DOUG FERGUSON | Associated Press Golf Writer
Cromwell, Connecticut. Commissioner Jay Monahan says the PGA Tour can’t win an “arms race” against the Saudi-funded LIV Golf when money is the weapon. On Wednesday, he responded that he should increase the prize money in eight elite tournaments and rely on the loyalty and legacy of his players.
Monahan again came out with harsh criticism of Greg Norman and his rival league. LIV Golf includes players who have collectively won nine major tournaments over the past five years, including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Kepka and Bryson DeChambeau.
The last to sign was Koepka, whose LIV Golf deal was announced just as Monahan began his first Traveler Championship press conference in three months.
“I’m not naive,” Monahan said. “If this is an arms race and if the only weapons are dollar bills, the PGA Tour cannot compete. 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 that,” he said. “This is an irrational threat, not related to the ROI or the actual growth of the game.”
The tour, however, seems to be trying to keep up. Monahan said an increase in prize money was in the works thanks to his latest media rights deal he signed in 2020, noting that the LIV Golf threat has accelerated some of those plans.
He announced a simplified schedule – from January to August starting in 2024 – with seven $20 million worth of tournaments and more and fewer seats available in the postseason. The top 125 players advance to the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Next year only the top 70 will be eligible to participate.
The fall will be for players who finish outside the top 70 to get next year’s cards and give them a chance to move into the top 50 – or try to stay there – to get places in some of the $20 million elite. tournaments.
There are also three international top 50 tournaments scheduled for the previous season’s FedEx Cup points only.
Monahan cited Masters champion Scotty Scheffler, who had been unusually vocal in his support for the PGA Tour earlier Wednesday. Scheffler didn’t win the PGA Tour until February, when he won four times in two months to become world No. 1.
It has already set a PGA Tour record for seasonal earnings of nearly $12.9 million.
“If you’re good enough, you’ll rise to the top,” Monahan said. “And if you don’t keep earning that first place, someone else, just as hungry and talented, will take your place. Again, this is the unique beauty of what the tour has and will always offer to the fans.
“It’s damn good and worth fighting for.”
Koepka was among the LIV rookies announced on the field in Oregon the following week, and he was just as much of a surprise as Johnson was at the first event in London.
Monahan was at Cap’s June 5 wedding in the Turks and Caicos Islands. A week ago, Kepka was part of the Rolex group, in which he, along with top players including Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, actively discussed the support of the tour.
A week later, he signed a contract and headed to LIV Golf.
“It definitely came as a surprise to me,” said Scheffler, who has the same manager as Kepka. “I was with him at the reception last week and definitely not what he had in mind. We’ve been focused on organizing the PGA Tour and getting the guys who stay here together and just talking and figuring out how we can help the Tour. So Brooks’ departure definitely came as a surprise to us.”
The tour will nearly double the winner-only Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua to $15 million. Invitational events at the Riviera Country Club at Pacific Palisades, Bay Hill, and Muirfield Village will increase by $8 million to $20 million. The two FedEx Cup playoff tournaments increase by $5 million to $20 million. And the Players Championship increases by $5 million to $25 million.
This is an increase in prize money of just over $50 million, or roughly what Johnson has reportedly received annually as a signing fee for the LIV Golf series, and that’s before he and others compete for $25 million in prize money. dollars per event.
It’s an arms race that Monahan and the PGA Tour are facing, though he still has the top 15 players in the world rankings on his side, a core group that is speaking out more forcefully.
However, some may have a price.
Koepka apparently did just that, and McIlroy called him another player who went back on his word. Two years ago, Koepka was second to McIlroy in denouncing the concept of a 48-man league.
“I am surprised? Yes, because of what he said earlier,” McIlroy said. “I think that’s why a lot of these guys surprise me because they say one thing and do another. I don’t know if it’s legal or they can’t… I have no idea. But it’s rather duplicitous of them to say one thing and do another.”