Golf: PGA Tour plans revamp to head off rival LIV as Brooks Koepka is latest to defect

Brooks Koepka is expected to make his debut on the Saudi-backed LIV circuit at its maiden US event in Oregon. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The PGA Tour is planning to revamp its schedule with a series of lucrative new tournaments, reports said on Tuesday (June 21), as four-time Major champion Brooks Koepka became the latest star to defect to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan detailed proposed changes to the tour schedule at a packed meeting of players on Tuesday ahead of this week's Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut, according to reports.

Proposals outlined by Monahan include boosting purses to at least US$20 million (S$27.7 million) in eight existing marquee tournaments and the introduction of three new US$25 million tournaments that will feature no cuts and limited fields. The schedule overhaul could be in place by the 2023 season.

The moves are the clearest indicator yet of the PGA Tour's strategy to combat the rise of LIV Golf, which has steadily been luring star names to sign with the upstart circuit that offers US$25 million in prize money for each of its 54-hole tournaments.

Other changes proposed by Monahan on Tuesday included a return to a calendar year schedule running from January to December.

The current "wrap-around" season starts in the North American autumn and is unpopular with some players who complain it does not allow for a clearly defined off-season.

Tuesday's developments came as news broke that Koepka, the world No. 19, and Mexico's Abraham Ancer, the world No. 20, have joined LIV.

Koepka, 32, is expected to make his debut on the money-spinning circuit at its maiden US event in Oregon next week. His management team did not respond when contacted by AFP on Tuesday.

Koepka - who removed "PGA Tour" from his Twitter profile on Monday - will follow the likes of Dustin Johnson and six-time Major winner Phil Mickelson by joining LIV.

The series, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, has plunged the golf world into turmoil since its emergence.

LIV Golf has drawn stinging criticism from human rights groups, which say the series is an attempt to boost the kingdom's image through sport.

The PGA Tour has adopted a zero-tolerance stance towards the series, with tour chief Monahan suspending 17 former or current tour players for making the switch.

Speaking at the Travelers Championship on Tuesday, defending champion Harris English said he hoped the PGA Tour's proposed revamp could persuade players to remain with the circuit.

"I think it can be, for sure," English said.

Patrick Cantlay meanwhile described the PGA Tour versus LIV Golf confrontation as a fight to attract and retain talent.

"I think right now there's a competition for talent that's going on and I think you see it in all sorts of other businesses," Cantlay said.

"Part of the concern is not knowing what the future is going to be like.

"Right now it's an uncertain time for golf, but if you think about it in the larger business landscape, it's a competition for talent.

"So if the PGA Tour wants to remain the pre-eminent tour for professional golfers, it has to be the best place to play for the best players in the world."

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