It wasn’t long ago that the big four championships were privately outraged at the move that Greg Norman and his LIV Golf tour were making to take on professional golf, or more appropriately, the PGA Tour.
Golf is generally a fraternity and not everyone is invited to join.
Now, with LIV Golf’s inaugural event on the books and the roster of featured players growing (Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Pat Perez the latest), the major leagues have a choice to make: do they support the tradition or invite the Atypical LIVs? Tour to join the club?
The PGA Tour has made its feelings known about the LIV Tour and while the DP World Tour has remained relatively quiet, with its financial health tied to the PGA Tour taking a minority stake in European Tour Productions and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who received a seat on the European Tour board, it is clear that his European position will follow the PGA Tour’s example.
The big ones (the Masters, the PGA Championship, the US Open and the British Open) are mostly businesses and, excluding the Masters, the PGA and two open probably couldn’t survive and clearly couldn’t service amateur golf or other programs for support and grow the game.
Even the Masters, which seems to have more money than others, would suffer over time.
As a business, the relationship between the PGA Tour and the major leagues makes a lot of sense. But as the defections grow, with 20 PGA Tour players now on the atypical tour as a business, the majors need to take a serious look at what makes sense for them individually.
When the war between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf began, the belief was that all four majors would have the back of the PGA Tour and that players who jumped to the rival tour would lose their access to the majors.
But that has changed, first with the US Open reiterating that it is an open championship, allowing LIV-exempt players to compete next week at The Country Club outside of Boston.
At the same time, the USGA left the door open for what could happen next year with its classification process that would clearly take LIV golf into account, but not in a positive way.
“Our decision regarding our field for the 2022 US Open should not be construed to mean that the USGA endorses an alternative organizing entity, nor does it endorse the actions or comments of individual players,” the USGA said in its statement. “Rather, it is simply a response to whether or not the USGA sees playing in an alternate event, without the consent of their home tour, as an offense that should disqualify them from the US Open.”
Would the USGA really want to jeopardize the quality of the US Open?
If they denied players, what would their TV partners and sponsors say when the field, interest and ratings began to suffer?
Wouldn’t denying LIV players send the wrong message and not be the bigger story and ultimately overshadow their own event?
These are just some of the problems that all races face.
Ultimately, you come back to the overwhelming point that it’s a business.
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Is the value of the Masters exhausted if five or 10 of the previous champions are not invited to the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night or lose their lifetime waivers because they left the PGA Tour?
Everything at Augusta National is measured by what Bobby Jones would do.
“I hope he’s proud,” Augusta National President Fred Ridley said in April when asked what Jones would think of the situation at Augusta National under his watch. “I hope he feels that we continue to uphold the tradition and values that he thought were so important to the game. I think he would be surprised.”
It’s unclear how Jones would feel about LIV Golf’s insurrection, but you’d think the best fan in the game wouldn’t be happy if the Masters turned into political football. The actions of not inviting former champions to dinner or banning them from competition can do just that.
Augusta has shown that she doesn’t care what anyone outside of Magnolia Lane thinks. They fought the issue of women’s membership for years, though they didn’t deliberately deny female membership, they just weren’t willing to do what others told them to do and make a statement by expanding their membership to women.
The tournament even went to extraordinary lengths to air its event without sponsors or advertisers for all four rounds in 2003, giving IBM, Coca-Cola and Citigroup political coverage of women’s groups.
Eventually, on its own schedule, Augusta National expanded its membership to two women, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore.
This situation may be more difficult for Augusta than the female affiliation. With many members of the C-suite of multinational corporations and Jones’s legacy, the Masters may not be able to ignore the LIV tour or its players.
PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh is a businessman, former CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas and CEO of investment firm Silver Lake.
Waugh has two things to tackle, the PGA Championship next May and the Ryder Cup in Rome next September.
At the PGA last month in Southern Hills, Waugh, who has been extremely close to Monahan since the days when Deutsche Bank sponsored the PGA Tour event in Boston and Monahan was tournament director, supported the Tour.
Waugh took the position that the PGA is a big supporter of the ecosystem as it is and believed that the league’s structure is somewhat flawed.
“The Tour is owned by the players, and that means ultimately it all comes back to the players,” Waugh said, underscoring his position that bringing outside money into golf would be a mistake. “As soon as you invest money, it will create a need for return, a need for exit, and a lot of things that will change its dynamics, which we don’t think is necessarily good for the ecosystem. ”
Waugh admitted that they would have plenty of time before the next PGA at Oak Hill to see where it all goes, but stated that according to their charter you can only play in the PGA Championship if you are a member of a recognized tour.
With regards to the Ryder Cup, it’s as simple as you must be a member of the PGA of America in good standing. Usually that means paying their dues, but it’s not something the PGA of America is willing to define.
Ultimately, Waugh is a businessman and understands the potential financial exposure his organization could face with a membership of more than 24,000 PGA professionals to serve.
Both the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup are the revenue streams that keep the organization afloat, and banning players from either event is like the problem that Whan at the USGA, Ridley at Augusta National and Martin Slumbers would face. in the R&A: the potential to put out a product that is inferior and potentially roll the dice on your future.
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