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Some of the top-ranked players on the PGA Tour have given various reasons for canceling their membership and deciding to participate in the LIV Golf circuit.
But for a longtime tour member, the reasoning is pretty straightforward.
Curtis Strange, a 17-time PGA Tour winner and back-to-back US Open champion (1988-89), Fox News this week told Digital that he believes money is the biggest motivator for players joining the rival Saudi Arabia-backed golf league.
“You know, there’s one reason these players go, and only one reason, and that’s the mock money,” Strange said.
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“I used to go abroad two or three times a year if I played well, and it was about the money. It was about the fees for the performance. But at the same time, you played in tournaments with a lot of prize money. So you always try. I mean, but they were real world ranking tournaments, so it meant something – financially, in reward, in world ranking points and your standing in the game, which is very important. This isn’t the case.”
The PGA Tour does not allow an appearance fee, while LIV golf does – similar to the DP World Tour. Players will also compete for $20 million purses in addition to an additional $5 million team competition prize for each tournament.
Players like Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson have reportedly signed deals with bonuses worth $150 million and $200 million respectively.
Strange also said the tour’s latest move to increase wallets, which was hastened due to the birth of LIV Golf, brings the two circuits closer together, but also makes appearance money all the more important.
He said he can understand the financial appeal of certain players, but dismissed some of the reasons publicly put forward for their departure.
“I understand the players who are going. I’m doing it because it’s so big, it’s life-changing,” said Strange. “Now some people will say, ‘Well, they’re already making a lot of money.’ Yes, they do, but some of these players are at the end of their careers, so they won’t be making huge amounts of money for years to come.
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“It’s not about not liking yours. This isn’t about what the tour didn’t do. It’s not about wanting to see my family in a year. It’s not about giving me more time “For myself. These guys don’t play that much anyway. It’s all about this huge fake money. And that’s it. That’s the bottom line.”
Brooks Koepka, who joined LIV Golf this week for the first US event in Oregon this week, told reporters at a news conference that his main reason for joining the tour was because injury and the desire to spend more time on rehabilitation†
“What I’ve been through on my knees for the past two years, the pain, the rehab, all these things, you realize, you know, I need a little more free time,” he said. “I’ll be the first to say it: it hasn’t been easy the last few years, and I think I’ll have some more breaks, some more time at home to make sure I’m 100% before playing in an event and don’t feel like I have to play right away [is good]†
In February, Koepka said of LIV Golf, “They’re going to get their boys. Someone will sell out and go for it.”
But on Tuesday, he said “opinions are changing,” adding that he made his decision after the US Open.
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Strange expressed his understanding, but added that he believes this will hurt both the PGA Tour and the game of golf in the long run.
“Is this harmful to the tour? Yes, because it took some big player names out of the tour. Is it harmful to golf? Yes. Because it waters down the whole system. It’s a rebel system with extremely deep pockets, and they’re buy their tour.
“This is one of the biggest things that’s ever happened to our game in a negative way. And so it’s not good for anyone. But will it keep happening? You know, as long as they keep throwing that kind of money, there’s always a chance Is that tour going on for more than a few years? It’s up to them how much money they want to put into it.”
Strange defended the PGA Tour and Commissioner Jay Monahan for suspending those defectors’ membership, saying he is trying to protect the integrity of the tour for the remaining members.
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“I can’t imagine turning your back on the organization that gave you the platform to be who you are,” Strange said. “At the same time, I understand a guy who thinks he can’t play well enough anymore. But I’m just having a hard time. After playing the tour for so long, turning his back on an organization and actually kind of but I get it. I get it . It’s money.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.