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PGA Tour makes changes designed to ward off LIV golf threat

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan outlined a number of changes to the PGA Tour. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan on Wednesday outlined a number of changes to the tour’s schedule, its season-ending playoffs and the prize money awarded at its high-level tournaments. The changes were initiated in response to the growing threat posed by the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational Series, which has siphoned off a number of marquee golfers thanks to promises of guaranteed prize money and a lighter schedule.

“We are moving forward with significant changes to our schedule in future years, which will allow us to generate incremental revenue for the membership, further strengthen the FedEx Cup, and create a strong, coordinated global schedule — ultimately offering a more compelling product for our players, fans and partners,” Monahan said in a memo released to players Wednesday.

The PGA Tour will move to a calendar-year schedule — with its main season running from January to August — from one that goes from mid-September to late August and culminates with the three-tournament FedEx Cup playoffs. That season-ending competition will not change under the new schedule, though field sizes for the first two playoff tournaments will shrink.

Under the current format, the top 125 players on the FedEx Cup points list qualify for the playoffs and secure their tour cards for the next season; under the new format, only the top 70 will qualify for the playoffs and secure the following season’s playing privileges. Likewise, the field size for the second playoff tournament will shrink from the 70 to 50. The top 30 golfers on the points list after that tournament advance to the season-ending Tour Championship, as is the case under the current format.

Under the new format, the fall schedule will consist of two types of tournaments: three domestic events for players who do not qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs and are looking to secure their playing privileges for the next season, and up to three international events with limited fields, no cuts and guaranteed prize money. Those smaller tournaments will consist of the top 50 players from the final FedEx Cup points standings and the top performers at the domestic fall tournaments.

While the PGA Tour will move to a calendar-year schedule starting in 2024, the first events of its new fall series will take place in 2023 and offer stronger fields than the current fall tournaments, which are routinely skipped by the sport’s top players.

While field sizes for the first two FedEx Cup playoff tournaments will shrink, their purses will grow by $5 million each, from $15 million to $20 million. Monahan’s memo also outlined purse increases at six other marquee events: Tournament of Champions ($8.2 million in 2022 to $15 million), Genesis Invitational ($12 million to $20 million), Arnold Palmer Invitational ($12 million to $20 million), Players Championship ($20 million to $25 million), WGC Match Play ($12 million to $20 million) and the Memorial ($12 million to $20 million).

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The Saudi-funded LIV Golf reportedly has paid players such as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Abraham Ancer, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed hundreds of millions of dollars simply to join the new league, which offers a lighter schedule; shorter, cut-free tournaments; and guaranteed prize money. In response, the PGA Tour announced this month that any players who join the new circuit will have their tour privileges revoked.

Among the players who have defected to the LIV tour is four-time major champion Brooks Koepka. News of his impending departure broke Tuesday, but LIV waited until minutes after Monahan’s news conference had begun Wednesday to make it official.

“I’m disappointed that Brooks Koepka has left and joined the LIV Golf series,” Monahan said when told by reporters of LIV’s Koepka announcement. “I hope to have a conversation with him about that.”

Koepka previously had denigrated the idea of a rival golf league, saying in 2020 that “I’m happy with how things are,” that “the PGA Tour is run beautifully” and that he planned “on playing the PGA Tour for the rest of my life.” On Wednesday, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy said those past comments made Koepka’s departure extra galling.

“But am I surprised? Yes, because of what he said previously,” McIlroy said ahead of this week’s Travelers Championship. “I think that’s why I’m surprised at a lot of these guys — because they say one thing and then they do another. … I don’t understand that, and I don’t know if that’s for legal reasons or if they can’t — I have no idea. But it’s pretty duplicitous on their part to say one thing and then do another thing.”

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