The tour’s top 20 players will commit to play in at least 20 events, including the four majors and the FedEx Cup playoffs, which PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said will provide competitive fields and a better product.
“With the collective’s best interests in mind, those players came together to strengthen the tour platform, recognizing that when fans start investing in the PGA Tour, it means a lot more when they know the players are investing well. back,” Monahan said at a press conference in Atlanta, the site of this week’s Tour Championship.
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That commitment was partly the result of a players’ meeting held last week, where stars like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy stepped up player support and sought buy-in from the game’s best players, as LIV continues to push their ranks with a lucrative contract offers.
“When I tune in to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, I expect to see Tom Brady throw a football,” McIlroy told reporters on Wednesday. “When I tune in for a Formula 1 race, I expect to see Lewis Hamilton in a car. Sometimes what happened on the PGA Tour is that we all act independently and we kind of have our own schedules. And that means we never get together that often.
“I think what came out of the meeting… we all made a commitment to get together more often, to make the product more attractive,” he continued.
The tour has increased the prize pool to further incentivize players. Starting next season, the tour will take four non-major tournaments to the next level, each with $20 million in prize money, adding approximately $46 million in total available prize money.
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The tour is also expanding its Player Impact Program, a bonus system introduced last year as a way to reward players who help promote the game, and will now reward 20 players instead of 10. The total cash prize will double to $100 million and the top player will pocket $15 million.
The tour has also set a guaranteed minimum of $500,000 per player, money that rookies will receive upfront. Non-exempt players now receive $5,000 for missed cuts and subsidized travel.
A main complaint from some of the stars who have jumped to LIV Golf, including Phil Mickelson, is that the PGA Tour hasn’t done enough to empower and reward players. LIV Golf has hosted three events and signed several of the PGA Tour’s most recognizable names, leading in response to several changes from the PGA Tour.
“As much as I probably don’t want to give credit to Phil, yes, there are certain points he was trying to make, but there is a way to address them,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “There is a way to work together and there is a way: you bring all the top players in the world together and you get them aligned. Then you go to the tour and bring ideas and work together. You know, this is pure collaboration. This is not some sort of renegade group trying to take some kind of power grab out of the PGA Tour.”
“Some of his ideas, did they have merit? Of course they did,” he continued. “But he just didn’t handle it the right way.”
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McIroy also announced a new venture that will bear at least some resemblance to the LIV product, which will feature a team format and target a younger audience. McIlroy and Woods this week launched TMRW Sports, which will partner with the PGA Tour in a series of team competitions to be held on Monday evenings from January 2024. The events will be more like golf simulator competitions than traditional golf, with a promise of 18 holes completed in two hours.
“It’s a great opportunity for PGA Tour players to show a different side of themselves,” McIlroy said. “Prime time on Monday night I think it’s great for brand awareness to try and attract a different audience. We’ve all heard about how old the golf crowd is, trying to get younger eyeballs on it. And I just think it’s going to be a really, really cool concept.”
Published reports suggest as many as seven other players, including British Open winner Cameron Smith, could defect to LIV after this weekend’s Tour Championship, and it remains to be seen if anyone will be affected by the new measures. McIlroy said he contacted Smith two days after the British Open to make sure he was aware of some of the pending changes.
“I’ve always said this, guys can do whatever they want,” McIlroy said. “Boys can make a decision that they think is best for themselves and their family. But I just like guys who make decisions based on all the facts. And sometimes I don’t think some guys made those decisions based on all the facts in front of them.”
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Monahan was asked if LIV players will be allowed to return to the tour and participate in the new measures next season, and he bluntly replied, “No.”
“As I’ve been clear all along, every player has a choice and I respect their choice, but they made it,” he said. “We made ours. We continue to focus on the things we have under control and get stronger and stronger.”
Citing the antitrust lawsuit filed by 11 LIV players against the PGA Tour, Monahan declined to discuss whether LIV players would be welcomed further down the road.