The Round Table: Should LIV golfers pay a penalty to rejoin the PGA Tour?

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.

Two weeks ago, we watched the Arnold Palmer Invitational, an elevated, designated, limited field, no cut, big money Signature event with a field of 69 players. Last week we saw the Players Championship, also with a big purse but a full field and a traditional Friday cut. Both events featured leaderboards full of top players. Most fans seem to like the idea of bigger fields and a cut with the possibility of a Cinderella story. Should the Signature events drop the no-cut idea and let more players into the field? 

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Yes, I think so.  I suppose the limited field, no-cut concept was an attempt to keep the bigger names from bolting to LIV, but I think it diminished the sense of competition that has always been part of the Tour.  I don’t think anyone really benefits from no-cut… except the guys who would’ve been cut anyway.  If they keep on diluting competition, why don’t they just skip the golf and put the players on guaranteed salary?

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): The Tour needs to get back to FULL fields. The best players will still win the majority of events, but from time to time it’s great to see the next rising star (Cinderella) make headlines. That’s just as good for the Tour too. The more you limit those fields, you are reducing opportunities for others to develop and shine.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: This is a mess beyond belief. Suddenly, with no increase in resources until recently, the PGA TOUR can raise purses to $20M. If they had money before, why didn’t the players get it? Signature events are like giving the biggest corporations tax deductions so porous they pay no taxes. The players own the PGA TOUR and 125 of them have playing privileges why do 56% get to work every week? In case nobody has noticed, except for a few events, attendance is dropping. In several Champions Tour events, there weren’t more than 50 people watching on several holes. The PGA TOUR is behind in entertainment value by at least 20 years because they rode a horse called “Tiger”. Compare a day at a PGA event to a night at an NBA game or see what has happened to Professional Darts in the UK.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I still prefer the full field events, which not only forces players to play well to make some money but also gives more fringe players a chance at glory.  So, my answer is yes, bring back a larger field and a cut, it adds more intrigue.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: For the Tour, and the other North American pro sports that unlike golf are actually major sports, it’s all about eyeballs. For golf, it’s all about eyeballs on network TV on Saturday and Sunday afternoon — 3-6 Eastern. Tradtional-sized fields might help pre-tourney PR a bit; it might allow some galleryites on weekdays to have some social interactions with strangers by asking them: who’s that? But, it’s show biz, baby, and it’s a weekend show. The title sponsors might really not like the price of admission, but the networks paying the really big bucks like the idea that Dan Hicks and Co. recognize the names of the leaders, and the strugglers.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Friday cuts and Cinderella stories are compelling but the Tour seems intent on scripting finishes so they can funnel more money to the top players. Small fields with little or no cut remove a lot of the drama and the emergence of new and exciting stars. I’m all for restoring the Signature events to full field tourneys with Friday cuts, the way competitions should be.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan met with the media last week, the first time in seven months. Other than acknowledging that negotiations with respect to the framework agreement are accelerating, he didn’t offer much else. A number of players have openly suggested that Monahan may not be the right person to lead the Tour going forward, yet he recently got another title when he was appointed CEO of PGA Tour Enterprises, the umbrella organization that will oversee the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and maybe LIV Golf. At various stages of the PGA Tour – LIV Golf fight we’ve asked if Monahan is the right man for the job. Based on what has recently transpired and player sentiment, has your view on his continued employment changed?

Deeks: I really don’t know whether Monahan is a quality executive who’s simply been caught in a very difficult situation, or a naive and ineffective guy who’s in way over his head.  Either way, a change in leader might not be a terrible thing for the Tour.  Maybe they should offer the job to Donald Trump… he can fix anything, apparently.

Loughry: My view on Jay hasn’t changed. I don’t see how players on either side can ever fully trust him going forward. And if you don’t have that, then you don’t have much, no matter how business savvy you are or how deep your network is.  I can’t see him in that role long term, another facet of the business maybe, but it’s unlikely he would accept that.

Schurman: No, my view hasn’t changed. You can call it duping his employers or simply lying and this guy is past his Best Before Date.  His recent interview at the Players was a ‘con’ show. What’s wrong with intelligent people? Can’t they see a Flim Flam Man when they see one? Obviously not!

Rule: My view hasn’t changed, I can’t see why he still has his job, although maybe quietly behind the scenes they are close to a breakthrough agreement and without him it wouldn’t happen.  I hope that’s the case, but not holding my breath.  I guess it would be difficult to bring someone new in at this point of the negotiations so maybe they are just waiting for this deal to finalize and then move on.  Who knows.  Again, wake me up when it’s over!

Quinn: The rank and file (the Tour is supposedly a member-driven organization) must have loved that the new-concept Tour’s board decided to head to the Bahamas for a meeting with the Saudi mouthpiece instead of extending an invite to Ponte Vedra. As most players struggling to keep cards and most average folks (if there is such a thing) know, a day trip to Nassau ain’t cheap and gonna melt the VISA card. That obscene and unnecessary and brain-dead site decision aside, little came of the meet and so little has come of Monahan’s recent stewardship (sic). The players, excuse me, the membership and equity holders, have to express their opinion. Unfortunately, it seems they are not privy to enough information to make an informed decision.

Mumford: My view hasn’t changed. As Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it” and Jay Monahan is assuredly to blame for much of the PGA Tour’s problems today. It’s hard to believe that a majority of the players and sponsors, especially those left behind by the Signature Series, aren’t storming PGA Tour headquarters with a replacement Commissioner in tow.

One of the sticking points in most discussions about LIV Golf and determining how to put professional golf back together is how to deal with the players that jumped. Many feel they should pay some sort of penalty to re-join the PGA Tour or DP World Tour, while others are more inclined to put the fracture behind them and get all the best players together again as quickly as possible. How do you see it?

Deeks: If the latter course is chosen (i.e., forgive and forget), then greed, selfishness, lack of loyalty, and lack of respect for history and tradition will be deemed acceptable, if not promoted.  In this Trump era, all previous standards of acceptable behaviour have been thrown by the wayside, so why not here as well?  On the other hand, there are some of us who would say “over my dead body”.  Other than greed, there was no reason for any of those guys to turn their back on the Tour, and I can never forgive them for doing so.

Loughry: Why? Why would those players who left have to pay a financial penalty to get back on the PGA Tour? They’re all “independent contractors” as the Tours have put it (although I see now they are using “members” to describe the nature of the relationship). If those players who left for LIV want to play those other Tours, they simply have to re-qualify (or qualify). That would suffice, just like anyone else on the planet. Now, that may take a year or two to accomplish, but I think that would be “penalty” enough. It might help solve the world ranking system issues, although a small wrench has been thrown into that with recent changes to PGA Tour events (becoming closed no-cut fields). Most PGA Tour events are still full-field stroke play, with cut, so I’d use those with Majors for determining World Rankings.

Schurman: What a great idea! Welcome back, boys! Our ratings are taking a hit. Our purses are up but our sponsors can’t get an ROI, so they are leaving. People aren’t attending tournaments. All the fans say they want us to forgive you and help restore the PGA TOUR’s credibility. Oh, there’s just one little thing or maybe a couple. You will have to start outside the top 125 and earn your way into each event or play your way through Monday qualifying, forfeit 50% of your winnings for 5 years (into the Players Pension Fund), exemptions into Majors are cancelled and will have to be earned all over again and you have to wear a bathing suit with a face mask, flippers and a snorkel for the first year. Now, let’s shake hands and be friends again.

Rule: Well, they were the ones that took the risk, so perhaps they should reap the rewards.  There is so much money being thrown around, I’m sure they can let those guys back without penalty (how many would actually qualify for the PGA Tour anyway?  5?  8?), and then compensate those that were offered deals and turned them down, but to a lesser extent.  I don’t think there’s a right answer, but we just need everyone to play in the same sandbox again.

Quinn: How to assess a penalty for accepting $500 Million (US) — to use one example — that contributed massively to disrupting and potentially destroying a generations-long (however flawed) pinnacle of a game? It’s perhaps like post-war carnage. How to appropriate blame and compensation is a pug’s game. From afar, it seems that the two sides play by different rules and so any compromise will be untenable in vast areas of the game and the world.

Mumford: I’ve never seen this as a loyalty thing. Players, as independent contractors, do what’s best for them and their families. It’s not like they left a secret society with blood oaths and special decoder rings. They just changed Tours, much the way some players left Europe for America. Each tournament on the PGA Tour has criteria for playing and some of those that left have slipped in world rankings and may have to earn their way back. That’s penalty enough.

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

2 thoughts on “The Round Table: Should LIV golfers pay a penalty to rejoin the PGA Tour?

  1. Has there ever been an opportunity for the general public to express their opinion about the LIV tour? I have never seen an opportunity to do so, so I’ll be brief and pass along my opinion now!
    The LIV players….the majority of them are past their prime (whatever that was) are near retirement or are non descript unknowns! 5-6 might be considered to have skills worthy of watching but their personalities deter a desire to follow them!
    54 hole format …everybody wins…that’s exciting??
    Team format….who cares?
    Music blasting away costantly….Oh joy!!
    Huge $’s for prizes…. Don’t like the source……payout ridiculous!!
    Have observed on tv 1-2 times……it appears to me like a shit and giggles show!
    Thanks but no thanks!!!!!!

    1. I agree with you on the LIV format Alan. When it comes to the players though, I have to somewhat disagree. Some are definitely past their prime and some are non-descript as you say but I think Greg Norman was pretty smart when he chose players with big personalities, either negative or positive. Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Bryson DeChambeau, Pat Perez and Brooks Koepka aren’t dull. They’re all a bit edgy or even abrasive. The PGA Tour could use some of that back as the current crop looks pretty tame in comparison.

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