PGA Tour boosts prize money

Move is meant to dissuade players from defecting to Saudi-backed LIV Golf


AFP June 23, 2022

LONDON:

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced a sweeping overhaul of the circuit on Wednesday in a move designed to dissuade players from defecting to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.

At a press conference in Connecticut on the eve of the tour's Traveler's Championship, Monahan confirmed details of a plan that leaked out on Tuesday to revamp the tour.

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.

In addition, eight designated tour events will see prize money boosted significantly with purses averaging at around $20 million.

The season-ending FexExCup playoffs would also see revised field sizes from 2023, with 70 players for the FedEx St. Jude Championship, 50 players at the BMW Championship, and 30 players at the Tour Championship.

The moves are the PGA Tour's most significant response yet to the rise of LIV Golf, which launched earlier this month and has signed eight of the world's top 50 players including major winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka.

In remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Monahan said the PGA Tour would be unable to compete financially with LIV Golf, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which has assets estimated at around $620 billion.

"I am 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, can't compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in attempt to buy the game of golf.

"We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not that.

"It's an irrational threat; one not concerned with the return on investment or true 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 sport, a practice that has been dubbed "sportwashing".

The circuit, headed by Australian golf icon Greg Norman, has spent lavish sums attempting to recruit the world's top talent, offering signing bonuses reportedly in the region of $100-200 million.

Monahan said the threat posed by LIV Golf had "obviously accelerated" the PGA Tour's plans to revamp the schedule.

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