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Grand Plans & Big Money in Golf’s World Stage

Grand Plans & Big Money in Golf's World Stage

Eye Catching Changes

The changes quickly paid dividends for the PGA TOUR. Through the year’s first seven events (excluding the Masters), CBS broadcasts averaged 2.42 million viewers, up 3 percent compared to the same point in 2022. The final round of the elevated RBC Heritage was the most-watched final round of the season at that point, excluding the Masters, with 4.152 million viewers on CBS.

Average weekly digital visits on PGATOUR.com were up 8 percent in Q1 compared to 2022, while the number of Tour app downloads on iOS in Q1 were up 60 percent compared to last year.

“I love the new changes,” Max Homa said ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “The product is important. … This is to make it better for the fans. It is a guarantee on who will be at events and leaning more on the more there.”

The Reality

But not only was the PGA TOUR hemorrhaging money in an effort to keep pace in the cash arms race against LIV, it was embroiled in a costly legal battle against its wealthy rivals, spending nearly $50 million in the process.

Knowing their well would dry up long before the bottomless pit that the PIF-backed LIV could draw from, the PGA TOUR eventually conceded, announcing a newly formed commercial entity to “unify golf” consisting of the PGA TOUR, DP World Tour and PIF.

The announcement left many stunned, including PGA TOUR loyalists, with the news only being trumped by Lionel Messi’s major move to Inter Miami CF of Major League Soccer garnering more headlines and reactions.

“I think the general feeling is that a lot of people feel a bit of betrayal from [TOUR] management,” Jon Rahm told reporters ahead of the 123rd U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. “I understand why they had to keep it so secret. I understand we couldn’t make it through a PAC [Player Advisory Council]

meeting with more than 10 minutes after people spilling the beans right away in some article by you guys already being out there. So, I get it. I get the secrecy.”

Collin Morikawa, a two-time major winner, was just as baffled.

“I think for a lot of different parties there’s a lot of different reasons of why it’s happening,’’ he said. “We all want to know the ‘why.’ Like what’s the purpose behind it?”

The Future?

While players are still seeking answers to a laundry list of questions, PGA TOUR policy board member Jimmy Dunne told ESPN that TOUR loyalists would receive equity in the new for-profit company based on a yet-to-be determined formula, while those who left for LIV wouldn’t receive those shares; no harm no foul since they already got paid handsomely before their colleagues.

According to reports, PIF’s cash infusion in the yet-to-be-named joint commercial venture will be calculated as “the difference between the value of its LIV stake and the total value of the golf enterprise,” and while it is not finalized, “can be greater or less than $3 billion depending on the value of the overall transaction.”

That may be approximately double what the PGA TOUR is currently valued at, as a $1.5 billion business earning the majority of its revenue from tournament revenue ($660 million), domestic and global media rights ($634 million), Tournament Players Clubs ($142 million), corporate licensing ($65 million), and investments ($21 million). The DP Tour reportedly generates about $144 million across its 39 tournaments.

While there are still so many uncertainties and details to be determined and announced, including the name of the new entity, schedule, prize money and bonuses, eligibility and more, one thing is for certain: money talks, and wins.

“We cannot compete with a foreign government with unlimited money,” PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan told The Wall Street Journal. “This was the time. … We waited to be in the strongest possible position to get this deal in place.”

This was first published in Essential Golf – you can read the complete magazine here.

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