’t care about ROI or the true growth of the game.”
Human rights groups and critics of LIV say the company is an attempt by Saudi Arabia to polish the kingdom’s image through sport, a practice dubbed “sports washing”.
The circuit, run by Australian golfing icon Greg Norman, has spent lavish sums recruiting the world’s best talent and reportedly offered contract prizes in the region of $100-200 million.
Monahan said the LIV Golf threat “obviously accelerated” the PGA Tour’s plans to overhaul the schedule.
“We had plans to fundraise for these events in the future, okay?” said Monahan.
“The move we are taking in early 2023 is undoubtedly one of the things we want to do to ensure our top events are maximized both in terms of their consequences and the financial investment that is an acceleration of that.
“So, yes, this is, this is something we’re doing to respond on behalf of our members to the current environment that we’re in.”
Monahan, who earlier this month suspended 17 current or former members of the PGA Tour who had signed with LIV, meanwhile, expressed his dismay that four-time major champion Koepka had decided to walk away.
Koepka was confirmed in field for LIV Golf’s debut US event next week in Portland as Monahan began his press conference.
“Listen, to every player that’s left, I have great admiration and respect for the contributions they’ve made to the PGA Tour,” said Monahan.
“And I’m disappointed that Brooks Koepka has left and joined the LIV Golf series. I haven’t had a chance to speak to him about it and I look forward to speaking with him, but I’m not going to share more than that at this point.”
© 2022 AFP