PGA Tour overhauls schedule, player compensation amid LIV threat
The threat posed by breakaway golf league LIV Golf has forced the PGA Tour into sweeping changes.
The PGA Tour’s top golfers have committed to competing against each other on a more regular basis while the bonus pool for players who positively impact the game was doubled to $100-million, Commissioner Jay Monahan said on Wednesday.
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.”
The changes require top golfers, assuming they qualify, to play at least a 20-event schedule consisting of the four majors, The Players Championship, 12 “elevated events” with average purses of $20-million and at least three other PGA Tour events of the players’ choosing.
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.
“Our top players are firmly behind the Tour, helping us deliver an unmatched product to our fans, who will be all but guaranteed to see the best players competing against each other in 20 events or more throughout the season,” said Monahan.
“This is an extraordinary and unprecedented commitment, a testament to who these guys are and what they believe in.”
Player Impact Program extended
The PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program, which was implemented in 2021 as a 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 the 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. 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.
“I think they understand that.”
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Among the other changes is an “earnings assurance program” that guarantees players at the developmental Korn Ferry Tour priority category and above will earn at least $500,000.
The PGA Tour also said it will launch a travel stipend programme that will see players receive $5,000 for every missed cut for non-exempt members.
Woods, McIlroy launch virtual golf league
Meanwhile, two of the biggest names in the sport — Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy – unveiled a technology-focused golf league in partnership with the PGA Tour that will feature players competing on six three-man teams.
Woods and former Golf Channel president Mike McCarley, who has partnered with Woods to form TMRW Sports, outlined the startup that will combine virtual technology and a green complex at a custom-built venue.
The new league, TGL, will begin in January 2024 and have teams compete in 18-hole matches during 15 regular-season events, with the top four teams advancing to the playoffs. The contests will take place in prime time on Monday nights.
“We’ve been working on this for two years,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for PGA Tour players to show a different side of themselves, prime time on Monday night. I think it’s great for brand exposure to try to engage a different audience.”
McIlroy also said Woods plans to compete in the matches. That, in itself, is a victory in the eyes of McIlroy, considering Woods has only competed in three tournaments this season while recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident outside Los Angeles in February 2021.
“Who knows where we’re going to see Tiger Woods play golf next, right?” McIlroy said. “We don’t know what his schedule is going to be. We don’t know how his body is going to be.
“But to be able to see him still showcase his skills on prime time, on TV without really any wear and tear on his body, I think to be able to see Tiger hit golf shots and still sort of provide people with a glimpse of his genius — I think it is a really good use of his time.”
Woods said in a statement that he is looking forward to giving fans a different look at the sport.
“Embracing technology to create this unique environment gives us the ability to move our sport into prime time on a consistent basis alongside so many of sports’ biggest events,” Woods said.
“As a big sports fan myself, I’m excited about blending golf with technology and team elements common in other sports.
“We all know what it’s like to be in a football stadium or a basketball arena where you can watch every play, every minute of action unfold right in front of you. It’s something that inherently isn’t possible in traditional golf — and an aspect of TGL that will set it apart and appeal to a new generation of fans.” DM/Reuters