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  • Writer's pictureJosh Hunter-Atencia

PGA Tour unveils four additional $20m elevated-status events

The PGA Tour has confirmed that the Waste Management Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship, and Travelers Championship will have elevated $20m (€20m) purses and guaranteed appearances by the organization’s top players in 2023.

The move follows a series of structural changes unveiled by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan in August in the wake of the ever-growing threat from LIV Golf, including doubling the Player Impact Program prize fund from $50m to $100m.

The PGA Tour had already announced plans for a number of invitational tournaments with significantly elevated purses, ranging from $15m to $25m, for the 2022-23 season.

These events are: the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial Tournament, Players Championship, and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Meanwhile, the first two FedEx Cup playoff events – the FedEx St. Jude Championship and the BMW Championship – will have their prize money jump from $15m to $20m.

In addition to the Tour Championship, there will be 13 tournaments with significantly increased prize sums for the 2022-23 season, not counting the four major championships.

“I think if you’re trying to sell a product to TV and to sponsors and to try to get as many eyeballs on professional golf as possible, you need to at least let people know what they’re tuning in for,” said Rory McIlroy. “When I tune into a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game I expect to see Tom Brady throw a football. When I tune into a Formula 1 race I expect to see Lewis Hamilton in a car. Sometimes what’s happened on the PGA Tour is we all act independently and we sort of have our own schedules, and that means that we never really get together all that often.

“I think having the top players in the world playing together more often and competing against each other more often is what everyone wants. It’s what the players want. It’s what the fans want, most importantly. And I think once we solve for that, a lot of the rest of the stuff sort of takes care of itself,” he said.

Notably, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship and Travelers Championship have not been given permanent elevated status. Rather, four slots will be made available to all PGA Tour tournaments to join the elevated roster on a regular basis based on sponsorship commitment.

“Four entirely different tournaments could reach that designation in 2024,” according to the PGA Tour.

This move could, in turn, lead to scheduling changes in future years to ensure elevated tournaments are not bunched together in the calendar.

It is also unclear what the move means for the PGA Tour tournaments which have not been given elevated status, although they will have chance to join the revolving roster.

“I’m not sure what to make of it yet,” golf legend Jack Nicklaus recently told the Associated Press. “I think the Tour was going to get there, but the LIV thing pushed them. That’s pretty obvious. What it’s done is made the PGA Tour almost two tiers. All of a sudden the other tournaments become feeders.”

In September, LIV Golf participant Phil Mickelson took a swipe at the PGA Tour for “magically” finding the money to increase the prize funds at many of its tournaments.

LIV Golf, meanwhile, has embarked on a global roadshow of presentations and meetings with broadcasters as it initiates its first rights cycle that will target exclusive deals worldwide.

The newly elevated Waste Management Phoenix Open will be played February 9-12, 2023, the same weekend that Super Bowl LVII will be played at nearby State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Source: Sportbusiness

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