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Facing its most serious existential threat in its existence, the PGA Tour has rolled out a series of major new initiatives and paydays designed to combat the growing threat that the LIV Golf breakaway tour now presents.
LIV Golf, a Saudi-backed golf tour, has taken deep cuts out of the PGA Tour by promising more freedom and, more importantly, more money. Some of the PGA Tour's biggest names — Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia — have jumped to LIV, with the possibility that more defections may lie ahead.
To head off those defections, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on Tuesday announced a number of significant changes designed to help top Tour players take more time off while also getting paid more.
Starting next year, the PGA Tour will return to a calendar-year season, a change from the current "wraparound" calendar, which begins in October. The FedEx Cup playoffs will be cut from 125 players to 70, and players will have the opportunity to play their way into exempt status through six fall events. The Tour will also roll out a global series of three events for the top 50 players in the FedEx Cup standings.
Monahan indicated that the changes were motivated in large part because of the challenge the LIV Tour represents. "We welcome good, healthy competition," he said. "The LIV Saudi Golf League is not that. It's an irrational threat; one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the game."
As if to underscore that threat, the LIV Golf tour announced during Monahan's press conference that Koepka, a four-time major winner, would be jumping to LIV.
"The PGA Tour, an American institution, can't compete with a foreign monarchy that's spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf," Monahan said.
However, the Tour is unlocking more money for eight of its prime tournaments:
The Sentry Tournament of Champions will grow to $15 million.
The Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Dell Match Play, the Memorial Tournament, the FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and the BMW Championship will grow to $20 million.
The Players Championship will increase to $25 million.
In addition, the winner of the FedEx Cup will receive $18 million, and several events will become no-cut events, meaning guaranteed revenue for all players who qualify.
The new calendar means that the Tour will roughly run from January to August, and will not disadvantage players who wish to take some time off. Currently, a new season starts just a few days after the end of the Tour Championship.
The new fall series, a six-tournament event with next-season exemption on the line, will have a level of drama and uncertainty that the current fall season simply doesn't have.
“I fundamentally believe that those tournaments in the fall," Monahan said, "given the importance and significance that an opportunity to be on the PGA Tour means, qualifying for invitationals, retaining your card, I think that moment is going to be, while different than it's been in the past, I think it's going to be very exciting for fans and I think will create great energy in the fall.’’
The changes will take effect for the 2023 season.
Contact Jay Busbee at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.