Scottie Scheffler picked the right time to start winning PGA Tour titles and rise to No. 1 in the world.
Thanks to the entry into force of the PGA Tour’s lucrative new long-term television deal and rising purses this year, he set a new single-season record with $12,896,849 in prize money from 19 starts. There are still 10 weeks left in the 2021-22 Tour season. Good job if you can get it.
“I never dreamed of playing for that much money,” Scheffler said. “I don’t know how much money I’ve made this year, but it’s definitely more than I deserve for hitting a little white golf ball.”
Those words were in direct response to Scheffler being asked if there was any amount of money that would change his mind about staying on the Tour. “I don’t think so,” Scheffler said. “I think if there was, there is a place where you can find it now.”
Scheffler laughed at his own joke: He didn’t make it all the way to the bench like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and, more recently, Brooks Koepka, who officially joined LIV Golf on Wednesday.
Scheffler continued: “I grew up wanting to be on the PGA Tour. I grew up dreaming of playing in these events. I didn’t grow up playing at the Centurion Club in London or whatever, I grew up wanting to play at the Masters. I grew up wanting to play in Austin. I grew up wanting to play Colonial, the Byron Nelson. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything right now. Those memories, to me, are priceless. I would never risk going and missing out on bringing, going back to Augusta every year or doing any of that. There is nothing I would want to do right now that would have any kind of effect on the way my life is now.”
For Scheffler and other top stars like Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas, the decision to remain loyal to the Tour is black or white. For others, like Koepka, it’s not necessarily a shade of gray, but rather green. Scheffler, who shares the same management team as Koepka, admitted that he was surprised to see Koepka jump ship.
“I was at a show with him last week and it was definitely not what I had in mind,” Scheffler said. “We’re focused on building the PGA Tour and bringing the guys who stay here together and just having conversations and figuring out how we can help benefit the Tour. So seeing Brooks go was definitely a surprise for us.”
What happened is that Greg Norman showed him the money. Koepka was bought and paid for and pulled out of what would have been his last start on the PGA Tour rather than face the music, the media, the fans and his fellow players.
It’s gotten to the point where the knee-jerk reaction to Justin Thomas pulling out of the Travelers Championship on Wednesday morning was that he too should join LIV. So sad that Thomas felt he had to explain his legitimate injury on social media before “the rumors got out.”
Money talks. But in the case of Mickelson, Johnson and Koepka they are the rich getting richer. There are no difficult times on the Tour. Already this season, the top 25 on the money list have passed the $3 million mark and there are 94 millionaires stretching all the way back to Peter Malnati. (Poor Rickie Fowler, who, considering his losing streak, you’d think he might need a loan from sponsor Rocket Mortgage, still has $981,404 in the bank.)
At this point, it’s clear that players who are strictly about the money, worried about injuries, who know they’re done, or who prefer to stay home counting their money (family time, they call it) will continue to sell for LIV Golf no matter what. if 9/11 families write letters of protest or if their fans feel cheated out of their blood money. The PGA Tour commissioner said as much during his press conference on Wednesday.
“I am not naive,” he said. “If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete. The PGA Tour, an American institution, cannot compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy golf.”
Mickelson, Johnson and DeChambeau reportedly got more money from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund (Public Investment Fund, a vehicle that controls $500 billion worth of assets) to join LIV than it cost them to buy Newcastle United, a Premier League football club. The money LIV spends on golfers is outrageous and no player in the top 10 has yet been sold.
Monahan’s answer to the arms race? Throw money at the problem. He announced that the Tour would raise six existing events to $20 million, the Tournament of Champions to $15 million and the Players Championship to $25 million, as well as create a new three-event international series in the fall. That’s a raise of, irony alert, $54 million.
Aside from his fixation on media rights, Mickelson may have been quiet had this been announced a year ago. It’s much of what he was trying to get with his influence from the potential of a rival circuit before he was accused of calling the Saudis “scary mother—” and ripping the Commish a new one.
Will Monahan’s revamped season and ever-increasing riches be enough to keep more players from joining LIV, which still has three more players to announce to fill out its 48-man field in Portland for next week? Or will the Saudis just up the ante and dig deeper into those endless pockets of theirs?
The Tour has never faced a competitor who could outspend them, but Tour business isn’t exactly hurting, Monahan tells it. “We have grown 20 percent from 2021 to 2022,” he said. “We are going to grow faster in the next 10 years than at any other time in our history.”
When Monahan was asked if PGA Tour professionals are underpaid, he struggled to spit out an answer, as if he really wanted to say, ‘Really? Underpaid… more like overpaid, before finally going into the script and saying, “I want every player on the PGA Tour to make more money, and that’s what I’m going to continue to focus on, and I’m going to, We will do it the way we always have and there is more to come on that front.”
What a time to be an elite male professional golfer, or his agent.