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Players 2020: Will the promise of skyrocketing purses on the PGA Tour quell players flirtations with the PGL?

March 10, 2020
U.S. Open - Phil Mickelson round 3 Shinnecock

Ross Kinnaird

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — In January, the PGA Tour announced that it was increasing the purse for this year’s Players Championship to $15 million, up from $12.5 million a year ago. In the not-too-distant future, that number is expected to climb to $25 million, according to Commissioner Jay Monahan.

A similar increase is expected for FedEx Cup bonus money, with the total number likely to climb from $60 million to $100 million, or more.

“That’s not a commitment, but that’s, generally speaking, the kind of growth that I expected for us to see for our athletes,” Monahan said Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass, where the Players tees off on Thursday.

A reported $600 million to $700 million a year television deal announced earlier this week and one that will carry the Tour through 2030 helps make that possible. So, too, does the threat of a potential rival tour aimed at luring away the game’s biggest stars.

The two aren’t unrelated.

Whether the much talked about Premier Golf League gets off the ground remains to be seen, but over the last few months details have emerged.

Among the most notable: an 18-tournament, 48-player league with $10 million purses every week.

Rory McIlroy made his thoughts clear, saying last month during the WGC-Mexico Championship that he was “out” when it came to the proposed circuit. Last week at Bay Hill, he expanded on his reasoning, saying he didn’t like how the league would impact autonomy when it came to his schedule.

Yet McIlroy also remained intrigued by the possibility of the league being a catalyst for changes he’d like to see on the PGA Tour. Among them: limited-field events and fewer tournaments.

Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, said last week that he still has more to consider before commenting further. But when asked whether he thinks the potential rival tour could influence the PGA Tour to make changes, as McIlroy suggested, he said: “Well, I wouldn’t come out and say I’m not going to do it right away … and lose all your leverage.”

What kind reaction has Monahan gotten from other players?

“I would just tell you that we’re encouraged by the response that our players have had in our discussions,” he said. "I think that the value that we provide to our players, to our tournaments, to our fans … the news that we’ve just talked about, securing $12 billion in revenue through 2030. The strength and security and foundation of this tour has never been stronger, so that’s what we’re focused on.”

That focus includes bigger purses across all PGA Tour events, among other likely changes.

“We’re focused on the excellence that we want to continue to achieve with our players, and our commitment is always, one, to listen and to respond,” Monahan said. “This is a player-led organization, 51 years running. Our governance system has been driven by our players and our board, and we have regulations in place that allow us to protect the interests of our media partners, our sponsors and all of our constituents, and if we got to that point in time, we would take measures to vigilantly protect this business model.”