ORLANDO, Fla. — Wealthy golfers are getting wealthier.
No, this is not another story about LIV Golf, which helped many of the sport’s multimillionaires multiply their millions and upgrade their Gulfstream G-4s thanks to the obscene money the Saudi-backed tour guaranteed them.
Instead, it’s about the fallout from LIV Golf and the profound financial benefits that has brought to the PGA Tour and its star players — highlighted by the revelation Wednesday of radical changes to the PGA Tour schedule, beginning in 2024.
Some of the very star players who publicly railed against those who fled the PGA Tour to LIV for the easy money and reduced fields with no 36-hole cuts are now raving about the new schedule the PGA Tour approved on Tuesday.
The new structure includes fields reduced from the current 156, 144 or 128 to between 70 and 78 players in certain new “designated’’ events open to the elite few who are ranked highly enough. Those events also will be played without traditional 36-hole cuts.
That format not only will draw the top players in the game to these “elevated’’ higher-paying events but it also guarantees those stars will play all four rounds. If that sounds familiar, it should because it’s virtually the same concept LIV Golf built into its tour.
If anything, the latest read-and-react move by the PGA Tour to LIV makes you wonder how long it’ll be before the two tours merge so we actually do have the best players in the world competing against each other.
It is, of course, too soon for anything that makes that much sense to take place, because too much acrimony exists between the two sides, especially regarding the ongoing pissing match between LIV’s Greg Norman and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.
“It does seem like the emergence of LIV forced us as players and the executives of the PGA Tour to just look at the product,’’ Max Homa said Wednesday in advance of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. “I don’t think we would be here this soon without LIV, but I would hope at some point we would have looked at this and said, ‘Hey, there might be a better way to do it.’ ’’
Homa, one of the most candid, transparent golfers, said he loves the new changes.
“I could rant on this for a while,” he said, “which I might.’’
And he did.
“It’s easy to frame these changes as a way to put more money in the top players’ pockets,’’ said Homa, who is ranked No. 8 in the world. “I know it’s low-hanging fruit to jump on, ‘Oh, this is just a money grab.’ But it has been made to make it easier and more fun for the fans. It is more opportunity for the top players to battle it out late on Sundays.’’
When Patrick Cantlay, ranked fourth in the world, was asked if he believes thee drastic changes by the PGA Tour would have taken place without the presence of LIV, he said: “In general, if a company or a product doesn’t have competition the incentive to innovate is low. So, now with competition it makes everyone want to look inside to see how they could make their product better, how they could do things better. I think the Tour’s done that.’’
Cantlay called the changes “really exciting,’’ singling out the no-cut decision.
“As it pertains to no cut, the biggest advantage of it is locking in the stars that play those events into four days,” he said.
It’s funny how things go around and come around. It seems only 15 minutes ago when the PGA Tour mocked LIV Golf for its reduced fields and no cuts. And now the PGA Tour is moving the goalposts, shaking up its own tradition-rich product with the same gimmicks.
“I think it makes the Tour more competitive,’’ No. 3-ranked Rory McIlroy said. “It’s trying to get the top guys versus the hot guys, right? I think that creates a really compelling product. At the end of the day, I think with all these designated events and this event schedule, we’re selling a product to people.’’
McIlroy said there has been a “precedent’’ on the PGA Tour for no-cut events, citing a couple of tournaments, including the CJ Cup and the Zozo, neither of which is played in the U.S.
“It keeps the stars there for four days,’’ McIlroy said. “You ask Mastercard or whoever it is to pay $20 million for a golf event, they want to see the stars at the weekend. They want a guarantee that the stars are there. So, if that’s what needs to happen, then that’s what happens.’’
What happens is, the rich get richer. Just as in LIV Golf.