On eve of Travelers, Monahan makes case for "healthy competition" of PGA Tour | Sports

On eve of Travelers, Monahan makes case for “healthy competition” of PGA Tour | Sports

CROMWELL — The latest salvo in the ongoing and hostile feud between the PGA Tour and the rival LIV Golf Invitational Series occurred during Jay Monahan’s news conference Wednesday at the Travelers Championship.

Six minutes into the PGA Tour commissioner’s press conference outlining the organization’s plan to increase purses and revamp its schedule, LIV Golf announced in a news release that four-time major champion Brooks Koepka had joined the new circuit being bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Unaware that Koepka’s decision to defect to the rival league had become official, Monahan said that he spoke to Koepka on Monday and that he’s “been a wonderful and tremendous PGA Tour player, and I hope that continues.”

When told that LIV had announced Koepka’s move, Monahan said that he was “disappointed” but looked forward to having a conversation with him.

The commissioner also pushed back against the Greg Norman-led LIV series, calling it a “foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.”

“We welcome good healthy competition,” Monahan said. “But the LIV Saudi golf league is not that. It’s an irrational threat that’s not concerned with a return on investment or true growth of the game.”

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers late Tuesday and will play in the first LIV event in the United States next week in Portland, Oregon.

Monahan has already suspended 17 PGA Tour players for competing in the first LIV event in London without a release and he has said that any player who tees it up in the league’s future events will receive the same punishment.

“When someone attempts to buy the sport, dismantle the entity institutions that are intrinsically invested in its growth, and focus only on a personal priority, that partnership evaporates, and instead we end up with one person, one, using endless amounts of money to direct employees, not members or partners, toward their personal goal,” Monahan said.

Koepka and Abraham Ancer, who was announced on Tuesday, join six other top 50 players — Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Bryson DeChambeau, Kevin Na, Patrick Reed and Talor Gooch — who have already made the jump to the LIV Tour.

“Koepka leaving the (PGA Tour), was definitely a surprise for me,” World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler said Wednesday. “I was at a function with him last week and definitely wasn’t what he had in mind. We were focused on building the PGA Tour and getting the guys that are staying here together and kind of just having talks and figuring out how we can help benefit the Tour. So, to see Brooks leave was definitely a surprise for us.

“With that being said, he’s made his decision. I’m not going to knock him for doing that. He made the decision that’s best for him and I’m not going to be one to judge him on that.”

The tour’s future plan, which was sent to players in a memo prior to the commissioner’s press conference, includes $54 million in purse increases for eight existing tournaments: the Sentry Tournament of Champions (from $8.2 million to $15 million), Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Memorial Tournament ($12 million to $20 million), Players Championship ($20 million to $25 million), FedEx St. Jude Championship and BMW Championship ($15 million to $20 million).

There will be a new FedExCup playoff structure beginning in 2023, with the top 70 players qualifying for the first event, the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the top 50 for the second event, the BMW Championship, and the top 30 for the finale, the Tour Championship, in Atlanta. Previously, the top 125 qualified for the first event, 70 in the second and 30 in the third.

Only the top 70 on the points list will be fully exempt for the next season, including the invitationals with increased purses. Those who finish outside the top 50 can play in fall events to earn a spot in the invitationals or remain in the top 125 to keep their tour cards.

The tour is reverting back to a calendar-year schedule, with the 2024 FedEx Cup season taking place from January to August.

Three international events will be held at the end of the 2024 fall season. They will include the top 50 from the final FedExCup points list and will not have cuts.

“I think having the FedExCup season go to a calendar year, like January to August, I think that would be a pretty good idea,” world No. 2 Rory McIlroy said Wednesday. “So then it gives guys the opportunity to play if they want to play in the fall or if they don’t want to play in the fall they don’t have to, they’re not forced to. It’s not going to make a difference in any way.”

Monahan understands that reducing the size of the FedEx Cup playoff fields will adversely affect a number of tour players. But he feels those decisions are vital for the future success of the tour.

“Ultimately, they have got an opportunity to continue to come back the following year by playing into the fall in events that we think are going to be very consequential, very meaningful, and very exciting,” Monahan said. “So to say that everybody supports this would be an exaggeration, but it’s the right move for the business and ultimately it’s the right move for our players and fans, and that’s something I look forward to proving in the years ahead.”