PGA Tour can't win cash 'arms race'

LOS ANGELES • PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan accused the Saudi-back LIV Golf Invitational Series of attempting to buy the sport, then went on the offensive, unveiling larger purses, new events and a different calendar.

Speaking on Wednesday at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut, he conceded that the PGA Tour cannot compete with LIV Golf when it comes to cash. But he upped the ante by confirming multiple reports on Tuesday that it would increase purses at eight events next season to an average of US$20 million (S$27.8 million).

Backed to the tune of US$250 million by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, LIV Golf is offering purses of US$25 million at seven of their eight events and a US$50 million prize fund at the series finale in October. If those figures are not startling enough, then the astronomical sums dangled in front of golf's biggest names in an effort to lure them away from the PGA Tour are eye-popping.

Six-time Major winner Phil Mickelson, according to media reports, got a US$200 million appearance deal to sign on with the rebel circuit and former Masters champion Dustin Johnson US$125 million.

"I am not naive. If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can't compete," said Monahan.

"The PGA Tour, an American institution, can't compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.

"We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not that. It's an irrational threat; one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the game."

Monahan also announced a new three-event international series in the fall for top players to be held in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

In 2024, the PGA Tour will return to a calendar-year schedule rather than the current model that sees a season split over two years.

There will also be changes to the FedExCup play-off with a greater focus on the best players.

Currently the top 125 in the points standings qualify for the first play-off event but next year, that will be cut to 70. The top 50 will advance to the second play-off event with the top 30 qualifying for the final at East Lake in Atlanta.

Monahan also continued to point to the traditions and legacy that go with playing on the PGA Tour. He also reminded members that they do not have to make apologies when they tee it up at a PGA Tour stop, while LIV golfers must defend their decision to participate in a series that critics say amounts to blatant "sportswashing" by a nation trying to improve its reputation in light of human rights concerns.

On Wednesday, Rory McIlroy also slammed certain players who have defected to LIV Golf for acting in a "duplicitous" fashion - four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka and Mexico's Abraham Ancer were the latest additions.

Asked if he was surprised by Koepka's decision, McIlroy replied: "Yes, I'm surprised at a lot of these guys because they say one thing and then they do another, and I don't understand that.

"It's pretty duplicitous on their part."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2022, with the headline PGA Tour can't win cash 'arms race'. Subscribe