GOLF

Big names will play more often for more money

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So it turns out that Phil was right after all.

Roughly eight months after Phil Mickelson leveled accusations and criticism of the PGA Tour that resulted in his own banishment, as well as the departure of many of the sport’s biggest names to the competitive LIV Tour, new changes are coming to the Tour address many of Mickelson’s exact points. concerns. The result is this: the best players on the Tour will play more often for more money, and all regular players will have guaranteed winnings.

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It is a direct response to the sudden and significant threat of LIV Golf, the upstart golf league that has lured many big names in golf with the promise of guaranteed payouts and huge payouts.

“While I probably don’t want to give Phil credit, yeah, he was trying to make some points,” Rory McIlroy said Wednesday before the Tour Championship. “Did any of these ideas have merit? Of course they did. But he just didn’t approach it the right way.

McIlroy, Tiger Woods and 21 other players have apparently worked the right way, at least by Tour preference, and the result is a series of sweeping changes, announced by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and set to begin in the season. 2022-23 will fundamentally reshape how the Tour operates… and reward its most valuable assets.

The Tour will now feature 20 “top players”, as defined by the Tour’s “Player Impact Program” or PIP – in effect, a popularity contest that measures media mentions, broadcast exposure and fan notoriety. These players will engage in a program of 20 PGA Tour events. This includes 12 “elevated events,” including notable Tour stops like the Arnold Palmer Players Championship, Memorial and Invitational; the four majors; and four as yet unidentified “elevated events”. It’s a deliberate attempt to get the best players to play together more often.

“Outside of the major championships and maybe the players, the top 10 players, the top 20 players in the world come together to play against each other some other time during the year,” McIlroy said. “I think if you’re trying to sell a product on television and to sponsors and get as many eyeballs as possible into professional golf, you have to at least let people know what they’re looking for. When I watch a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, I expect to see Tom Brady throwing a football. When I tune in to a Formula 1 race, I expect to see Lewis Hamilton in a car.

The PIP program will also give players large sums of money to raise awareness; a pool of 100 million dollars will be available for these 20 players. While it doesn’t begin to match what LIV has offered players, it’s a substantial leap from previous years, in which there was no mechanism to pay players beyond their earnings on the course.

“Every member of the PGA Tour is going to benefit from the changes we are going to make. Rising tides,” Monahan said. “The Tour will continue to grow by engaging the best players in the world, continuing to support us and invest in our philosophy , which is the best competitive platform. We are going to be able to generate more value if you add to that what we stand for and why companies around the world invest in the PGA Tour.

The Tour has always prided itself on being a meritocracy – every player, from Tiger Woods to a fellow Monday qualifier, risks missing the cup at every tournament and going home empty-handed. But that structure was part of what prompted many players to jump ship and join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf, which offers cupless tournaments and guaranteed checks to every player on the course.

For the first time, the Tour will offer guaranteed financial stability to all of its members, with a “league minimum” of $500,000 per player. Players must participate in 15 events, and winnings from these events will be “deducted” from the $500,000 players will receive at the start of the season. The Tour will also offer travel stipends to players ranked below 125th place, offering $5,000 for each missed cut.

While breaking into that PIP-defined top 20 will be a challenge – players of McIlroy’s stature will get broadcast endorsements, regardless of how well they play – McIlroy insisted it was still a continuation of the Meritocracy.

“Everyone has a chance to make their way into these high events. Everyone has a chance to be in the Player Impact program,” he said. “The reason we’re trying to do this is that we’re trying to build a tour for the future, ambitious young players who want to be the best players in the game. If you want to be the best player in the game, the PGA Tour is where you want to be because it’s is a pure meritocracy. There’s nothing stopping guys from playing in these high events. There’s nothing stopping guys from getting into the PIP. You just play better. You work hard, you play better, and if you do that, you’ll be in those events.

A group that will not participate in these events: players who left for LIV. Even though the new changes underway mimic those already announced by LIV, there is no amnesty on the table. When asked if LIV players intrigued by the new Tour proposals could be welcomed back, Monahan had only one word: “No.”

PGA Tour players who have joined LIV are currently suspended, with some of these suspensions lasting until March 2024.

“They joined the LIV Golf Series and they made that commitment,” Monahan continued. “Most of them have made multi-year commitments. As I’ve been clear throughout, every player has a choice, and I respect his choice, but he made it. We made ours. We will continue to focus on the things we control and grow stronger and stronger.

The 2021-22 PGA Tour season wraps up this week at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. LIV Golf’s next event is scheduled for early September in Boston.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – AUGUST 24: PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks during a press conference ahead of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on August 24, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

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Contact Jay Busbee at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.

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