Scottie Scheffler picked the right time to start winning PGA Tour titles and climb to No. 1 in the world.
Thanks to the PGA Tour’s new long-term lucrative TV deal kicking in and purses surging this year, he set a new single-season record with $12,896,849 in prize money in 19 starts. There’s still 10 weeks remaining in the Tour’s 2021-22 season. Nice work, if you can get it.
“I never dreamt of playing for this much money,” Scheffler said. “I don’t know how much money I’ve made this year, but it’s definitely more than I deserve for whacking a little white golf ball around.”
Those words were in direct response to Scheffler being asked if there was any amount of money that would change his mind about staying with the Tour. “I don’t think so,” Scheffler said. “I think if there was, there’s a place you can find it now.”
Scheffler laughed at his own joke – not all the way to the bank like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and most recently Brooks Koepka, who officially joined LIV Golf on Wednesday.
Scheffler continued: “I grew up wanting to be on the PGA Tour. I grew up dreaming of playing in these events. I didn’t grow up playing in the Centurion Club in London or whatever it is or in — I grew up wanting to play in the Masters. I grew up wanting to play in Austin. I grew up wanting to play Colonial, the Byron Nelson. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything at this moment in time. Those memories, to me, are invaluable. I would never risk going and losing the opportunity to bring, go back to Augusta every year or to do any of it. There’s nothing that I would want to do right now that would risk having any sort of effect on the way my life is now.”
For Scheffler and other prominent stars such as Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas, the decision to stay loyal to the Tour is black and white. For others, such as Koepka, it’s not a shade of gray necessarily but rather green. Scheffler, who shares the same management team as Koepka, conceded that he was surprised to see Koepka jump ship.
“I was at a function with him last week and definitely wasn’t what he had in mind,” Scheffler said. “We were focused on building the PGA Tour and getting the guys that are staying here together and kind of just having talks and figuring out what how we can help benefit the Tour. So to see Brooks leave was definitely a surprise for us.”
What happened is Greg Norman showed him the money. Koepka was bought and paid for and withdrew from what would have been his final PGA Tour start rather than face the music – from media, fans and his fellow players.
It’s gotten to the point where the knee-jerk reaction to Justin Thomas withdrawing from the Travelers Championship on Wednesday morning was that he must be joining LIV too. So sad that Thomas felt he had to explain his legit injury on social media before “rumors swirled.”
Money talks. But in the case of the Mickelson, Johnson and Koepka it’s the rich getting richer. There are no hard times on the Tour. Already this season, the top 25 on the money list have all crossed the $3 million-mark and there are 94 millionaires stretching to Peter Malnati. (Poor Rickie Fowler, who considering his slump you would think he might need a loan from sponsor Rocket Mortgage still has banked $981,404.)
At this point, it’s clear that players that are in it strictly for the money, concerned about injuries, know they are washed up, or would rather sit at home counting their money (family time, they call it) are going to continue to sell out for LIV Golf no matter whether 9/11 families write letters of protest or their fans are let down by their taking blood money. PGA Tour Commissioner said as much during his news conference Wednesday.
“I am not naïve,” he said. “If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete. The PGA Tour, an American institution, can’t compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in attempt to buy the game of golf.”
Mickelson, Johnson and DeChambeau reportedly got more of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund money (Public Investment Fund, a vehicle that controls assets worth $500 billion) to join LIV than it cost them to buy Newcastle United, a Premier League soccer club. The money being spent by LIV on golfers is outrageous and still not a top-10 player has sold out yet.
Monahan’s response to the arms race? Throw money at the problem. He announced the Tour would elevate six existing events to $20 million, the Tournament of Champions to $15 million and the Players Championship to $25 million as well as create a new three-event international series in the fall. It’s an increase of – irony alert – $54 million.
Other than his fixation with media rights, Mickelson may have stayed put if this was announced a year ago. It’s much of what he was trying to use his leverage from the potential of a rival circuit to obtain before he was outed for calling the Saudis “scary mother——-” and ripping the Commish a new one.
Will Monahan’s revamped season and ever-more riches be enough deterrent to stop more players from joining LIV, which still has three more players to announce to fill out its 48-man field in Portland for next week? Or will the Saudis just up the ante and dig deeper into those endless pockets of theirs?
The Tour has never faced a competitor that could outspend them, but Tour business isn’t exactly hurting, to hear Monahan tell it. “We’ve grown 20 percent from 2021 coming into 2022,” he said. “We’re going to grow faster over the next 10 years than we have at any point in our history.”
When Monahan was asked if PGA Tour pros are underpaid, he struggled to spit out an answer – as if he really wanted to say, ‘Seriously? Underpaid…more like overpaid – before finally getting on script, saying, “I want every single player on the PGA Tour to make more money, and that’s what I’m going to continue to focus on, and I’m going to, we ‘re going to do it in the way that we’ve always done it and there’s more to come on that front.”
What a time to be an elite male professional golfer – or his agent.