The PGA Tour announced sweeping changes to its schedule, structure and prize money offerings on Wednesday.
And veteran golfer Lee Westwood couldn’t help but find the changes amusing.
Westwood, who was one of the first golfers to leave the PGA Tour for the LIV Golf Tour, explained in a recent interview with Golf Digest that he believes the changes were not only inspired by LIV, but they are a direct copy of the Saudi-backed startup’s structure.
I laugh at what the PGA Tour players have come up with. It’s just a copy of what LIV is doing. There are a lot of hypocrites out there. They all say LIV is not competitive. They all point at the no-cut aspect of LIV and the short fields. Now, funnily enough, they are proposing 20 events that look a lot like LIV.
“Hopefully, at some point they will all choke on their words,” he added of those that criticized the LIV Golf-style events. “And hopefully, they will be held to account as we were in the early days.”
Indeed, the PGA Tour’s new structure is similar to that of LIV Golf. The Saudi-backed tour will play a 14-event schedule in 2023 with event purses totaling $25 million. Meanwhile, the PGA Tour has added 13 “elevated events” in which top golfers will be required to participate. The purses of these events will be worth $20 million, an amount comparable to the prize money offered by LIV Golf.
Money is a driving force behind the PGA Tour’s changes. It had lost numerous competitors to LIV Golf, as the deep-pocketed Saudis had lured top golfers away with promises of nine-figure contracts and immense purses.
The PGA Tour has suspended golfers that opted to play for LIV Golf, including major winners Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed. Now, it is hoping that changes to its prize pool will prevent it from losing more talent.
Westwood believes that LIV Golf is effectively forcing the PGA Tour to up its prize pool; in his mind, that is giving the PGA Tour a taste of its own medicine, as it has weaponized prize pools in the past to discourage golfers from participating in other events like the European Tour.
He also explained that he believes the PGA Tour is controlling other tours, like the DP World Tour, with which it has a strategic alliance.
“I’m not convinced by the strategic alliance because I’ve seen how the PGA Tour has behaved over the years,” Westwood said. “There’s not much ‘give.’ They have always been bullies and now they are getting their comeuppance.
All the PGA Tour has done since Tiger [Woods] came on tour is up the prize purses. In turn, that has taken all the best players from Europe away from the European Tour. They’ve had to play in the States, taking all their world ranking points with them. That was their strategy: ‘Put up the money. Get all the players. Hog all the world ranking points.’ Which becomes self-perpetuating.
“What we have seen over the last few months is just LIV doing what the PGA Tour has done for the last 25 years.”