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  • Alistair Tait

Is there no end to golf’s obsession with money?

Amazing that football’s proposed European Super League was on the verge of collapse on the same day news leaked the PGA Tour has created a $40 million bonus scheme for just 10 players.

One is condemned for not being competitive, a cartel that hoovers up money and to hell with everyone else. The other does exactly that yet will probably go ahead with little protest.

Remember, this is $40 million on top of a tour worth approximately $400 million in prize money, plus just under $46 million in FedEx Cup money for the top 30 players who make it to the Tour Championship.

Is there no end to golf’s obsession with money?

Apparently not.

As former colleague Eamon Lynch reveals, the PGA Tour is introducing the bonus scheme, the Player Impact Program, to reward players for their popularity, those “judged to drive fan and sponsor engagement.” Lynch adds:

“A PGA Tour spokesperson confirmed to Golfweek that the Player Impact Program began January 1 to ‘recognize and reward players who positively move the needle.’ At the end of the year, a pool of $40 million will be distributed among 10 players, with the player deemed most valuable receiving $8 million.”

Six metrics will be used to identify the 10 players to benefit from the cash bonanza. Unsurprisingly, Tiger Woods topped the list of players from a test run of the 2019 season. The other nine players who would have benefitted from the scheme were Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose and Adam Scott.

Doesn’t matter how any of the 10 play. All that matters is how much exposure they get, how much traffic they generate on social media, that sort of stuff.

Think if I was a journeyman professional I might consider spiked hair, nose rings, outlandish clothes, making outrageous statements and stirring up as much controversy as possible to try to grab a slice of the action.

Should we be surprised the rich continue to get richer in this royal and ancient game, that the world’s top golfers don’t often have to sing for their supper to make gazillions? No. Profiteering has been endemic in golf for generations. Our top players have been accepting appearance money for decades, money just to turn up regardless of how they play.

Can we blame them? Would we be any different if our boss said here’s your contract, but if you turn up for these specific weeks you get an extra, say, £10,000 per week. Oh, okay; twist my arm why don't you? Hopefully we’d turn down the offer if it meant working in countries with scant regard for human rights. Even then we might be tempted if the money was right.

The PGA Tour has devised the scheme to ward off the threat of the Saudi backed Premier Golf League. The hope is that by making already obscenely rich golfers even richer they won’t be lured to the proposed Saudi backed circuit.

The PGL wants to create the sort of super league the six Premier League Clubs have just pulled out of. The PGL has yet to gain a foothold in the game, but don’t think it’s gone away. Saudi Arabia has spent in the region of $1.5 billion on “sportswashing” according to a report by Grant Liberty, $20 million of which was spent on golf. So the PGA Tour’s $40 million is chump change to the Saudis.

The bottom line is whichever way you cut it, the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program is just obscene. Especially in a world trying to emerge from a pandemic in which 100s of thousands have died, businesses have gone under and people have lost their jobs.

Players of the big six Premier League football teams listened to the fans and rejected the ESL. Wonder if there will be a similar backlash in golf and the top stars will reject the Player Impact Program. Maybe those destined to benefit most will tell the tour there are better ways to spend $40 million.

Ha, ha, ha.

Still, the Ladies European Tour will play a schedule worth $19 million this year. So everything is just wonderful in the world of golf.

#JustSaying: “You know, someday somebody’s gonna come out here and tee it up nude.” Former PGA Tour professional Bob Wynn


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