PGA Tour relies on loyalty in dollar ‘arms race’

CROMWELL, Conn. — Commissioner Jay Monaghan said the PGA Tour cannot win an “arms race” with Saudi-funded LIV Golf when the weapon is money. His response Wednesday was to increase the prize money for eight elite events and rely on the loyalty and legacy of his players.

Monaghan delivered another round of scathing criticism of Greg Norman and his rival League. LIV Golf has attracted players who have won nine majors in the past five years, including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

The latest signing is Koepka, whose deal with LIV Golf was announced during Monaghan’s first press conference in three months at the Travelers Championship.

“I’m not naive,” Monaghan said. “If it’s an arms race, if the only weapon here is dollar bills, then the PGA Tour can’t compete. The PGA Tour is an American institution and can’t compete with foreign monarchies that spend billions trying to buy golf .

“We welcome good, healthy competition. That’s not the case with the LIV Saudi Golf League,” he said. “It’s an irrational threat that has nothing to do with return on investment or real growth in the game.”

However, the tour seems to be struggling to keep up. Monahan said the latest media rights deal signed in 2020 is increasing bonuses, noting that the threat from LIV Golf has accelerated some of those plans.

He announced a stripped-down schedule — starting January through August in 2024 — with seven tournaments worth $20 million or more, with fewer spots available in the playoffs. The top 125 qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. Next year, only the top 70 will qualify.

The fall will be for those players outside the top 70 to get next year’s cards and give them a chance to make it into the top 50 — or try to stay there — for some elite $20 million slot tournaments.

Three international events are also planned for the fall, vying only for the top 50 in FedExCup points last season.

Monaghan cited Masters champion Scotty Schaeffler, who was unusually outspoken in his support of the PGA Tour earlier Wednesday. Scheffler didn’t win on the PGA Tour until February, and then he won four times in two months to become the world number one.

He has set a PGA Tour season record of nearly $12.9 million.

“If you’re good enough, you’ll get to the top,” Monahan said. “If you can’t keep winning that top spot, hungry and talented others will take your place. Once again, that’s the unique beauty that the Tour has and will always provide fans.

“It’s damn good, it’s worth fighting for.”

Koepka, one of the LIV newcomers to be announced in the field next week in Oregon, was as surprising as Johnson was at the inaugural event in London.

Monaghan attended Koepka’s wedding on June 5 in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Koepka, who was part of a Rolex outing a week ago, joined top players — Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and more — to discuss strong support for the Tour.

A week later, he signed and headed to LIV Golf.

“It was an absolute surprise for me,” said Scheffler, whose head coach is the same as Koepka. “I was at an event with him last week and it was definitely not what he wanted. We’re focused on building the PGA Tour and bringing those who stay here together and just having talks and figuring out how we can help the PGA Tour Benefit. So it was definitely a surprise for us to see Brooks go.”

The tour will nearly double the prize pool of the winner-only Sentry Championship in Kapalua to $15 million. Invitations at Riviera, Bay Hill and Muirfield Village increased by $8 million to $20 million. Two FedExCup playoff events added $5 million to $20 million. The Players Championship rose $5 million to $25 million.

That adds to more than $50 million in prize money, or roughly the amount Johnson reportedly receives as a signing fee for the LIV Golf Series each year, and that’s before he and others compete for $25 million per event. before the bonus.

That’s the arms race facing Monaghan and the PGA Tour, although it still has a stronger core of the top 15 players in the world.

Still, some may pay a price.

Koepka apparently did, and McIlroy called him another player who broke his promise. Two years ago, Koepka was second only to McIlroy in condemning the 48ers concept.

“Am I surprised? Yes, because of what he said before,” McIlroy said. “I think that’s why I’m surprised by these people because they say one thing and then do another. I don’t know if it’s for legal reasons or if they can’t…I don’t know. But they Saying one thing and doing another is quite two-faced.”

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