Have golf’s two biggest tours done enough to keep their golfers happy? Billy Horschel had a lot to say when asked this question during his media duties at the DP World Tour Championship. We will come to his answer in just a minute.
The question asked refers to all the various start-up golf leagues in recent years hoping to rival the PGA Tour, the latest being LIV Golf Investments, the Saudi-backed group that intends to launch its super league of golf next year, headed by CEO Greg Norman.
These leagues are offering more money to the stars of the sport for participating in fewer events. The threat they pose to the PGA Tour is, in essence, the reason for creating the Player Impact Program, which now pays out $40 million spread between ten of its top players annually. The European Tour has also responded to ensure its top stars stay where they are, announcing last week it is rebranding to the DP World Tour and doubling the prize fund in 2022 to $200 million.
So now we have recapped the background, let’s go back to the question asked to Horschel. Have they, and are the two big Tours doing enough to keep their stars happy? In short, he feels the commissioners of both Tours are doing a good job, and he feels it’s impossible to please everyone. He also has some suggestions of his own on how things could be improved.
“If I give you my opinion, what I think should be done, I think we need to look at the Tour as what’s going to be sustainable in 25 years, and that’s what the Tour needs to do, and not so much worry about the Saudis or the PGL. They need to do what’s best for the PGA Tour,” Horschel said. “And I think, in my mind, I think we should make the Tour more competitive. And what I mean by that is maybe instead of giving out 125 cards every year, we cut it down to 100. And if we cut down the Korn Ferry cards from 50 to 30, you’ve got roughly 150 guys now, you make the field 120 maybe, now you’re getting players, the better players week in and week out. Guys aren’t sort of just happy finishing 90th on the PGA Tour every year and collecting a million-plus dollars and that they’re actually striving to be the best players on the PGA Tour.
“I think if we would change the way the money pays out where the top 30, 40 guys get paid a lot of money and then you don’t get paid as much down below, so it really pushes guys to really do everything they can to be the best player that they can be,” he went on to say. “By doing that, I think that takes care of any other Tour that comes competing against the PGA Tour or the European Tour. Like I said, I think we’re doing great stuff, but I think we need to make sure that we’re looking at all scenarios before we make an ultimate decision of the path forward.”
34-year-old Horschel has had nine consecutive finishes in the top 70 in the FedEx Cup, including four top 20 finishes. He finished first in 2014 and walked away with the lucrative $10 million bonus.
Horschel is one of the Tours Player Advisory Council members and elaborated on his initial comments later in the press conference.
“I’m not the only one that thinks this way. I may be the only one of the few that really isn’t afraid to state maybe a little bit of the obvious or maybe my opinion a little bit more strongly,” he said. “I think what makes our sport so great is that we earn what we make. And if we play bad; we don’t make any money. If we play bad for an extended amount of time, we’re not going to make a lot money with our sponsors off the golf course.
“I mean, I could sit up on my soapbox all day and talk about this, but I feel like society in a whole, everyone is looking for handouts, instead of go work for it, go really bust your butt and do something. Yes, do people always get the fair shake of it? No. But I grew up blue-collar. My parents — there’s times only one of my parents had a job for extended months at a time. Neither of my parents have college degrees. One thing they instilled in us is treat people equally. Doesn’t matter who you are, what background, what race you are, what ethnicity you are; you treat people equally, and you work hard. You do the right things. You work hard, and hopefully, that all pays off in the end. And I’ve been fortunate I’ve had the right shake come my way here and there.
“I think if we look at it on a professional level of golf, and I’m not trying to harp on or knock any other players that are struggling making money or maybe not feeling like they’re getting enough of the fair shake. But I know how hard I work. I know how many hours I put in on a daily basis. I know all the sacrifices I’m making to be a great player, to try to be the best player I can be in my lifetime or my career. And when I hear other players say, well, we should get more of the money, or you guys need to look at taking care of the lower guys, are those guys doing the same thing I’m doing to be the best player they are? If they’re not, why should they get a handout just because they’re not playing as top golf as some other players?
Horschel has earned over $38 million in his PGA Tour career, including his $10 million bonus in 2014 and has six victories on Tour with only one career top ten in the 32 majors he has competed.