PGA Tour defends its spot under LIV Golf pressure

Cromwell, Conn. – Over the past month, as a Saudi-backed upstart LIV golf course poached some of the most famous players from the acclaimed PGA Tour, there was speculation that eventually competing organizations might have to learn how to coexist.

But the impassioned Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, didn’t sound conciliatory on Wednesday. Using strong language at his first press conference since mid-March, Monahan continued to defend the PGA Tour championship, announced a substantial increase in prize money for the upcoming tour, and accused LIV Golf of trying to “buy the sport.”

“If this is an arms race, and if the only weapons are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete,” Monahan told reporters on the eve of the Traveler Championship in central Connecticut. “The PGA Tour, an American organization, cannot compete with a foreign monarchy that spends billions of dollars trying to buy a game of golf.

“We welcome good, healthy competition. The Saudi LIV Golf League is not like that at all. It’s an irrational threat that has nothing to do with ROI or real game growth.”

Monahan, who met with about 100 players associated with the PGA Tour on Tuesday, said he told the group that the tour “will eventually emerge stronger from the current challenge thanks to our loyalty and the support of our players and fans.”

However, the LIV Golf series kept Monahan out of the stage on Wednesday. Approximately two minutes into Monaghan’s press conference, LIV Golf announced that the four-time champion Brooks Koepka officially left the PGA Tour to join the alternative tour. LIV Golf also announced the majority of the course for its first tournament in the United States starting June 30 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club near Portland, Oregon.

There were other news in sports. As expected, British Open officials said the following month they would not be barring players associated with LIV Golf from a major tournament. Some of these golfers, such as Koepka, have already qualified for the British Open through their current world rankings or past major titles. This may change in the future, but as was the case with US Open last week outside of Boston, British Open officials were reluctant to exclude players who already met the stated criteria for that year’s tournament.

And on the player side, several PGA Tour players at the Travelers Championship privately grumbled about how, just a week ago, Koepka openly supported a show of solidarity from most of the top golfers who stayed true to the tour. When asked about Koepka’s defection on Wednesday, Rory McIlroywho ranks second in the men’s golf world rankings, said: “I’m surprised by a lot of these guys because they say one thing and do another.”

He added, “But that’s pretty duplicitous on their part.”

Asked if he was talking about something that Kepka said months ago or recently, McIlroy replied, “All this time, in public and privately, all of that.”

In addition to announcing plans for the PGA Tour to increase payouts on eight tours next year by $54 million, Monahan continued to pay tribute to the spirit of his tour as a meritocracy in which players receive prize money based on performance rather than LIV. A golf series in which several golfers signed hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed contracts. There are also no cuts in LIV Golf tournaments, which means every player is guaranteed at least a six-figure income.

“Going back to the elements, to the core of this tour, to the meritocracy of being on the PGA Tour, how hard it is to get out of here, how hard it is to get to the top level of the game,” Monahan said. . “This will ultimately be the element that will make this the greatest tour in the world,” he added.

A memo to players posted on Wednesday said there was a significant increase in wallets across eight smaller tournaments, with player payouts jumping to around $20 million per event. The current average PGA Tour prize money is approximately $8.5 million.

Monahan said the increase in player revenue will be funded by additional sponsorships and replenished from the tour’s operating reserve. The tour is also taking action to try and reward top players with more opportunities to play in the highest paying events, in what appears to be a direct response to the smaller tournament fields LIV Golf model. The memo also details a new international series of three events next fall for top players with big wallets and events across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.