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As Koepka Leaves for LIV Golf, the PGA Tour Mulls Changes

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Since March, Brooks Koepka has emphatically denied he would consider joining the breakaway, Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.

“Money isn’t going to alter my life,” Koepka said on the time with a disdainful sneer. As recently as two weeks ago, Koepka was still telling fellow players he was not fascinated by leaving the PGA Tour.

On Tuesday, he defected to the rival LIV Golf circuit, which can hold its second event, outside Portland, Ore., starting on June 30.

What modified for Koepka? It might be easy to say there have been most probably greater than 100 million reasons for him to reverse course since other former PGA Tour players reminiscent of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau have reportedly received nine-figure contracts to align with LIV Golf. The brand new circuit guarantees a limited, shortened schedule that offers golfers more flexibility and hosts no-cut tournaments during which every player is guaranteed a hefty payday.

But every player who entered the inaugural LIV Golf event outside London earlier this month was suspended by the PGA Tour, and future entrants to imminent LIV Golf tournaments will probably be treated similarly.

Koepka’s decision just isn’t a surprise — he telegraphed it with a scornful news conference ultimately week’s U.S. Open outside Boston — however it is one other victory for LIV Golf in its fight for credibility against the established PGA Tour. Abraham Ancer of Mexico, who’s 31 years old and ranked twentieth in the lads’s world rankings, also committed to the LIV Golf series on Tuesday.

Koepka, 32, who won 4 major championships between 2017 and 2019, has been injured and struggling for years. His world rating has slipped to No. 19 this week from No. 1 in 2019. In a little bit of irony, Koepka is joining LIV Golf about 10 days after DeChambeau, his longtime antagonist, switched his allegiance. DeChambeau has also been dogged by health issues. Once viewed as a hard-swinging, bulked up game-changing phenomenon who captivated younger fans along with his audacious length off the tee, DeChambeau has tumbled from fourth within the rankings to thirtieth. He was an afterthought ultimately week’s U.S. Open, ending tied for 56th. Koepka missed the cut at this yr’s Masters Tournament and finished outside the highest 50 ultimately month’s P.G.A. Championship and ultimately week’s U.S. Open.

But Koepka’s exit nonetheless provides one other noteworthy little bit of unexpected momentum for LIV Golf, whose major shareholder is the Private Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. Only six weeks ago, there was nearly universal solidarity among the many PGA Tour’s player ranks.

Each reversal of opinion sends little tremors through the close-knit community of PGA Tour players and has meaning. A fear of getting left behind can pervade the group, as with some other, especially when players keep going back on their word. Their colleagues may ponder: Should I jump ship now, before it’s too late and the highest LIV Golf contracts are gone?

Some perspective is obligatory. A substantial majority of the perfect young players have remained loyal to the PGA Tour. Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas — ranked first through fifth — affirm their commitment to the PGA Tour weekly. Morikawa did it again Tuesday when he tweeted: “To state for the record, once more, you all are absolutely fallacious. I’ve said it since February at Riviera that I’m here to remain on the PGA Tour and nothing has modified.”

Nevertheless it is simple to wonder what number of more latest faces there is likely to be in the sector by June 30, when LIV Golf makes its first appearance in the US. The total list of entrants is anticipated this week.

What number of will probably be in the sector when the upstart tour arrives at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on July 29? That tournament will probably be held after the mid-July British Open, the last of this yr’s major men’s golf championships.

What is understood is that the pressure continues to ramp up on the PGA Tour to answer the credible threat LIV Golf is posing. And Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, has the framework of a plan to at the least partially appease players interested in a shorter schedule and greater earnings. (Hint: It looks an awful lot just like the LIV Golf schedule and prize money.)

A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series

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A latest series. The brand new Saudi-financed, controversy-trailed LIV Golf series held its first event in June. But what’s it? Who’s playing it? What’s all of the hubbub, and how are you going to watch it? Here’s what to know:

What’s LIV Golf? The series is an upstart skilled golf circuit bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Its organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the very best level of professional golf for nearly a century.

Who’s playing it? The 48 players within the initial LIV Golf event weren’t exactly a who’s who of golf, and lots of of the most important names in the game, reminiscent of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have stayed away. But there have been big names and former major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio García.

What’s attracting the players? The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history. The primary tournament’s total purse was $25 million, and the winner’s share was $4 million. The last-place finisher at each event was guaranteed $120,000. That’s on top of the looks fees and nine-figure signing-on payouts some players have accepted.

How can I watch the brand new tour? Despite its high-profile golfers and its big-money backing, LIV Golf has not yet secured a broadcast rights agreement in the US and will probably be shown on lesser-watched streaming services in much of the world. In the US, this week’s tournament will probably be available via live streams on LIVGolf.com, YouTube and Facebook.

In a players’ meeting on Tuesday, in accordance with several individuals who were in attendance, Monahan outlined a significantly revised PGA Tour schedule for next yr that can feature eight events with limited fields and no cuts, and increased purses of at the least $20 million for the highest 50 players from this yr’s season-long FedEx Cup standings. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to reveal the main points discussed.

LIV Golf players would obviously be excluded. The payouts for this yr’s PGA Tour events vary widely, but a median total can be about $8.5 million.

The tour can also be planning a contraction of the season that may give players more day off in the autumn months, which in 2013-14 had a considerable expansion of tournaments. That increase has been widely unpopular with many players.

The PGA Tour’s latest proposal could stem the tide of rebels leaving its once placid nest. Or, the tour could absorb the lack of some players, and with all the company sponsors and tradition it has in its corner, prosper with a majority of golfers who remain. It still holds probably the most advantageous cards, not the least of which being that the LIV Golf circuit still has no mainstream TV contract for its events. It’s virtually unimaginable to be a viable sports entertainment option without one.

Perhaps the 2 golf tours will coexist, at the least for some time. Golf is one in all our more unpredictable sports. Perhaps more change is coming. Nothing seems a continuing these days in golf.

At his news conference on the eve of the U.S. Open last week, Koepka was asked if he had made a “everlasting decision” on whether he’ll bolt to the LIV Golf series.

He answered: “As of last week. That’s it.”

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