The PGA Tour plans to create a series of lucrative, international tournaments that will offer guaranteed money to the world’s best players, Golfweek can reveal.
The Tour intends to stage between four and six events annually outside of the United States, in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The series will begin in the fall of 2023 at the earliest, though possibly not until 2024. Details of the plan were confirmed to Golfweek by an industry executive familiar with the ongoing discussions. The executive requested anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The move will be seen as an effort by the PGA Tour to thwart the threat posed by the Super Golf League, a proposed splinter circuit financed by the Saudi Arabian regime that has been trying to lure players to global events with promises of huge signing bonuses and guaranteed cash. The Super League has tried to attract players for at least seven years with no success. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan made clear he will ban any member who signs on to a rival circuit, but has worked behind the scenes to devise ways to further reward his star players and dilute the risk of their splitting with the Saudis.
In April, Golfweek revealed the existence of an unannounced $40 million Player Impact Program, which will award bonuses to PGA Tour members deemed to most move the needle in terms of fan engagement. The annual program began measuring players’ impact based on a range of criteria in January. The player found to be most impactful at year’s end will receive $8 million, with decreasing amounts awarded to another nine stars.
Monahan also announced a strategic alliance with the European Tour (since rebranded as the DP World Tour) as they sought to unify their product against potential rivals. It is unclear what role the European circuit will play in the new overseas events staged by the PGA Tour but it is thought the two organizations will be aligned to not undermine Europe’s season-ending Race to Dubai.
A spokesperson for the PGA Tour declined to confirm specifics of the new series when contacted by Golfweek.
“We’re absolutely always looking at our future product and schedule, with all options on the table as to fields, formats and tournament locations, especially considering our advancing Strategic Alliance with the European Tour,” the spokesperson said. “No details or decisions have been made at this time.”
While internal discussions are continuing on specifics, tentative plans call for between four and six events, with fields limited to 50 or 60 competitors and no halfway cut. It has not been decided if the fields will be determined by the Official World Golf Ranking or FedEx Cup standings. A range of format options are being considered, including the possibility of a team component.
“Nothing firm on formats yet,” the well-placed executive said, “but a team format is certainly one of the ideas on the table.”
A team element — albeit an ill-defined one — has been one of the Super League’s marketing pitches as it sought to gain traction with players and golf fans.
Asked to specify just how lucrative the new series will be for elite players, the executive said no cash figure has been finalized and that the focus is on providing guaranteed money rather than a traditional prize fund that players would compete for a piece of. The source likened the new events to an amped-up World Golf Championships swing that will ensure riches for elite players regardless of how they perform.
The new international tournaments will not replace the existing fall schedule on the PGA Tour — currently, nine events that begin in September after the conclusion of the FedEx Cup playoffs and run through mid-November. Those fall stops typically draw less than stellar fields as star players often take a break from competition after the playoffs before ramping up their schedules in the New Year.
A PGA Tour source told Golfweek that a mechanism will be devised to ensure players who compete in the overseas series will not be disadvantaged in the FedEx Cup points race as a result of having skipped the U.S. schedule.
“Top guys want to have a break from the FedEx Cup,” the source explained. “The setup would be so they don’t have to worry. If they play in these big events, the idea is they don’t fall behind in the FedEx Cup.”
The manager for one top 10 star who has been briefed on the plans welcomed the news. “The big guys will all perform and all get rewarded,” he said.