Fighting back against Greg Norman and his Saudi friends, the PGA Tour announces a major overhaul as a Gulf War breaks out.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced a major overhaul of the circuit to prevent players from switching to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series as Rory McIlroy reprimanded certain players for defecting to the breakaway circuit and had behaved in an “ambiguous” manner. †
At a news conference in Connecticut on the eve of the tour’s Traveller’s Championship, Monahan confirmed details of a plan leaked earlier this week to renew the PGA tour.
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The sweeping reforms include a return to a calendar year season starting in 2024 and the creation of three international events at the end of the season.
Additionally, eight designated tour events will significantly increase the prize pool with purses averaging approximately $30 million.
The season-closing FexExCup playoffs would also see revised field sizes beginning in 2023, with 70 players for the FedEx St. Jude Championship, 50 players for the BMW Championship and 30 players for the Tour Championship.
The moves are the PGA Tour’s most significant response to date to the rise of LIV Golf, which launched earlier this month and has attracted eight of the world’s top 50 players, including big winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka.
Commenting to reporters on Thursday (AEST), Monahan said the PGA Tour would not be able to compete financially with LIV Golf, which is led by Australian legend Greg Norman and funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. that has assets estimated at about $900 billion. †
“I’m not naive,” Monahan said. “If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete.
“The PGA Tour, an American institution, cannot compete with a foreign monarchy that spends billions of dollars buying golf.
“We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not. It is an irrational threat; one that is not concerned with the return on investment or the real growth of the game.”
Human rights groups and critics of LIV say the venture is an attempt by Saudi Arabia to boost the kingdom’s image through sports, a practice called “sportwashing”.
Promoted by Norman, the circuit has spent large amounts of money trying to recruit the world’s top talent, and reportedly offered signing bonuses in the region of up to $300 million.
Monahan said the threat posed by LIV Golf has “clearly accelerated” the PGA Tour’s plans to renew the schedule.
“We planned to fundraise for these events in the future, okay?” said Monahan.
“The step we are taking at the beginning of 2023, there is no doubt that one of the things we want to do is to ensure that our top events are maximized, both in terms of their impact and financial investment, and this is accelerating that.
“So, yeah, this is, that’s something we’re doing to respond on behalf of our members to the current environment we’re in.”
Monahan, who earlier this month suspended 17 current or former members of the PGA Tour who had signed with LIV, meanwhile expressed his dismay at four-time grand champ Koepka’s decision to leave the ship.
Koepka was confirmed in the field for LIV Golf’s US debut in Portland next week, just as Monahan began his press conference.
“Listen, any player that remains, I’m going to say that I have great admiration and respect for the contributions they’ve made to the PGA Tour,” Monahan said.
“And I’m disappointed that Brooks Koepka has left and joined the LIV Golf series. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it yet, and I’m looking forward to talking to him, but I’m not going to say more about it at this point.”
Koepka was labeled a hypocrite for joining LIV after previously saying he was not motivated by cash.
When asked if he was surprised by Koepka’s decision to become the latest big name to follow the money, Irish star Rory McIlroy replied: “Yeah, because of what he said earlier.
“I think that’s why I’m amazed at a lot of these guys because they say one thing and then do another, and I don’t understand that and I don’t know if that’s for legal reasons or if they can’t.” – I have no idea.
“But it’s quite ambiguous on their part to say one thing and then do another.”
Asked to clarify what comments Koepka was referring to, McIlroy added: “All the way. All the way through, in public and private, everything.”
McIlroy said he hoped world golf would eventually form a truly global circuit, similar to the ATP Tour in tennis.
“I’d like to see it, and I’ve always advocated something where the tours work more closely together or create some sort of world tour model or ATP model,” McIlroy said.
“Where different events take place in different parts of the world, but are all governed under one umbrella.
“I would like to see the PGA Tour and the European Tour work more closely together and maybe try to pave the way to where all the biggest golf events in the world fall under the same umbrella.”
When asked if he believed it could happen, he added: “It’s hard to say right now, but I’d like to think it’s a possibility.”
Originally published as ‘Duplicitous’: Gulf Officially Declares War on Greg Norman’s Saudi Revolution