As Koepka Leaves for LIV Golf, the PGA Tour Mulls Modifications

Since March, Brooks Koepka has emphatically denied he would take into account becoming a member of the breakaway, Saudi-backed LIV Golf collection.

“Money isn’t going to change my life,” Koepka stated on the time with a disdainful sneer. As lately as two weeks in the past, Koepka was nonetheless telling fellow gamers he was not concerned about leaving the PGA Tour.

On Tuesday, he defected to the rival LIV Golf circuit, which can maintain its second occasion, exterior Portland, Ore., beginning on June 30.

What modified for Koepka? It could be straightforward to say there have been most probably greater than 100 million causes for him to reverse course since different former PGA Tour gamers equivalent to Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau have reportedly acquired nine-figure contracts to align with LIV Golf. The brand new circuit guarantees a restricted, shortened schedule that provides golfers extra flexibility and hosts no-cut tournaments through which each participant is assured a hefty payday.

However each participant who entered the inaugural LIV Golf occasion exterior London earlier this month was suspended by the PGA Tour, and future entrants to imminent LIV Golf tournaments shall be handled equally.

Koepka’s choice is just not a shock — he telegraphed it with a scornful information convention eventually week’s U.S. Open exterior Boston — however it’s one other victory for LIV Golf in its struggle for credibility in opposition to the established PGA Tour. Abraham Ancer of Mexico, who’s 31 years previous and ranked twentieth within the males’s world rankings, additionally dedicated to the LIV Golf collection on Tuesday.

Koepka, 32, who received 4 main championships between 2017 and 2019, has been injured and struggling for years. His world rating has slipped to No. 19 this week from No. 1 in 2019. In a little bit of irony, Koepka is becoming a member of LIV Golf about 10 days after DeChambeau, his longtime antagonist, switched his allegiance. DeChambeau has additionally been dogged by well being points. As soon as considered as a hard-swinging, bulked up game-changing phenomenon who captivated youthful followers together with his audacious size off the tee, DeChambeau has tumbled from fourth within the rankings to thirtieth. He was an afterthought eventually week’s U.S. Open, ending tied for 56th. Koepka missed the lower at this yr’s Masters Match and completed exterior the highest 50 eventually month’s P.G.A. Championship and eventually week’s U.S. Open.

However Koepka’s exit nonetheless offers one other noteworthy little bit of surprising momentum for LIV Golf, whose main shareholder is the Personal Funding Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. Solely six weeks in the past, there was practically common solidarity among the many PGA Tour’s participant ranks.

Every reversal of opinion sends little tremors by means of the close-knit group of PGA Tour gamers and has that means. A worry of getting left behind can pervade the group, as with every different, particularly when gamers hold going again on their phrase. Their colleagues could ponder: Ought to I soar ship now, earlier than it’s too late and the highest LIV Golf contracts are gone?

Some perspective is critical. A substantial majority of the most effective younger gamers have remained loyal to the PGA Tour. Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas — ranked first by means of fifth — affirm their dedication to the PGA Tour weekly. Morikawa did it once more Tuesday when he tweeted: “To state for the record, once again, you all are absolutely wrong. I’ve said it since February at Riviera that I’m here to stay on the PGA Tour and nothing has changed.”

However it’s straightforward to surprise what number of extra new faces there is perhaps within the area by June 30, when LIV Golf makes its first look in america. The total listing of entrants is anticipated this week.

What number of shall be within the area when the upstart tour arrives at Trump Nationwide Golf Membership in Bedminster, N.J., on July 29? That event shall be held after the mid-July British Open, the final of this yr’s main males’s golf championships.

What is understood is that the stress continues to ramp up on the PGA Tour to answer the credible menace LIV Golf is posing. And Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, has the framework of a plan to no less than partially appease gamers drawn to a shorter schedule and larger earnings. (Trace: It appears an terrible lot just like the LIV Golf schedule and prize cash.)

In a gamers’ assembly on Tuesday, in response to a number of individuals who had been in attendance, Monahan outlined a considerably revised PGA Tour schedule for subsequent yr that may function eight occasions with restricted fields and no cuts, and elevated purses of no less than $20 million for the highest 50 gamers from this yr’s season-long FedEx Cup standings. The individuals spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to reveal the main points mentioned.

LIV Golf gamers would clearly be excluded. The payouts for this yr’s PGA Tour occasions range broadly, however a median complete can be about $8.5 million.

The tour can also be planning a contraction of the season that may give gamers extra day without work within the fall months, which in 2013-14 had a considerable enlargement of tournaments. That improve has been broadly unpopular with many gamers.

The PGA Tour’s newest proposal might stem the tide of rebels leaving its as soon as placid nest. Or, the tour might soak up the lack of some gamers, and with all the company sponsors and custom it has in its nook, prosper with a majority of golfers who stay. It nonetheless holds probably the most advantageous playing cards, not the least of which being that the LIV Golf circuit nonetheless has no mainstream TV contract for its occasions. It’s nearly inconceivable to be a viable sports activities leisure choice with out one.

Perhaps the 2 golf excursions will coexist, no less than for some time. Golf is considered one of our extra unpredictable sports activities. Maybe extra change is coming. Nothing appears a continuing currently in golf.

At his information convention on the eve of the U.S. Open final week, Koepka was requested if he had made a “permanent decision” on whether or not he’ll bolt to the LIV Golf collection.

He answered: “As of last week. That’s it.”

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