GOLF

Shadow of LIV Golf casts uncertainty over PGA Tour events including Nelson and Colonial

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For the self-proclaimed honorable sport of golf, this week’s occasion and backdrop are sublimely symmetrical.

This is the 150th British Open. At the Old Course in St. Andrews, the hallowed home of golf.

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However, this week, on the hallowed grounds of the Royal and Ancient club, lurks an Ignoble and Current tiff that threatens the fabric if not the existence of the 53-year-old PGA Tour and the 50-year-old PGA European Tour.

LIV Golf, funded by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, has attracted around three dozen players from the PGA and European Tours, which in turn have suspended those players’ membership. The British Open and other major tournaments are among the few tournaments in which LIV players can compete alongside those on the established golf tours.

Reluctantly, it is. And maybe only temporarily. On Saturday, the R&A, which governs golf outside the United States and Mexico, announced that LIV CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman, a two-time British Open winner, had not been invited to the celebration of champions. Monday at St. Andrews or at the Champions Dinner.

“The 150th Open is an extremely important milestone for golf and we want to ensure that the focus remains on celebrating the championship and its legacy,” the R&A statement read in part.

LIV Golf’s cheeky challenge to the establishment of golf is a fluid and volatile situation with near-daily developments updates that are being closely watched in PGA Tour host cities including McKinney’s AT&T Byron Nelson and Fort Worth’s Charles Schwab Challenge.

“Whenever there’s a new story, we look at it and try to analyze what it means, if anything,” said AT&T Nelson Tournament Director Jon Drago. “It’s so early, it’s hard to say much.”

It has been less than two months since the 2022 Nelson was played from May 12-15, amid dripping reports of the first defectors signing up for the inaugural LIV Golf event from June 9-11 in England.

On June 22, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, in reaction to the growing threat of LIV and its megadollar bonuses and uncut 54-hole tournaments, announced that there would be significant changes to the regular season. 2023 PGA Tour and FedEx Cup playoff times. .

In a way, the schedule puts the Nelson and the Schwab Challenge in late May at Colonial in a strong position: their 2023 tournaments are 10 months away, by which time much of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf drama will have, hopefully played and fought clearly drawn lines.

For the Nelson and the Schwab, this should be ample time to clarify the considerable current uncertainty strange as it is to contemplate, both events having been well attended a year after the pandemic.

For the Nelson, it was the second year of a five-year commitment to host the tournament at McKinney’s TPC Craig Ranch.

“The main thing we’re trying to do is make sure we keep our eye on the ball for our near-term future with 2023. We have such momentum. We have an engaged community,” Drago said.

“We can’t take our eyes off of this, but neither can we be naive and not watch what’s going on.”

Professional golfer Jordan Spieth walks through the water on the par-3, #13 during the final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Sunday, May 30, 2021. (Tom Fox / personal photographer)

The biggest problem facing the Nelson and other PGA Tour events: prize money. Obviously there is pressure from LIV and apparently a mandate from Monahan to increase the purses. But by how much? And where will the extra money come from?

Answering these questions becomes even more important as the PGA Tour looks to a future with most likely fewer events, again taking into account defecting players who cited the positive of LIV’s shorter schedule: eight events this year. ; 10 in ’23; 14 in ’24 and ’25.

Of the current 47 PGA Tour events, the Nelson and Colonial have positioned themselves well in the top third, thanks in large part to their long-standing reputation and tradition, strong title sponsorship and competitive purses.

This season, Nelson’s $9.1 million purse ranks 15th among tour events – including the four majors, FedEx Playoffs and WGC Match Play – while the 8 Colonial’s $.4 million ranks 20th.

During his June 22 press conference, Monahan said the Tour welcomes healthy competition, but called LIV “not that. He’s an irrational threat; one who isn’t concerned with returning on investment or the true growth of the game.”

Nonetheless, clearly in response to this threat, Monahan announced purse increases of $53.8 million for eight Tour events, increases ranging from $5 million to $8 million.

None of these events was the Nelson or the Schwab. Monahan did not specify where the extra money would come from, although he said the Tour has cash reserves, some of which has been used to help tournaments during the pandemic when the Nelson, for example, had its 2020 event cancelled.

Should tournaments other than the eight specified by Monahan also increase prize money? The Jack Nicklaus Memorial Tournament and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, for example, will see their respective prize pools of $12 million jump to $20 million in 2023.

And how could PGA Tour charities be affected? Over the years, the Nelson has generated over $172 million in charitable donations, primarily benefiting the Momentus Institute.

“I don’t know if the titles [sponsors] of those events pay it off, or if those events pay it off,” Drago said of the stock market’s dramatic increases. “We found out the same way everyone else did when they raised these scholarships.”

That’s how fluid and unpredictable the PGA Tour has become because of LIV’s incursion. Professional sports have had many such battles over the decades: NFL-AFL, NBA-ABA, NHL-WHL and, yes, the breakup of the PGA of America in the 1960s with the PGA Tour, in large partly because of players’ dissatisfaction with the size of purses. .

LIV’s arrival was sudden by comparison, and it’s too early to predict her endurance and ultimate effect on the PGA Tour. And tournaments like the Nelson.

Notably, the Nelson has two years left on his title sponsorship deal with AT&T, one of golf’s most influential sponsors, including the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Masters.

It also seems remarkable that the big three players from North Texas – world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, No. 12 Jordan Spieth and No. 13 Will Zalatoris – seem strongly committed to the PGA Tour. For the past 10 days, Zalatoris and Spieth have been outright in denial when rumors and reports have surfaced of their potential interest in LIV.

“Categorically false,” Spieth said.

Zalatoris: “I’ve been talking about it since February and nothing has changed.

That’s apparently good news for the Nelson and the Colonial, not that successfully running Tour events for five and seven decades, respectively, shouldn’t alone put them in a strong position.

“Certainly we hope they will play us for a long time,” Drago said of Scheffler, Spieth (28) and Zalatoris (25).

“And we’re a 54-year-old PGA Tour event and plan to continue to be one.”

showing the money

On June 22, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced major purse increases for eight Tour events starting in 2023. What’s unclear, however, is how many other events on the Tour will have to increase their scholarships. In 2022, the AT&T Byron Nelson scholarship ranks 15th on the circuit and the Fort Worth Charles Schwab Challenge scholarship ($8.4 million) ranks 20th.

Event handbag 2022 handbag 2023
1. Tour Championship $75 million ?
2. Players Championship $20 million $25 million
3. US Open $17.5M ?
4. Masters $15 million ?
(tie) PGA Championship $15 million ?
(tie) FedEx St. Jude $15 million $20 million
(tie) BMW Championship $15 million $20 million
8. British Open $14M ?
9. Genesis Invite $12 million $20 million
(tie) Memorial Tournament $12 million $20 million
(tie) Arnold Palmer Invitational $12 million $20 million
(tie) WGC Dell Match Play $12 million $20 million
13. Zozo Championship $9.95 million ?
14. CJ Cut to the Top $9.75 million ?
15: AT&T Byron Nelson $9.1M ?
16. Wells Fargo Championship $9.0M ?

To note: On June 22, the PGA Tour announced that the opening purse for the Sentry Tournament of Champions will increase from $8.2 million this year to $15 million next year.

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