Beef: “It’s no wonder viewers are switching off. Golf has got to stop handing out crazy money”

As TV audiences continue to dwindle, Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston blames golf’s obsession with making the ‘rich richer’ and questions whether a divided sport can ever provide the drama fans once craved.

I’m starting to wonder how the PGA Tour differs from LIV Golf. I remember when LIV arrived on the scene and Jay Monahan said his Tour prided itself on being a meritocracy with clear paths for the players and them rewarded for their performances.

Fast forward to today and we’ve got the Player Equity Program handing out huge sums to players because they stayed loyal. $100m for Tiger, $50m for Rory, $30m each for Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Basically, it’s the PGA Tour saying, “Here’s a shit load of money from us for not taking a shit load of money from them.” It’s madness, man. Everything has just become about rewarding the top end of the game and it’s come about because of the divide. It is so damaging for our sport.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are set to pocket a share of $750 million.

When I go onto social media on a Sunday or Monday, my feed is filled with a million posts about how much a player won and links to articles breaking down the money each player has received. Talking to TG before I wrote this column, they tell me that prize money breakdowns and articles are consistently the most read news pages. Everyone I chat to about golf, money comes up before player performance. It’s not wholesome. The divide in golf is turning people off. You know things are heading the wrong way when viewing figures are down for The Masters – a Masters that saw everyone back together, Tiger playing, a great leaderboard, and the most dominant player in the game winning again.

The game has become top-heavy and defensive. It’s like football – a player has a good season for his club or there’s a threat of him leaving and he’s rewarded with this enormous contract to push his value up or to keep him at the club.

Another week, another win, and another jacket for Scottie Scheffler.

I don’t blame the players – they have no control over the funds. But I’m struggling to see how the PGA Tour’s equity scheme, or the ridiculous Player Impact Programme is any different from LIV paying their players huge sums of money. Even the tournaments are becoming similar. The Signature Events are limited field, no-cut events with these enormous purses. Sound familiar? The PGA Tour claimed they took away the cut to guarantee the big names would be there for the whole tournament but that’s bullsh*t. How often does Rory miss a cut anyway? It’s all about money and the sponsors, not the fans.

I read a post that said if Tiger’s incredible 2000 season, where he earned $10.7m on the course, happened this year, he’d have won more than $90m. So far this season Wyndham Clark has earned more than $9m. We’re in May and he’s won once.

Tiger Woods won The Open at St Andrews in 2000 and 2005.

People often ask me if I think about the prize money when I’m on the course. Hand on heart, when I won the Spanish Open in 2016, the thought never crossed my mind. It’s by far the biggest cheque I’ve ever won and when I sat down afterwards, this lad who grew up in working-class north London, it blew my mind. But when I was standing on the 15th tee, looking at the leaderboard, and trying to get that first DP World Tour win all I cared about was the trophy, the Race to Dubai points, and a place in the Majors.

The only time money might ever sneak into my thoughts on the course is if I’m out of contention on a Sunday. You aren’t going to achieve your goal of winning the tournament, but you know a low round or a good run of holes could push you up the leaderboard and earn you an extra few quid. Even then, though, that’s more about leaving a tournament on a high and gaining ranking points more than it is about money.

But now, with these insanely huge purses up for grabs, it must be impossible for it not to be on players’ minds, especially if they aren’t one of the big names. And then the money almost becomes the story and an added pressure – commentators love telling us what a putt is worth or how much a miss has cost someone.

Andrew 'Beef' Johnston won the 2016 Spanish Open.

But the drama should be around the putt costing someone a title, or their first top-10, or even a place in the field for the weekend! That’s another reason I can’t stand these no-cut events. The cut is brutal and a key part of golf. Take it away and you remove incredible drama. When it gets to late on a Friday and someone goes birdie-birdie to sneak inside the line, or someone has a bad couple of holes and drops out, that’s what people want to see, otherwise we’re effectively all waiting for Sunday before there’s any true edge-of-the-seat stuff.

That’s also when the money is relevant. For some people, making the weekend pays their costs for that week and then a good Saturday or Sunday can make a real difference to their seasons and lives. The game has become obsessed with making the rich richer rather than focusing on everyone and, most importantly, ensuring the fans are getting the best product. Don’t get me wrong, the very best players in the world deserve everything they get. It should be our goal to make it into that group of players. It’s a huge incentive, but golf has a wider responsibility than just looking after a select few.

Before the divide, I felt golf was the strongest it had ever been. The fields were insane – so deep – and the standard of golf was just mind-blowing. The split is hurting golf across the board. The Players, Bay Hill, Memorial – all these events deserve the strongest fields. But as long as the friction remains, and we don’t find a conclusion the casual golf fan will keep switching off.


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About the Author

Andrew 'Beef' Johnston is a professional golfer who plays on the DP World Tour, host of Beef's Golf Club, and contributor to Today's Golfer.

Andrew Johnston – Professional Golfer and Podcaster

Andrew Johnston, better known as Beef, is a professional golfer on the DP World Tour who has also played on the PGA Tour and in three of the four men’s Majors.

The Englishman, who won the Real Club Valderrama Open de España in 2016, has his own YouTube channel and is the owner and co-host of the hit Beef’s Golf Club podcast alongside fellow Today’s Golfer contributor John Robins. He has also tried his hand in the commentary booth and in front of the cameras at both The Open and the Ryder Cup.

A huge fan favorite, Beef is a Cobra Puma player and is coached by Jamie Gough. Away from golf, he is a huge Arsenal FC fan and lives in Portugal with his wife Jodie and daughter Harley.

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