Golf: PGA Tour overhauls schedule, player compensation amid LIV threat

Henrik Stenson walks from the 16th tee at a LIV Golf event at Trump National Golf Club, in Bedminster, New Jersey, in July 2022. PHOTO: AFP

ATLANTA (REUTERS) - The PGA Tour's top golfers have committed to playing against each other 20 times next year, while the bonus pool for players who positively impact the game was doubled to US$100 million (S$140 million), Commissioner Jay Monahan said on Wednesday (Aug 24).

The changes represent the PGA Tour's most serious response to the threat posed by the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf series that launched in June and has lured some big-name players away from the US-based circuit with staggering sums of money.

In announcing the changes, Monahan said he was inspired by the PGA Tour members and singled out those who held a players-only meeting last week to discuss a number of proposals in the face of the LIV Golf threat.

"It's important to understand that this process represents a remarkable moment for the PGA Tour and showcases the essence of what being a membership organisation is all about," Monahan said ahead of the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta.

"Those players rallied together to strengthen the tour platform, recognising that if fans are going to invest in the PGA Tour it means a hell of a lot more if they know the players are investing right back."

Monahan said the top players, assuming they qualify, have agreed to at least a 20-event schedule consisting of the four majors, The Players Championship, three FedExCup events and 12 "elevated events".

An additional four "elevated events" that will have an average purse of US$20 million are still to be announced.

For the 2022-23 season, a "top player" will be defined as those who finish in the top 20 under the current Player Impact Program as well as those who finish in the top 20 under the revised criteria for the bonus pool.

The PGA Tour's Player Impact Program, which was implemented in 2021 as way to compensate the 10 players judged through a series of metrics to drive the most fan and sponsor engagement, will reward 20 players for 2022 and 2023.

Eligible players who do not compete in the minimum required number of tournaments will be ineligible to receive any payout as part of the Player Impact Program.

So far, LIV Golf has scooped five of players who finished among the top-10 of the inaugural Player Impact Program, a group that consists of Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson.

When asked if players who joined LIV might want to return to the PGA Tour after seeing the latest changes, Monahan said he would not lift their suspensions.

"No. They've joined the LIV Golf series and they've made that commitment and for most of them they've made multi-year commitments," said Monahan.

"As I have been clear throughout, every player has a choice and I respect their choice but they've made it, we've made ours, we're going to continue to focus on the things we can control and get stronger and stronger.

"And I think they understand that."

Among the other changes, the PGA Tour announced an "earnings assurance programme" that guarantees players at the developmental Korn Ferry Tour priority category and above will earn at least US$500,000.

The PGA Tour also said it will launch a travel stipend programme that will see players receive US$5,000 for every missed cut for non-exempt members.

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