PGA Tour head Jay Monahan announces schedule changes, increased purses amid LIV Golf threat

CROMWELL — The remarks from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan were more measured, less hostile and, most importantly, with a plan toward the future of the tour.

In his first public comments since June 12, Monahan outlined a plan on Wednesday afternoon at TPC River Highlands, site of this week’s Travelers Championship, that will alter the tour schedule, shrink the field for the first FedExCup event and create a handful of international events with a limited, no-cut field for the top players in the FedExCup standings.

But make no mistake, the commissioner’s stance on the LIV Golf Invitational Series has not changed: a threat to the game of golf and what it has stood for over the course of decades.

“I am not naive. If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete,” said Monahan, who graduated from Trinity College in Hartford. “The PGA Tour, an American institution, can’t compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.”

In his interview with CBS Sports at the Canadian Open on June 12, Monahan talked about how the LIV series needed the PGA Tour to survive, calling the LIV “exhibition matches,” 54-hole, no-cut events, unlike the tour’s 72 holes, among other things. Monahan was clearly angry.

On Wednesday, the future plan — discussed in full at a players-only meeting of 100 strong, Monahan said — was announced.

The 2022-23 season will be the final one with the current wraparound schedule that begins after the Tour Championship in late August. The fall events in 2023 will determine the final top 125 on the FedExCup points list, all of whom will be eligible for the 2024 season.

The 2024 FedExCup season will run from January through August.

“I think having the FedExCup season go to a calendar year, like January to August, I think that would be a pretty good idea,” said world No. 2 golfer Rory McIlroy on Wednesday. “So then it gives guys the opportunity to play if they want to play in the fall or if they don’t want to play in the fall they don’t have to, they’re not forced to. It’s not going to make a difference in any way.”

The FedExCup playoffs in 2023 will be reduced from 125 golfers to 70 for the first of three events, which will be the FedEx St. Jude’s Championship. Those 70 will be fully exempt for 2024.

Three new international events will be held after the conclusion of the fall season. They will include the top 50 from the final FedExCup points list in what will be a no-cut, limited field. Where, when and who else will play are to be determined by the tour’s Player Advisory Council.

Also, a Resource Allocation Plan will increase purses for eight of the bigger events on the FedExCup schedule in 2023, including the Players Championship, the Memorial and the first two legs of the FedExCup playoffs.

So it’s legacy combined with financial gain to try and offset the existential threat that begins play on U.S. soil next week.

“I know legacy and purpose sound like talking points that don’t mean much, but when I talk of those concepts, it isn’t about some sort of intangible moral high ground. It is our track record as an organization and as a sport,” Monahan said. “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. 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.”

LIV officially announced four-time major champion Brooks Koepka into the fold shortly after the commissioner’s press conference began. They announced their field for next week’s event in Portland, Ore., later in the afternoon, which included Abraham Ancer and Koepka along with Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, all of whom will play in LIV for the first time.

Once those golfers tee off next Thursday, suspensions will come down. When asked if he sees any road back for the tour players who left for LIV, Monahan referred back to his original statement to the tour membership on June 9, when the first 17 golfers were suspended, including Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson: that they are suspended and “no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play.”

In other words, there is no road back for the departed for the time being.

“When someone attempts to buy the sport, dismantle the institutions that are intrinsically invested in its growth, and focus only on a personal priority, that partnership evaporates, and instead we end up with one person, one entity, using endless amounts of money to direct employees, not members or partners, toward their personal goal,” Monahan said.

Shrinking the FedEx Cup schedule and the amount of people eligible for the playoffs will affect a number of tour players. Monahan understands, but feels the decisions made Wednesday are important for the future of the tour.

“Ultimately, they have got an opportunity to continue to come back the following year by playing into the fall in events that we think are going to be very consequential, very meaningful, and very exciting,” Monahan said. “So to say that everybody supports this would be an exaggeration, but it’s the right move for the business and ultimately it’s the right move for our players and fans, and that’s something I look forward to proving in the years ahead.”; @nhrJoeMorelli