Golf’s new world order: Breaking down the PGA Tour’s ‘historic’ partnership with the DP World Tour and what it means for fans, players and the LIV Golf series
After months of flirting with the Saudis, DP World Tour chief Keith Pelley has sided with the PGA Tour and extended their ‘strategic alliance’ until 2035. As part of the extended partnership which is designed to counter the threat of LIV Golf, the Americans have increased their share in European Tour Productions from 15% to 40% – thought to be worth around £120 million – and committed to a coordinated global schedule, which will almost certainly lead to more joint events in the future. Prize money will also grow across the board in each of the next five years.
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“This move will significantly enhance the meritocracy that has successfully served the professional game on both sides of the Atlantic for more than 50 years,” says Pelley.
“It is a natural extension and progression of what we have been doing over the past few years and I passionately believe that this move is the right thing for our players, our Tour, our fans, and the game of golf in general.”
Some players stand to benefit more than most. From the start of next year, the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, not otherwise exempt, will win a PGA Tour card for the following season. This has led to fears that the DP World Tour will essentially be acting as a feeder circuit and giving away its best players to the PGA Tour. However, Pelley insists this is not the case.
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“We are not a feeder tour into the PGA Tour,” says Pelley. “We are a vibrant, independent, strong tour with incredible tournaments. There is one component of our new deal, which is a massive component for our players to be able to get access to the PGA Tour, the world’s greatest and largest tour. But it’s one component of it.”
New schedule shakeup to create global series
The PGA Tour is reverting back to a calendar-year schedule with a new format and an offseason global series that sounds remarkably like the LIV Golf “exhibitions” which Monahan has previously mocked. The new-look FedEx Cup season will run from January to August and while it won’t begin until 2024, a revised qualification for the Playoffs will come into effect next year where only 70 players will take part, not the usual 125.
Three international events will also form part of a limited-field, no-cut series in the autumn which will mimic the LIV Golf model by paying out as much as $25 million each time. Those not involved will then compete in an alternative series where they will fight to keep their cards and improve their status for the following season.
“On the PGA Tour, our members compete for the opportunity to add their names to history books, and, yes, significant financial benefits, without having to wrestle with any sort of moral ambiguity,” says Monahan. “And pure competition creates relevancy and context, which is what fans need and expect in order to invest their time in a sport and in a player.
“We have and always will provide a global platform for members to compete against the very best, earn their stardom, and become household names.”
A $54 million powerplay to rival LIV Golf
PGA Tour chief Jay Monahan has unveiled a not-so cunning plan to keep everyone happy at the top and bottom of golf’s wobbling tree – and it involves throwing even more money at them. Another $54 million will be added to the prize pot across eight marquee tournaments from the start of next season to counter the threat of LIV Golf.
The Genesis Invitational, Bay Hill Invitational, World Match Play, Memorial Tournament, the Fed Ex St Jude and the BMW Championship will be bumped to $20 million, while the Players Championship is rising from $20 million to $25 million.
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Rory McIlroy, who is one of four player directors on the PGA Tour Policy Board, claims the elevated events are “important for the future of the Tour” without minimising other events on the schedule.
“Everyone has the same opportunity to make the big events with the big prize funds,” he says. “I think it’ll make it more competitive and make it a more compelling product, honestly. I think it’ll be good.
“I think some of these changes to the schedule and some of these increases in prize funds will have some guys that were thinking about it [leaving] to think twice and maybe reconsider their decision.”
The return of Qualifying School
In response to Greg Norman trying to siphon off top young talent for his Saudi-funded series, the PGA Tour has unveiled plans to widen the path for players to reach its top ranks.
For the first time since 2012, players will be able to head to Q-School next year where the top five (and ties) will win a ticket to the big time. The top 30 finishers on the Korn Ferry Tour will also be awarded a PGA Tour card, up from the current 25.
Zero tolerance for rebels
The PGA Tour have already come down hard on rebel members by suspending them “indefinitely” – and now the DP World Tour have gone one step further by banning players from next week’s Scottish Open and issuing £100,000 fines for those who “wilfully broke rules”.
Ryder Cup veterans Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter are among those who have been punished and warned that further sanctions may follow as a result of playing in this week’s LIV Golf Invitational in Portland, Oregon.
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Pelley has yet to confirm whether Ryder Cup participation is at stake, but Westwood remains defiant and is adamant that his future involvement should not be influenced by his decision to sign up to the LIV Golf Series.
“Why should it be threatened? I’ve been playing Ryder Cup golf since 1997, and the criteria has been to be a member of the European Tour. Now, the criteria for being a member of the European Tour is to play four events. Why should they change that now?
“I’ve been a member of the PGA Tour and still played four events on the European Tour, and why would the European Tour change their rules so dramatically because another tour doesn’t like it or feels financially threatened? There’s just a bit too much protection going on for my liking and not enough transparency.
“I think as long as you fulfill the criteria to be a European Tour member, then you should still have the opportunity to try and qualify for the Ryder Cup team.”
US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson has already confirmed that players who have defected will not be chosen to represent their country next year. But in another twist, Henrik Stenson’s management team has reportedly been in talks with Greg Norman about the Swede jumping ship – a move which would almost certainly see him stripped of the European Ryder Cup captaincy.
There’s a lot for Pelley to sort out and to make matters worse, fan favourite Tommy Fleetwood has also been heavily linked with the Saudi-backed series after his wife and agent, Clare, was spotted at the first LIV Invitational at Centurion Club.
More player announcements are expected to be made after the LIV Golf Invitational this week. The Secret Tour Pro on Twitter has even admitted a top-10 player, which we believe to be Patrick Cantlay, could be swapping a PGA Tour card for a LIV Golf lanyard.