CROMWELL, Conn. — Over the past month, as the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour has poached some of the established PGA Tour’s best-known players, there has been speculation that rival organizations could eventually having to learn to coexist. .
But an enthusiast Jay Monahan, the commissioner of the PGA Tour, did not seem conciliatory on Wednesday. Using hard-hitting language at his first press conference since mid-March, Monahan continued to assert the primacy of the PGA Tour, announced a substantial increase in future Tour prize money and accused LIV Golf of trying to ” buy sports”.
“If this is an arms race, and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete,” Monahan told reporters on the eve of the Travelers Championship in central Connecticut. “The PGA Tour, an American institution, cannot compete with a foreign monarchy that spends billions of dollars trying to buy golf.
“We welcome good and healthy competition. Saudi Golf League LIV is not that. It’s an irrational threat, not concerned with the return on investment or the true growth of the game.”
Monahan, who met with about 100 PGA Tour-affiliated players on Tuesday, told the group that the tour “will ultimately emerge stronger from the current challenge thanks to our loyalty and the support of our players and fans.”
The LIV Golf series, however, didn’t let Monahan have the stage to himself on Wednesday. About two minutes into Monahan’s press conference, LIV Golf announced that four-time major champion Brooks Koepka had officially left the PGA Tour to join the alternate tour. LIV Golf also announced the majority of the course for its first tournament in the United States, which begins June 30 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside of Portland, Ore.
There was also other news in the sport. As expected, officials at next month’s British Open have said they will not exclude players aligned with LIV Golf from the major tournament. Several of these golfers, like Koepka, have already qualified for the British Open based on their current world rankings or past major titles. This may change in the future, but as was the case with last week’s US Open away from Boston, British Open officials were unwilling to exclude players who had already met the criteria. of eligibility declared at this year’s event.
And on the player side, several PGA Tour players at the Travelers Championship have privately complained about how Koepka, just a week ago, was openly supporting a show of solidarity from a majority of top golfers. level who have remained faithful to the circuit. Asked about Koepka’s defection on Wednesday, Rory McIlroy, who is second in the world men’s golf rankings, said: “I’m surprised by a lot of these guys because they say one thing and do another.”
He added: “But that’s pretty deceitful of them.”
Asked if he was talking about something Koepka said months ago or recently, McIlroy replied, “Throughout, in public and in private, everything.”
In addition to announcing the PGA Tour’s plans to increase payouts for eight Tour events by $54 million next year, Monahan continued to pay tribute to his Tour’s philosophy as a meritocracy in which players receive prizes based on their performance, as opposed to LIV Golf. series where several golfers have signed guaranteed contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. LIV Golf events also have no discounts, meaning every player is guaranteed at least a six-figure salary.
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“If you go back to the elements, the basis of this tour, the meritocracy of playing on the PGA Tour, how difficult it is to get out here, how difficult it is to reach the highest level of the game” , Monahan said. . “It will ultimately be the element that will continue to make this tour the greatest in the world,” he added.
A note to tour players released Wednesday outlined significant purse increases at eight non-major tournaments, with payouts to players reaching around $20 million per event. The current total median prize money at a PGA Tour event is around $8.5 million.
Monahan said increased player revenue would be funded by increased support from sponsors and supplemented by the tour’s operating reserve. The Tour is also taking steps to try to reward higher ranked players with more opportunities to compete in higher paying events, which would appear to be a direct response to the LIV Golf model of having smaller tournament grounds. The memo also detailed a new international series of three events in the fall of next year for the top players with bigger scholarships and events in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.