The PGA Tour has unveiled a series of major changes to its structure, scheduling and prize funds in what is being seen as a reaction to the threat posed by the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series.Speaking at a press conference held on the eve of the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship, PGA Tour Comissioner Jay Monahan outlined significant changes to the current set up, with the first being that the Tour will be returning to a calendar-year schedule from the beginning of 2024, thus bringing an end to the ‘wrap-around’ schedule that ended in September and started up again in October.
The new schedule will run from January through to August, with only the top 70 players qualifying for the first event of the FedEx Cup PlayOffs, the FedEx St Jude Invitational, down from the 125 that have reached the first of three play-off events in recent years. The top 50 will then qualify for the BMW Championship, with the top 30 going forward to the Tour Championship.
The top 50 finishers in the FedEx Cup will also qualify for a three-event, no-cut international series to be played in the autumn, while the rest of the players will play in domestic events to preserve their status for the following season among the top 125.
Other notable changes include prize funds for eight events being significantly increased from 2023. These are the Sentry Tournament of Champions ($15m, up from $8.2m in 2022); Genesis Invitational ($20m, up from $12m); Arnold Palmer Invitational ($20m, up from $12m); Players Championship ($25m, up from $20m); WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play ($20m, up from $12m); Memorial Tournament ($20 m, up from $12m); FedEx St Jude Championship, the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs ($20m, up from $15m); and the BMW Championship, the second event of the playoffs ($20m, up from $15m).
Monahan said that prize fund increases, some of which have almost been doubled, will be funded by sponsor support and supplemented in the short-term by the tour’s own income.
It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to understand that these moves are a direct response to LIV Golf, whose Invitational Series has tempted a growing number of PGA Tour players attracted by the offer of signing-on fees, guaranteed prize money and fewer events.
“We welcome good, healthy competition,” Monahan said at the press conference. “The LIV Saudi golf league [sic] is not that. It’s an irrational threat; one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the game. When someone attempts to buy the sport, dismantle the 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 entity, using endless amounts of money to direct employees, not members or partners, toward their personal goal, which may or may not change tomorrow or the next day.”
“We don’t expect to overcome this current challenge by relying on our legacy and track record alone,” Monahan added. “We’ve been on a path for a number of years to strengthen and evolve our product for the benefit of our fans and players alike. Those plans are obviously accelerated in light of the current environment.”
“This is a significant change, and it affects every member of the PGA Tour,” Monahan said. “And I think when people start to think about the changes that we made, they’ll realize that creating a tighter schedule for our players and our fans, FedExCup schedule January through August, and having that consequence at the end of the year actually elevates and lifts every single event within the FedExCup schedule, is good for every single member out here.”