LIV Golf Effect: The Incredibly Shrinking PGA Tour

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LIV Golf vs PGA Tour
It's been a tough summer for Jay Monahan and the PGA Tour with the launch of the Greg Norman-led LIV Golf Invitational Series. (Graphics by PGW)

BEDMINSTER, NJ – Can we agree that in a discussion ranking extraordinarily successful CEOs, such as Jack Welch (General Electric), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Elon Musk (Tesla), the name Jay Monahan, CEO of the PGA Tour, is sure to never come up.

In fact, the slow dismantling over the past 12 months of the PGA Tour with Mr. Monahan at the helm is alarming, and quite disturbing. You certainly don’t need a degree from Harvard Business School to assess the damage incurred. If you follow golf, it seems the only topic discussed lately is LIV Golf-related, with the conversation being twofold: the big-name player (or players) who’ve recently signed with the LIV Golf Invitational Series, and the ones rumored to be in the pipeline.

Since that fateful Sunday, June 12, during the final round of the 2022 RBC Canadian Open when Monahan joined CBS’ Jim Nantz in the broadcast booth on national TV and proceeded to whiff at every softball question lobbed his way, the state of the PGA Tour has never been more confusing.

That date is noteworthy since the PGA Tour and its reputation has never been the same. What was supposed to be damage-control propaganda turned into a shipwreck series of events over a period of seven weeks.

Brooks Koepka Greg Norman 2022 LIV Golf Portland
Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, and Team Captain Brooks Koepka of Smash GC stand on the 1st tee during day 1 of the LIV Golf Invitational – Portland at Pumpkin Ridge GC on June 30, 2022 in North Plains, Oregon. (Photo by Chris Trotman for LIV Golf via Getty Images)

Since that day, dozens of the world-class, marquee players, including Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, and Paul Casey have deserted the PGA Tour for the LIV Golf Invitational series.

More importantly, the Department of Justice has confirmed an investigation into the legitimacy of the PGA Tour status as a “non-profit” and whether it operates as a monopoly.

Additionally, it was learned that the DOJ is looking into whether collusion is taking place among Official World Golf Rankings’ board members. (Without world-ranking points, LIV Golf members would be unable to qualify for major championships.) One board member is Monahan. Another is Martin Slumbers of the R&A, who went on a tirade against LIV Golf ahead of the 150th Open. The others are representatives of the USGA, PGA of America, the Masters, and DP World Tour, which are all on the record of either opposing LIV Golf efforts and/or pledging allegiance to the PGA Tour. I mean, has a deck ever looked so stacked?

There’s more: just last week, CNBC reported that the PGA Tour paid a firm named DLA Piper $360,000 to lobby Congress and the White House on their behalf for multiple topics including “Saudi Golf League proposals.”

Jay Monahan
PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks with the media via virtual press conference prior to the TOUR Championship at Eastlake Golf Club on Aug 31, 2021 in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Chris Condon / PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

“The PGA Tour in 2019 took in $1.5 billion in revenues and paid out $110 million in salaries and wages to its own officials and hundreds of millions more to players,” wrote U.S. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), author of legislation filed to take away the PGA Tour’s “non-profit” status.

“The Tour ended up with a profit of more than $250 million from 2016 to 2019 – and if it were considered a normal company, it would have paid about $80 million in federal taxes.”

The tsunami of negative news that followed Monahan’s trainwreck appearance with Nantz has certainly been noteworthy, but D-Day for the PGA Tour is officially scheduled for Sunday Aug. 28. That’s when the 2022 FedEx Cup season concludes with the final round of the Tour Championship, in what can politely be described as its worst season ever.

This day is also expected to kick off another wave of marquee names who will exit East Lake and head straight to Boston for the LIV Golf Invitational event on Labor Day weekend – ironically a holiday and locale that was long associated with the PGA Tour, and specifically Monahan, who got his start managing the now defunct Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Labor Day weekend.

It’s not a coincidence that Greg Norman, LIV Golf Commissioner and CEO, will be showcasing former FedEx Cup playoff stars like Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson in Boston on Labor Day weekend. It’s the proverbial salt in the wound of rival, Monahan.

Dustin Johnson Wins FedExCup Tour Championship
Dustin Johnson poses with the FedEx Cup Trophy after winning the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Sep 7, 2020 in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

And speaking of FedEx: the Memphis-based company currently underwrites about $70 million each year in bonus earnings for Tour players. Ever wonder what would happen if FedEx, or other corporate America brands, started to bail on the PGA Tour?

To avoid more turbulence, this week the PGA Tour indicated they intend to pay every player the proper money earned when the FedEx Cup money list is finalized, even those who were suspended.

Can we agree on one more thing? No one should feel sorry for Jay Monahan, whose annual salary for 2022 reportedly approaches $12 million. My fuzzy math shows that to be a weekly paycheck of about $230,000! It’s obvious that he’s in way over his head and never really had the qualifications to be a major-league CEO. Being a good schmoozer and kibitzer, classifying as Mr. Nice Guy, is far different than being the leader of a multi-million-dollar business.

PGA Tour Commissioners Jay Monahan, Deane Beman, Tim Finchem
Incoming PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, former Commissioner Deane Beman, and outgoing Commissioner Tim Finchem pose during the PGA Tour You Employee Meeting in the Ponte Vedra Room at TPC Sawgrass on Nov 7, 2016 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (Photo by Stan Badz / PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

One thing Monahan has accomplished, though: he’s made former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem (1994-2016) look even better, historically speaking. As Commissioner, Finchem expanded earnings opportunities for PGA Tour players both domestically and internationally. In 2006, the total PGA Tour purse was $256.8 million, up from $56.4 million in 1994. That remarkable growth had a lot to do with Tiger Woods, but Finchem deserves credit.

Finally, is anyone listening to the winless Will Zalatoris when he proclaims that the PGA Tour “is the best tour?” It may be for him. But do Zalatoris, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Cameron Young and Max Homa really move the needle? They are headlining the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic this weekend in Detroit.

Meanwhile, opposite Zalatoris and company, 48 invited golfers will compete in the LIV Golf Invitational at Trump National GC Bedminster (NJ), offering a purse of $25 million. The field will include proven major-winning needle movers in DJ, DeChambeau, Mickelson, Stenson, Reed, Koepka and Sergio Garcia, among others. They will compete for three days, over 54-hole stroke play, while simultaneously battling as part 12 four-man teams.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series’ eight-event season finale is scheduled for October 28-30 at Trump Doral with the same format. The purse will be doubled to $50 million.


Tom Gorman is reporting live from LIV Golf’s stop at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.


9 COMMENTS

  1. Tom

    One thing Welch, Bezos or Musk would realize right away that you do not is that Liv Golf mission statement does not involve a return on investment. You can not spend a billlion plus on signing bonuses and make $$$$$

    But Liv is about Saudi pUblic relations and that is where you and Jeff Smith come in

    • Sir, you are not correct. The Saudi Fund already stated that they are expecting an ROI within a certain about of time–I think they said three-four years, but don’t hold me to that. This is a very good business model, although no one seems to want to let it roll out before pronouncing sentence on it.
      • no one seems to want to let it roll out before pronouncing sentence on it.

        That’s exactly what the PGA Tour’s media campaign has been all about.

        The goal was to “kill it in the crib.” Remember Rory McIlroy’s infamous statement: “It’s dead in the water.”

        Because once it gets started it’s unstoppable.

  2. I personally think that LIV Golf is good for the game-which after all is about competition. I disagree that Monahan is not a good commissioner, it’s just that LIV has been born under his watch. Although Finchem ran the PGA with an iron fist, he had no competition and they were the sole game in town. Had it not been for the PGA TOUR giving the DP World Tour a boatload of money, the European Tour wouldn’t exist. I was good friends with Deane Beman for years and I wonder what his take is on all this. All the controversy, soothsaying by media and behind-the-scenes negotiating will probably take a good year or more to clear up the muddy waters, but for now, I am happy to sit back and enjoy goings on.
  3. Tom, To me, now in my 80th year, golf has always been about values at its roots. The Saudi Tour, fueled by a government with many notions about fair play akimbo to ours, and prime ministered by the megalomaniac Norman, who waves Saudi billions at players who then robotically deliver canned speeches about growing the game – creative destruction, they used to call it – and then delivers them to New Jersey to benefit Donald Trump is an embarrassment to the very idea of values. I wouldn’t go next door to watch the Saudis play in their exhibitions and team scrambles.
    At some point, the better of the greedy lot will look at the lesser players and their hundreds of thousands for finishing last and move to lop them off the tour in order to move more money up to the top of the rolls. That would be in keeping with their values.
  4. So pro golf weekly hired another Jeff smith clone? How much are the Saudis paying you guys? Because no one would so shamefully shill like this for free.
  5. Great piece by Mr Gorman. Finally a site and writer who have a backbone to take on the frauds that are the pga tour.

    They are a flat out monopoly and CHEAP AF.

    I volunteered for them in phoenix one year at the waste mgt event and they had the balls to actually make volunteers pay… to volunteer. You can’t make it up! I hope they crash and burn finally.

  6. RE: Saudi money….they are sole support of LET – aka Ladies European Tour who proudly wear this sponsor name on majority of apparel.  In addition, Aramco is major sponsor of both LET and European Tour, but nothing said until LIV arrived on the scene.  Finally, Saudi Arabia has completely changed its entire culture in the past 18 months – going from the dark ages to a more modern, secular one.  i.e., women can now drive (what a novel concept), but they have changed and while these so-called ‘outraged’ critics of LIV and Saudi money cry lemming-like anti-Trump blabberings, their dear leader Joe Brandon goes to Saudi with hat in hand begging for more Saudi oil production when all he has to do is re-open a few pipelines at home.  Absurd leadership coupled with even more ignorant arguments on his behalf.  LIV tour is on my TV, not the PGA Tour which remains the perfect antidote to insomnia.

     

    Lastly, if you at all follow the golf business, the simple theme of all the Trump properties is “excellence” in every aspect of every course.  When the PGA Tour took the PGA Championship away from Trump, they sealed their woke credentials and will suffer down the road…as they currently are.  Woke becomes broke very quickly.

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