Jordan Spieth, in light of a host of changes to the PGA Tour’s schedule and how it pays its players, was asked whether the announcements would have come without LIV Golf, the controversial, Saudi-backed series. He admitted it was an impetus.
“Well, I think certainly it’s impossible to not think that that was a catalyst for continuing to want to make sure that our — the players that we have on the PGA Tour now stay on the PGA Tour,” Spieth said Wednesday.
“Would this have gone that direction this soon? Maybe not, but to say that it wouldn’t have happened in general, I’m not sure. But I think that that certainly has been a catalyst for looking at the product as a whole and figuring out how to make it the best it can possibly be and maximize the strength of fields at the biggest events.”
LIV Golf itself, in a one-sentence statement, wasn’t too far off from Spieth in its reaction to the moves. Greg Norman, its CEO, meanwhile, communicated through a meme and a tweet.
After revealing a series of schedule and money moves in June designed to combat upstart LIV, the PGA Tour unveiled more on Wednesday ahead of the Tour Championship. Among the changes, announced by commissioner Jay Monahan, the Tour said that 20 players will be defined as “top players” starting next year; the device in which it does, the Player Impact Program, will receive a purse bump to reward those players; four more tournaments, in addition to eight announced in June, will be tabbed as “elevated events” with $20 million purses; the 20 players will play in those events, the Players Championship, the majors and three other events; all fully exempt players will start the season with a $500,000 stipend; and players will receive a $5,000 travel stipend.
And LIV Golf’s reaction to it all?
“LIV Golf is clearly the best thing that’s ever happened to help the careers of professional golfers,” read the statement, released to various outlets.
Norman gave his thoughts over social media. On Instagram, he shared an edited photo of him and Monahan. Above it were the words: “Jay: ‘Hey can I copy your homework?’ Greg: ‘Sure, just make it look different so it doesn’t look to [sic] obvious,’” and below that, Norman wrote: “A day late and a dollar short. @pgamemes.” On Twitter, Norman quote-tweeted a tweet that shared a picture of the PGA Tour’s changes and wrote: “Working within the ecosystem :-),” a phrase that’s been used occasionally in the PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf fight.
The Instagram post was liked by LIV golfers Bryson DeChambeau, Lee Westwood, Charles Howell III and Bernd Weisberger. Westwood, in an interview with Golf Digest, expanded on his feelings on the PGA Tour-LIV fight, saying this of the Tour’s changes: “I laugh at what the PGA Tour players have come up with. It’s just a copy of what LIV is doing. There are a lot of hypocrites out there. They all say LIV is ‘not competitive.’ They all point at the no-cut aspect of LIV and the short fields. Now, funnily enough, they are proposing 20 events that look a lot like LIV. Hopefully, at some point they will all choke on their words. And hopefully, they will be held to account as we were in the early days.”
Of course, you can safely assume the LIV Golf response will be greater next week, when it plays its fourth event, just outside of Boston, while the PGA Tour does not play. Various outlets have also reported that LIV will announce upward of seven player signings, including world No. 2 Cameron Smith, who twice has neither confirmed nor denied his involvement with LIV.
The question of whether the PGA Tour was ‘copying’ the LIV model was also asked during Spieth’s press conference on Wednesday.
Spieth was the last player or official to talk ahead of the Tour Championship, and he followed Rory McIlroy, who, in partnership with Tiger Woods and the PGA Tour, had unveiled a tech-driven, stadium-hosted series that will begin in 2024 — and feature teams. Teams, you may know, is a key part of LIV, as is guaranteed money and larger purses, along with three-day, 54-hole, no-cut events.
This was Spieth’s answer:
“I think that I still see a lot of differences, don’t you? It’s 72 holes …” Spieth began.
“I think that in general in sports it makes sense to try and get — the more players in any sport that people want to watch, if you can get them playing at the same time in competition, it makes sense. I think the majors have the highest ratings with The Players Championship, and then from there, it drops significantly depending on if Tiger is playing or in contention somewhere.
“The idea that you can — that as players we can collaborate and get together to produce a better product while having stiffer and better competition, I think that that would be something that is — I think that’s just something in general that makes a lot of sense. It’ll create a better product for us going forward, and I just don’t believe that it’s — there’s no teams. This is still PGA Tour golf. It’s just trying to get — I think it’s going to be way better for the fans. I think networks will be happier.
“I think in general, we are going to try and get as many of the highest-ranked players that you can get all playing as often as they can together, and it just seems like that’s the way things should have been all along. But it takes all the players getting together, and when you’re able to pick your own schedule outside of the four events everyone plays, everyone plays the Players at then the Playoffs, what realistically — how often can we have this happen?
“That’s kind of, I think, what we’re trying to settle on right now.”