In business, competition is seen as a good thing as it forces everyone to do their best. Ahead of this week’s Mayakoba Championship in Mexico, Justin Thomas hinted that in the past, the PGA Tour hasn’t done its best by their players but improvements in recent years have benefited those at the game’s top table – including the world number 7.
Increased prize funds – not least The Players Championship being bumped to $20 million next year, a Player Impact Programme pumping $40 million into the pockets of the sport’s biggest influencers, and a loyalty scheme rewarding players teeing up 13 times on the PGA Tour with a $50k bonus are just some of the riches being rolled out to plámás players left feeling short-changed by the Tour of late.
So, is this coincidental timing, or a premeditated move to news finally breaking last week of a Saudi-backed Series – albeit under the Asian Tour umbrella – fronted by Greg Norman and boasting ten new and lucrative 72-hole events with a prime goal of disrupting the game’s status quo? I’ll take the latter.
“I know Greg a little bit,” said Thomas, a son of a PGA pro who has previously stated he’s happy with the current system.
“I know that this has kind of been a vision and a hope of his for a while, at least from what I understand. I know he’s excited and the guys that are excited to potentially go do it are probably even more so.”
Given the bottomless pockets of CEO Norman’s LIV Golf Investments company – a firm enriched by the Saudi Investment Fund – it’s no wonder some players are excited. An early retirement awaits the likes of Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson should they have their heads turned by the colossal cash being bandied about and although Thomas admits to feeling undervalued in the past, at least the Saudi shadow cast over golf in recent years has improved the current state of play for those on the PGA Tour.
“Maybe in the past,” Thomas said when asked if he felt players had been under-compensated by the PGA Tour system. “But I think with stuff like the Player Impact Program and purses and everything going up, I think it’s becoming that way, because it doesn’t matter what you do or what sport you play, there’s always going to be a handful or a group of guys that push the revenue or push the interest.
“There’s plenty of guys and plenty of stories out here, but for me to come out here and say that I hold the same weight as Tiger Woods or I hold the same weight as Phil Mickelson, that’s just not realistic. Guys should be compensated for that and I think that’s really what it is.”
Exactly why it’s taken PGA Tour players so long to find their voice, Thomas is unsure. In the nineties, Norman, frustrated that he had to play a minimum of 15 PGA Tour events to retain his membership, attempted his own breakaway world golf tour aware of the riches on offer in appearance money around the globe.
The Aussie might’ve been a lone wolf on that mission but the latest Saudi developments have triggered conversations that many would’ve previously felt uncomfortable initiating. Whether or not a bidding war is a good look for golf given the riches on offer already is another question entirely but it’s certainly good news for the game’s established stars who are set to cash-in now more than ever – no matter which side of the fence they choose.
“I think all of this has been better for me personally, and I think a lot of us just to understand and have conversations with the Tour, with our agents, with other players because at the end of the day, if the PGA Tour’s winning, we’re also winning,” Thomas said.
“I think that’s kind of been the main thing that’s come out of this is, ‘look, we can better our product and we can get better because of stuff like this, we can learn from it’. I just think that a lot of it was honestly the players not knowing and also maybe the Tour not understanding that it could be done differently and that the players even felt that way.
“I know my first couple years I felt like I didn’t necessarily have the place or the voice to go to a Jay Monahan, to go to an Andy Pazder to say how I feel about what things are going on in the Tour, when in reality, it sounds disrespectful to say, but they work for us, you know what I mean?
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the 120th ranked player on the FedExCup or the second, if you have a problem and you think it should be changed, you should go voice that opinion to the Tour and that’s their job to try to fulfil that or at least give you an answer.”
The PGA Tour has had the answers up to now but as Norman stated himself upon the latest Asian Tour announcement, “this is only the beginning”. Bigger questions await both the Tour and the players alike, but for all the PGA Tour’s talk of banning players should they jump ship, the players hold the power here.
That said, should money become the number one motivating factor amongst them, then it’s hard to see how the PGA Tour can win this fight.
- Full Mayakoba scoring HERE
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