While the focus of attention for months has been the rivalry between the PGA TOUR and LIV Golf, it’s been clear that the PGA TOUR would have to make some major structural changes to head off the steady stream of players accepting offers from the Saudi rivals. As it was announced that LIV players would not be allowed back on the PGA TOUR,a series of changes discussed behind closed doors by top players including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy has been presented to PGA TOUR management, and the changes have been adopted for the 2023 season, according to a press release endorsed by Jay Monahan and Rory McIlroy. .
Here are some of the headline changes.
- OFFICIAL TOP PLAYERS
According to the Tour’s release, for the 2022-23 season “top players” will be defined as: “Players who finish in the top 20 under the current Player Impact Program AND players who finish in the top 20 under the revised PIP criteria.”
- PIP BOOSTED
The Player Impact Program will now take in 20 players instead of 10, with the $50 million PIP money doubling to $100 million (effective immediately, so it will also apply to the 2022 list)
- ELEVATED EVENTS ARE OFFICIAL
Twelve “Elevated Events” with average purses of at least $20 million and featuring the top 20 players have now been defined. They include the three FedEx Cup Playoffs events, The Genesis Invitational, The Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, WGC-Dell Match Play, Sentry Tournament of Champions and four others to be announced.
- TOP PROS TO APPEAR MORE
Under a new event structure, the top PGA TOUR pros will appear at least 20 times. As Rory McIlroy put it, “Sometimes what’s happened on the PGA Tour is we all act independently and we sort of have our own schedules, and that means that we never really get together all that often. I think what came out of the meeting last week and what Jay just was up here announcing is the fact that we’ve all made a commitment to get together more often to make the product more compelling.” This could be the most significant of the proposed structural changes.
- EARNINGS ASSURANCE PROGRAM
All fully-exempt Tour members will get $500,000, either upfront to help with expenses or at the end of the year, minus their earnings. Pros must play 15 events to earn the minimum, effectively replacing the previous “Play15” program which also required 15 events.
Those who aren’t exempt but still have some PGA Tour status will receive a $5,000 stipend every time they play an event and miss the cut.
- TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP STATUS ENHANCED
Playing in the TOUR Championship will now mean a two-season PGA Tour exemption, and will also be exempt into the following year’s Sentry Tournament of Champions. The Sentry TOC will have a full slate of 550 FedEx Cup points, bringing it in to line with Genesis, Bay Hill and Memorial.
- LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP
Lifetime membership previously required 15 seasons of membership and 20 wins. Now only the 20 wins are necessary, though at the moment this only affects Rory McIlroy, who has 21.
A new stadium-style golf event, TGL!, will begin in January 2024. TGL! stands for TMRW Golf League (TMRW standing for Tomorrow and also for TW and RM, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who own TMRW.) There will be 18 players in a league split into six teams who will go head-to-head over the course of 15 Monday nights throughout the season. Intended as a supplement to the PGA TOUR, TGL! will also be a way to bolster the profiles and earnings of top pros without the temptation of LIV Golf.
Asked whether players who had joined LIV Golf would be able to return to the PGA TOUR, Jay Monahan said: “No. They’ve joined the LIV Golf Series and they’ve made that commitment. For most of them, they’ve made multiyear commitments… As I’ve been clear throughout, every player has a choice, and I respect their choice, but they’ve made it. We’ve made ours. We’re going to continue to focus on the things that we control and get stronger and stronger. I think they understand that.”
In response to the changes, LIV Golf’s said: “LIV Golf is clearly the best thing that’s ever happened to help the careers of professional golfers”, and its CEO Greg Norman posted a picture of himself with Jay Monahan on Instagram with the caption: “Jay: ‘Hey can I copy your homework?’ Greg: ‘Sure, just make it look different so it doesn’t look to [sic] obvious.’”
With the focus of attention for months on the rivalry between the PGA TOUR and LIV Golf, it’s not surprising that the PGA TOUR has had to make these major structural changes to head off the steady flow of players accepting offers from its Saudi rivals.