The Round Table: a two-tiered Tour, a failed Alliance and Monday Night Golf

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced sweeping changes to the Tour’s format with increased prize money at up to 20 “elevated” events, commitments to play those events from the top 20 players and an annual stipend for those farther down the pecking order, all to combat LIV Golf. What’s your reaction to Monahan’s latest moves?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): It’s a little like accepting a new job for higher pay, then your current employer says, “Stay.  We’ll match their offer.”  Fine, but why weren’t you paying me that in the first place, if I’m so valuable? That said, I think the Tour has to do what it has to do to keep others from leaving for LIV.  So, good move, Monahan.   But my other question is, where does all this new money come from anyway?  Has it been hiding in a Scrooge McDuck vault in Ponte Vedra all this time?   Finally, for the public, it’s all a big “meh”… nobody cares about prize money anymore, except the players.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: The players can thank Greg Norman who proposed this identical format in 1994 and exactly the outcome the PGA TOUR fears the most is the one they will have. With 20 high-profile, lucrative events the “Second Tier” tournaments will either draw weaker fields or disappear. We experienced some of this when the TOUR increased purses a few years ago and reorganized the schedule by playing the PGA in the spring. Some very long-tenured tournaments are now gone and others like the Canadian Open do attract one or two stars but not a large number of top 25 players. One really underappreciated innovation is the $500,000. minimum pay-out to all within the top 125. They should be paid! They are part of the ‘show’ and have expenses.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Well, it seems like LIV has forced the Tour to make a quick decision to avoid losing any more of their top players, and ironically, they chose to follow a similar format to what LIV is offering.  I don’t mind that decision, but it’s terrible for those struggling pros trying to make a career playing professional golf, and that’s who is going to feel this the most, in a negative way.  There will be less money for feeder tours and those outside of the top 40 in the world.  So, while it was a decision the Tour had to make in a timely fashion, it’s nowhere near the perfect solution.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: As mentioned earlier, the question the Tour boys must be asking is “where the h#$& did this bundle of money come from?” It’s not like Ponte Vedra just signed a new Tiger-esque TV deal. For instance, that awful PIP thing just got an extra $50 M. From which secret vault? This knee-jerk handing out millions to the guys already making millions is a sickening side effect of LIV.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): This apparently is what Phil Mickelson called for back in the Spring, but nobody wanted to listen then. No idea where all the new cash is coming from but it’s obscene and is really only available to top players. Monahan has created a two-tiered structure – top players and others, elite events and others, insiders and others. Pity the tournaments that fall in the cracks between elite must-play events. As it stands, the RBC Canadian Open is one of those – caught between the Memorial and the U.S. Open. Are we back to fields with no top players?

Monahan’s announcement seems to have left the DP World Tour out in the cold. As the PGA Tour’s partner in the so-called “strategic alliance”, there’s not much in this for the DP World Tour. In fact, the strategic alliance plans to cream off the Top 10 DP World Tour players each year by offering them PGA Tour cards. It’s a strange alliance where one partner continually gets stronger at the expense of the other. Does Commissioner Keith Pelley have a better alternative?

Deeks: Knowing Keith Pelley, he probably has a better alternative for himself… i.e., get out while the getting’s good. (Exec VP of Bell Media, anyone?).  What we may see coming out of all this, is a larger exodus of DP World Tour players going to LIV, which won’t help LIV all that much, but may debilitate the DP.  And that, in my view, would be a great shame for European golf fans.  If Mohammed bin Salman’s objective is indeed to disrupt, he’s doing a good job of it.

Schurman: Keith Pelly should align the DP World Tour with the LIV Tour. I have had business partners who placed their own interests above the partnership. Business is difficult enough without constantly wondering how your partner is going to take advantage of you.

Rule: Keith Pelley has done some great stuff for the DP World Tour since he took over, but it looks like he’s painted himself into a corner with this partnership.  It looks more and more like the DP World Tour will act as a feeder tour to the PGA Tour, which is unfortunate.  But does he have a better alternative at this point in time?  I can’t think of one.

Quinn: The ink was barely dry on the new co-operative pact between the two tours before it got blowed up real good. Looks like the DP and all the Tour events not on the ‘elevated’ top 20 list are the first real victims (alongside honesty and integrity and morality) of the Saudi assault. Not much Pelley can do but hang around the back door, cap in hand.

Mumford: Immediately open all DP World Tour events to all LIV Golfers who will add prestige to fields and also earn World Ranking Points. Make a deal with Greg Norman, make a deal with the Asian Tour, strengthen everything outside the PGA Tour’s reach. It’s the only way to combat a bully. The Strategic Alliance is a marriage between an elephant and an ant and Pelley needs a divorce.

Last week, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy announced a new venture in which teams of professional golfers would play matches against one another in an arena using digital screens. It’s simulator golf on steroids with fans, a real short game complex and a Monday night TV slot, all slated to kick off in 2024. Are you likely to watch?

Deeks: Yes, I’ll definitely watch if I’m having trouble sleeping.

Schurman: Of course, I will try it! I’m not much of a gamer but I do turn over every stone even if it is just to see what’s on the other side.

Rule: Call me old fashioned, but it sounds terrible to me.  I don’t like exhibition golf, and this is the ultimate silly season type of format.  So count me out.

Quinn: They’ll have to start after the NFL season because the NFL owns Monday night. They must think there is a demographic out there that will watch grown men play video games, but the generation of golfers that made the Tour what it is — the one that has the disposable income the advertisers crave — has little or no interest in the flashing lights and what will doubtless be forced humour and feigned competition. Will watch the first ‘show’ for a few minutes to check out the technology. That should do it.

Mumford: Methinks I’m not the demographic they’re after. I like real golf on real courses without music, bright lights and contrived scoring. If that makes me an analog dinosaur in a digital world, I can live with that. And happy to live without this new Monday night golf thing too.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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