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Sole dissenter to PGA Tour changes airs grievances

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James Hahn was the only member of the PGA Tour Policy Board to vote against the structure changes.

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After the PGA Tour announced wholesale changes to its schedule and structure for next season, even reportedly winning back rising star Cameron Young in the process, James Hahn still doesn’t seem satisfied.

Hahn told Golfweek he cast the only dissenting vote on the changes as a voting member of the PGA Tour board. This is despite saying that it is not fully unhappy with the results.

“We all want the same thing, the best for the Tour, but we have different ideas on how to get there,” he said. “Right now it looks like they’re going for the best players in the world.”

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The Tour announced a new structure for next season ahead of last week’s Tour Championship, where top players, as defined by a revamped Player Impact Program, all committed to a 20-event schedule. . Twelve of those events are the PGA Tour’s “high events,” with prize money between $15 million and $25 million.

It all comes as the PGA Tour takes on rival league LIV Golf, which runs events with $25 million purses and has lured big names such as Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka with guaranteed contracts. LIV Golf is backed by the Saudi Government’s Public Investment Fund.

Hahn, a two-time Tour winner who said he was not approached by LIV Golf, said changes were made to directly compete with LIV Golf, and not necessarily to improve the PGA Tour.

“To keep more players from leaving our Tour, we end up paying the best players in the world guaranteed money which has grown exponentially,” Hahn said. “Three years ago we started implementing this new PIP program, which has grown to $100 million. It seems that the people who have the most influence over the amount of money distributed to the best players in the world have a much stronger voice now than they ever had.

“I understand the reasoning that money is used to keep top players and without them we don’t have a Tour. My question for them is when is that enough? We’ve gone from $50m to $100m. million. When $100 million isn’t enough, will they ask for $200 million? What impact will that have on our business?”

He also said he thought the changes could have happened sooner.

“It’s crazy to think it took a secret meeting between Tiger, Rory and the best players in the world to make such a quick change that could have been made a year or two ago,” Hahn said. “I was talking to Bryson [DeChambeau] before leaving the Tour. That’s what he wanted. He wanted the best players to be in a room and have a conversation about what they bring to the Tour and how can they be compensated for it. Because of the person Bryson is, I don’t think he got the respect of his peers for putting these players together.

Ahead of the BMW Championship in mid-August, 20 of the Tour’s top players, along with Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods, held a players-only meeting to discuss what would eventually become of the changes commissioner Jay Monahan announced last week. . Woods and Rory McIlroy reportedly led the meeting. Hahn was not present.

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Even as a member of the Policy Board as Director of Players, whose term ends early next year, Hahn said it was hypocritical that the Tour now requires players to play 20 events for huge purses, in the same way that LIV will require its contracted players to play 14 events next season.

“It’s interesting to see how things have changed,” he said. “Purchases that increase to $20 million are not enough – [LIV Golfers] needed guaranteed money to give up their freedom. This seems very hypocritical and could cannibalize the rest of the season and make other tournaments feel like second class events. By asking top players to play more and essentially the same schedule, they will end up taking the same week off. Will they play the Honda Classic with its $8 million purse or the $20 million purses that surround it? I’m afraid we’ll end up like the ATP (the professional tennis circuit) where only a handful of events generate real interest. These are some of the things we had to think about before voting. »

The new structure also provides for all exempted players to receive a “league minimum” salary of $500,000, which will be withheld against their earnings. Non-exempt players will also receive a $5,000 allowance when they miss a cut to help cover expenses.

When the original PGA Tour schedule for 2022-23 was released earlier in August, Hahn hyped it up, writing on Twitter how schedule travel requests will cost thousands of dollars and a lot of time.

Hahn didn’t seem to think the new structure was doing enough to take care of fellow pros, like himself who finished 107th in the FedEx Cup standings.

“We’re valuable to the Tour – not as valuable – and we’re trying to find common ground on how much guaranteed money we should pay top players versus distributing the money in purses between the other members,” he said. . “The secret encounter with Tiger and Rory set a precedent that the top 20 players can get what they want from the Tour. So what’s stopping the other 90% of our Tour from coming together and doing exactly the same as Rory and Tiger and saying the top 20 players can go and play their own tournaments but the rest of the Tour we 90% all stick together and want more benefits?

“I feel like some of the $100 million could have gone to making our tour great rather than going into the top 20. It’s the little things that irritate the rest of the members to the point that he there is a lot of animosity between the haves. and the poor.

He told Golfweek he is motivated for the upcoming season because if he plays well the rewards will be more fruitful under the new system. However, if he plays badly, it will be more difficult for him to keep his job.

“Everyone has their heritage – it’s not as good as Rory or Tiger – but I want mine to stay on the PGA Tour,” he said.

Jack Hirs

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is Associate Editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack graduated in 2020 from Penn State University and earned degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and still tries to stay competitive among local amateurs. Prior to joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a media journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather forecast. He can be contacted at jack.hirsh@golf.com.

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