The PGA Tour Is Brawling With Greg Norman, and Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson Might Be the Casualties

Article Highlights:

  • Greg Norman and LIV Golf Investments are launching a rival to the PGA Tour
  • The Saudi Invitational goes head-to-head with the PGA Tour’s Pebble Beach stop Feb. 3-6, 2022
  • The PGA Tour is threatening to fine or suspend members who play in the overseas tournament

Greg Norman has conquered the field at the British Open and The Players Championship. However, the Australian hero is taking on the entire PGA Tour now, and numerous current golfers are facing consequences because of it.

Norman and something called LIV Golf Investments are dangling big money in front of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, and more than 20 other big names in the sport. However, taking the money means they are taking a risk.

The PGA Tour is up against an imposing challenger backing Greg Norman

Greg Norman is the face of the new rival to the PGA Tour that is trying to lure golf's biggest stars to a series of tournaments across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. However, the PGA Tour is fighting back. | Ben Jared/PGA Tour for Getty Images
Greg Norman is the face of the new rival to the PGA Tour that is trying to lure golf’s biggest stars to a series of tournaments across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. However, the PGA Tour is fighting back. | Ben Jared/PGA Tour for Getty Images

Greg Norman failed once before in a bid to create a golf league that would rival the PGA Tour and pay the sport’s top tier considerably more money. He’s taking a fresh crack at it, and this time Norman is bringing impressive financial backing to the table. It could upset the balance of power in the sport in the not-too-distant future. It is upsetting the PGA Tour now.

Norman teamed with LIV Golf Investments, a firm operating with the promise of $200 million from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, according to Sports Pro Media. LIV Golf has affiliated with the Asian Golf Tour and projects a 10-tournament schedule for 2022.

Norman and the rival tour’s backers reportedly envision purses of $20 million to $30 million per tournament once all the pieces are in place. Tournament venues are scattered across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Officials of both the PGA Tour and the European Tour are leery. Top players like Dustin Johnson, ranked third in the world, and No. 7 Bryson DeChambeau currently enter 20 to 25 tournaments per year. Losing big names to a 10-event tour threatens attendance and sponsorship revenue at existing events, particularly those sharing dates with the startup.

The PGA Tour is throwing up a multi-pronged defense

The PGA Tour saw the challenge from Greg Norman’s investors coming, leading to changes for a sport in which the average player earned $1.485 million last season. The strategy helps big earners like Jon Rahm, who topped the prize list at $7.7 million, and Louis Oosthuizen, who banked $6.3 million without winning any tournaments.

First, officials created a $40 million Player Impact Program to complement prize money. The PGA Tour hasn’t disclosed which players it paid or how much they got, but much of the money undoubtedly went to top in-person and television draws like Dustin Johnson. That pool increases to $50 million in 2022, and all players are eligible for $50,000 bonuses upon completing 15 tournaments.

Next, the PGA Tour became more aggressive in boosting purses for the 2022 season. Prize money in the Tournament Players Championship soars by one-third to $20 million. The Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Memorial will make comparable percentage increases to $12 million, and World Golf Championships events will match that figure. The three FedExCup playoff events, already lucrative, are also committing to bigger payouts.

The PGA Tour also announced that the FedExCup bonus pool climbs 25% to $75 million, and the Comcast Business Tour Top 10 pool doubles to $20 million.

Feb. 3-6 in Saudi Arabia is the first showdown

The PGA Tour has one more card to play in fighting off Greg Norman and LIV Golf Investments, and it’s a big one. Golf fans will know in a month how it shakes out.

GolfWeek reported over the summer that officials could refuse to allow players to compete in the Saudi International, scheduled for Feb. 3-6, 2022, because the event switched affiliations from the European Tour (now the DP World Tour) to the Asian Tour. Players must obtain waivers to enter events that go head-to-head with the PGA Tour, and the schedule for that weekend has the U.S.-based tour at Pebble Beach for what many golf fans consider the kickoff to the “real” season. The DP World Tour is playing in the United Arab Emirates.

This week, Saudi International organizers announced their field includes Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen, and Paul Casey. Norman issued a statement praising 25 players for coming aboard, acknowledging the risk.

“I wanted to reach out directly to share the respect I have for you and the strength of your actions, and also to voice the level of support you have from so many sectors of the industry, who are greatly encouraged by your leadership and the new horizons in golf’s future,” Norman wrote.

The PGA Tour typically approves waivers one month ahead of time, so the golf world will pay close attention immediately after the holidays. Playing without a waiver subjects competitors to possible fines and suspensions.

The tournament purse is $5 million. The stakes for the participants’ future potentially go much higher.

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