Jack Nicklaus voiced his concerns with the direction of the PGA Tour, saying that commissioner Jay Monahan “has a little work to do to figure out how to make it work.”
The 18-time major winner is particularly worried about the introduction of an “elevated” series of events, which has essentially created a two-tiered schedule within the American circuit.
“I’m not sure what to make of it yet,” said Nicklaus, during a chat with the Associated Press last month in Jacksonville, Florida at Timuquana Country Club.
“I think the tour was going to get there, but the LIV thing pushed them. That’s pretty obvious. What it’s done is made the PGA Tour almost two tiers. All of a sudden the other tournaments become feeders.”
Nicklaus’ beef is twofold: first, the Memorial Tournament was already one of the elite events on the tour’s annual calendar – meaning outside of the majors, it was one of about five key stops on the schedule. Now it’s become one of more than a dozen.
Secondly, Nicklaus is also involved with the Honda Classic, which has the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation as its primary charity. The longtime stop at PGA National, has suffered from being a week after Riviera, and the week before the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Like the Memorial, those were already elite (Invitational) events, but they are now even more elite with $20 million purses and mandatory participation by virtue of being “elevated.”
Meanwhile, Honda Motors, with its relatively paltry $8.4 million purse, saw the writing on the wall, and opted out of its longtime sponsorship of the tournament.
“It’s been in a tough spot for the last four to five years sitting there between LA and Bay Hill,” said Nicklaus.
“I think they’d like to get out of that spot. Since we’re beneficiaries, I’ve had some reasonable talk with Jay about it. I’ve got a few ideas we’re exploring. We’re trying to figure out a way to move the date and make it more significant.
“But you know what? You go there, you’ll find out the people will still be there. There will be great crowds, they’ll raise a lot of money and it will do well in spite of not having some of the players. It’s still pretty good.”
Another Florida event – the $8.1 million Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in Greater Tampa – also falls between two elevated purses: sitting the week after the $25 million Players Championship and before the $20 million Dell Match Play event.