Readers of The First Call share their thoughts on the PGA Tour and LIV Golf can exist amicably ... or not
Question of the Week [June 20-26]: How would you resolve the ongoing PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf situation?
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Speaking with obvious parochialism, I would reinvest much of the focus and, more importantly, the money into women’s golf and at every level. We’ve heard from both sides of the LIV/PGA Tour argument that it is actually about the money, with one specific refrain about players being able to provide for their families. If you can’t do that on the purses of the PGA Tour, then the problem isn’t the money or access to it. Call a new financial planner.
Women’s sports needs more funding across the board certainly, and women’s golf is making fast progress. With big thanks to companies like KPMG, ProMedica, Chevron and AIG at the women’s majors level and Inspirato, PXG and Mizuno at our level. Their huge contributions are getting women’s golf closer with big checks and visible passion.
That said, I’ll contend that the need [for funding] is the greatest at our level. Those aspiring to the LPGA Tour need the funding so they can actually get to those life-changing purses. Our role is to build the connection from junior and college golf to the highest levels of professional golf.
The women playing at the AAA level of professional golf have the skills, determination and passion to get to the LPGA Tour. These aren’t players who won their club championship and think they can handle it out there on the mini tours to get to the LPGA. These are women who have made the physical, mental, emotional and financial commitment to the game since they were 10 years old and actually are good enough given a runway to further develop. What they don’t have are the resources to win the race against time and money. The No. 1 player at our level in 2021 earned $23,000, which means she still lost $30,000. From our recent player survey, 70% of our players have second jobs and the number one reason they have to WD from an event at the last minute (which happens too often) is their boss won’t let them out of work. Imagine a AAA MLB pitcher calling his manager and saying, “Skipper, I can’t make my start tonight because these shirts at the Gap aren’t gonna fold themselves.”
Instead, we’re focused on PGA Tour/LIV players because they need more money to provide for their families? Even on the lowest level of the PGA Tour, players are making high six and even seven figures; their families will be OK. The 150th ranked player on the PGA Tour right now — half way through the season — has banked $491,000. The 150th on the LPGA Tour has banked $11,000. Right now, the PGA Tour No. 100 is at $940,000. LPGA Tour No. 100 is at $56,000 (that’s not a typo). The number one player on the Korn Ferry Tour last year made $560,000 and the No. 1 player on the Epson Tour made $140,000. And, again, the number one player at our level in 2021 made $23,000. That same player on the men’s side cleared $100,000.
One percent of one players’ appearance money from LIV could change the trajectory of tours like ours and provide real money for which our players could compete and truly earn a living — meaning an actual living so they don’t have to sleep in their cars or not play at all because they can’t afford to. The PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program carries a $50,000,000 bonus pool. The winner of that will bank $3.5 million. One percent of that at our level funds 10 $50,000 purses.
I would never say out loud, “let’s back-burner men’s golf until they figure their stuff out," but the women played the Women's PGA Championship this week with a record $9 million purse. Let’s focus on women for the rest of the summer. How about we move their 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. slot to a slot where people might watch? How about the sponsors and the $84 billion golf industry ecosystem take a little hiatus from investing more and more money into funding the next generation of name-any-PGA Tour player’s family, a guy who is already making more money than he can ever spend, and invest it into the actual next generation of LPGA Tour players so the women’s game can thrive and people can watch the exciting talent that is on TV today and help us build the pipeline for tomorrow.
So, how would I resolve the current PGAT/LIVE Golf situation? I’d ignore them. Let them fight it out in private.
I love men’s golf. I’m a fan of the PGA Tour. I’m a sucker for golf history and tradition. But (wink wink), I am grateful to LIV for helping us see how brazenly one-sided the money really flows into golf’s professional ranks. On the morning after the 50th Anniversary of Title IX to be writing still about this kind of disparity is eye opening. Now’s the time to make some changes. I invite your readers to get involved at our level. We get to see the talent and the opportunity every day. We want the world to see it. We just need the support that these women have earned to help get them where they can go.
Mark D. Berman
Operator/Owner, East Coast Women’s Professional Golf Tour & PXG Women’s Match Play Championship
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
I’m wondering if the players signing on [with LIV Golf] have thought about where they will play when they reach the Senior Tour-age in their careers. Will LIV develop a seniors tour for these players or will the PGA Tour allow them to rejoin?
Straight up, I love the PGA Tour. I am glued to it every week.
I am though sick of hearing all the talking heads (TV/radio/print) and the players talk badly about LIV Golf. Golf has not had until now, what other sports have, free agency, and the golfers do not know how to handle it. Other sports have had the ability for players to pick up and move to another team for a while. Shame on the PGA Tour players who bad mouth the new free agents. We all can see the only reason they do so is they are jealous of the money. Other than the money, I do not buy any of the other reasons the PGA Tour players state as to why players should remain on the PGA Tour.
Both tours will be able to sustain. This will only diminish the PGA Tour by how the PGA Tour players and management allow it to.
I think the two tours need to exist independently by their own rules and bylaws. If you sign on with LIV, you play LIV events. If your are a PGA Tour player, you play non- PGA Tour events with proper releases as always. I have no issue with the majors being non-PGA Tour events and keeping their own criteria for qualifying for their events. Everyone has their rules for participation. There’s no doubt that as it stands right now, LIV players will soon be having an issue with World Ranking points to qualify for the majors until that system is adjusted, if they feel they need to.
If you had mutual co-existence between the two tours, you’re looking at the masses potentially taking LIV money and cherry-picking PGA Tour events. That can’t happen and the PGA Tour will make sure of that. To each is own, play what tour you want, and be done with it.
Stop bickering and fighting. Sit down and find out what each side wants. Maybe there's an amicable, reasonable solution. I don't think [LIV Golf CEO Greg] Norman and [PGA Tour Commissioner Jay] Monahan have ever met regarding the situation.
The PGA Tour's LIV Golf issue does not resolve itself until the Saudis lose interest in golf or oil falls in price and the Saudis rethink the absurd economics of this business venture.
The universal bad press negates the sportswashing element to the Saudi’s desire to use golf as a way to legitimacy. As it currently stands, the Saudis could bankroll this project for many years, thus there is little the PGA Tour can do to compete on a financial basis. However, the Tour should stand firm with the ban on players who play in LIV events. With the popularity of golf in North America at an all-time high, the PGA Tour will need to expend its revenue base and get as many of those new dollars into the pockets of its PGA Tour members, thus incentivizing those players to remain with the Tour.
What’s to resolve? The PGA Tour needs to compete against another tour, for the first time in its history, and it is the weaker tour as far as funding. The LIV tour needs to establish and sustain itself against its primary competitor, the DP World Tour, other golf and other sports. As LIV is very well funded, at a minimum it will be around for 3-5 years. Maybe more.
The PGA Tour needs to innovate, two things I would like to see them try:
1. Joint tournaments like the VIC Open in Australia. The VIC sends out foursomes on Thursday-Friday that consist of a men’s pro, women’s pro, male amateur and female amateur playing from different tee boxes and on the same course. The amateurs get to observe how the professionals handle themselves and make shots. The fans get to watch four different golfers approach a hole from their different tee boxes, capabilities and styles of play. A combination of older men and women’s tours would be interesting too.
An annual municipal tournament that invests in the selected muni course. Every year the PGA Tour would hold an open lottery/voting website where people could nominate their favorite municipal and then vote for the winner. The course would be played by the professionals with no improvement of the greens, fairways, tees, bunker, etc. — as is, play it like the average muni player does. Every player would be required to play at least one year in every three-year period. Failing to do so results in a fee of a certain percentage of that player’s last three year’s winnings. After the tournament all funds raised are invested in the course. Grow the game.
The PGA Tour should just move on.
One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four.
Someone please explain to him,
He is such a bore.
(Or maybe he's a boar: the uncastrated male swine — but needs to be castrated.)
Cary, North Carolina
I believe the Saudis will get tired of throwing money at this venture and related negative press quickly. In my opinion the tap will be turned off before the 2023 season commences.
From the PGA Tour prospective, should this go to court, the Tour will lose. The individuals are independent contractors and as such would be free to play where they choose. What could be done is to continue to force pros wishing to remain part of the Tour to play in a minimum number of events annually to maintain their card. I believe this is currently in play. This would have pros playing more, which has been one of the negatives they address. They want to play less, and make more money. Hence the interest in LIV Golf.
By the beginning of the 2025 season this will all be a faded memory. The Shark [Greg Norman, LIV Golf CEO] will sail off into the sunset, Jay [Monahan, PGA Tour commissioner] will be telling sponsors a 10-year agreement for a $100 million investment is a great deal, and Phil [Mickelson] will ... Phil will be Phil.
The Villages, Florida
I would remove their PGA Tour status the moment they play on LIV. If they want to play in a PGA Tour event, they wouldn’t be banned, but they would have to go to the Monday Qualifying. This is purely a cash grab for a few greedy players. Forget the politics, 54-hole events with no qualifying and guaranteed $120K is not real golf. Sad to see these guys have sold their souls for the all mighty dollar.
The answer is simple. The two tours should work together to schedule the events in such a way that it will allow players to play the tournament of their choice.
Working together is always a better solution. The first priority should be giving the fans a great experience.
I think the PGA Tour should allow each player two releases per year to play in LIV Golf events. This would give players a chance to grab some LIV money and limit the number of PGA Tour players who could play on LIV each year.
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