That PGA Tour gave its boldest response to the rival Saudi Arabia-funded league on Wednesday, with a plan for the top players to commit to a 20-tournament schedule in which they can compete up to 17 times for average purses of US$20 million -dollars will compete against each other.
The tour is also doubling its Player Impact Program bonus pool to $100 million, spread across 20 players, and changing the criteria to be more focused on media exposure.
Players starting their careers will receive $500,000 at the beginning of the year which will be counted towards their earnings until the number is exceeded.
“This is not a rogue group trying to usurp the power of the PGA Tour,” said Rory McIlroy, a player director on the tour board. “It’s ‘OK, how can we make this tour better for everyone who’s going to play on it now and everyone who’s going to play on the PGA Tour in the future.'”
Of the sweeping changes outlined by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, the most significant was what will happen from a private meeting from 23 top players last week: a new model that guarantees the best play in the same tournaments more often.
“These players came together to strengthen the Tour platform and realized that when fans invest in the PGA Tour, it means a lot more when they know players will invest right back,” said Monahan.
The 20-tournament commitment begins in January with the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua and requires top players to be eligible.
Most of the major tournaments have already taken place – the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the Memorial; Kapalua and match play; the three FedEx Cup Playoff Events; the four majors and The Players Championship.
Four tournaments are yet to be announced, which Monahan said would rotate among existing events during the FedEx Cup season – January to August – although the Scottish Open is under consideration for hosting a $20m event to be pulled.
Players would also be required to compete in three other tournaments during the FedEx Cup season. That would throw out a lifeline for tournaments that would otherwise have a hard time attracting top players.
But for the tour it was a chance to guarantee everything when and where to find the best players.
“When I tune in to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, I expect to see Tom Brady throw a football. When I turn on a Formula 1 race, I expect to see Lewis Hamilton in a car,” McIlroy said. “I think what emerged from last week’s meeting…is the fact that we all made a commitment to get together more often to make the product more compelling.”
The changes came quickly. Top players began gathering at the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland last month and it culminated in one Meetings for players only with 23 top players in the BMW Championship.
Tiger Woods flew to Delaware from his home in Florida for the meeting. Woods and McIlroy are considered the leaders of change among players, although all reports indicate that the majority of them were behind the changes.
“I think the only thing that’s happened over the years is that we’re all our own little independent businesses,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s the first time in a long time that we’ve kind of all sat down and thought, ‘Let’s try to be business partners.’
“How can we all pull together here to benefit everyone and help the whole tour and help each other.”
Eligibility will not change and field sizes for enhanced tournaments already on the schedule will remain. Four of these eight events have a 36-hole cut. Monahan didn’t say what the eligibility for the four new tournaments would be like.
The “top players” who commit to the 20-tournament schedule are defined by the Player Impact Program. The scheme consisted of paying the top 10 players from a $50 million bonus pool, with rankings largely based on Q-rating and social media. Now it’s worth $100 million for 20 players, with metrics like TV exposure, fan awareness and media mentions.
The announcement is coming Tour Championship at the end of the season, where the winner of the FedEx Cup will receive $18 million. The LIV Golf series is expected to announce a new squad of PGA Tour players that will likely include up to six players.
The Tour has already banned players who have joined LIV Golf – some have resigned – once they play in Greg Norman’s opposing league.
LIV Golf, which is backed by the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia, has paid big names – like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka – in massive contract fees reportedly worth $150 million or more.
Each event has a $25 million prize pool for a 48-man field over 54 holes. The single winner of the LIV event will receive $4 million. The money was attractive for attracting about two dozen PGA Tour players.
Monahan declined to say if there is a way back for those who went to LIV. He quoted the ongoing antitrust lawsuit that several players filed against the PGA Tour.
A federal judge two weeks ago declined a request of three LIV golfers looking to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Associated Press reporting.
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