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BMW PGA Championship Brings Players From PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf

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All but a half dozen skilled golf tournaments — out of a whole lot of events held annually — depend on a marquee sponsor and dozens of other co-sponsors to pay tens of millions of dollars for every event to occur.

There are a couple of notable exceptions: the Masters, the US Open, the P.G.A. Championship and the British Open.

But even an event as prestigious as this week’s BMW PGA Championship on the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England — one in all the highest events on the DP World Tour — relies on the German carmaker plus one other dozen sponsors, like Zoom, Rolex and Hilton, to fund the event, pay the players and have something left over for charity.

There’s only one problem. The BMW PGA Championship may have greater than a dozen players from the rival Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf series in the sector, including fan favorites Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood and a number of other players that might win the event like Kevin Na, Patrick Reed and Martin Kaymer.

Unlike the PGA Tour, which has suspended members who’ve joined LIV and barred them from playing in PGA Tour events, the DP World Tour has a rather different policy. Members who qualify for tournaments, like Wentworth, based on their world rankings or other criteria, are allowed, for now, to play within the event.

Given the sum of money sponsors pledge to an event on the DP World Tour, the PGA Tour or any of the opposite tours all over the world, they need something in return. Corporate perks and tv coverage obviously, but in addition they want great players to create compelling drama. That’s what happened in the ultimate round of the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour on Aug. 28, when Rory McIlroy beat his playing partner, Scottie Scheffler, by one stroke to win the FedEx Cup, the PGA Tour’s season-long points competition. (Southern Company, Coca-Cola and Accenture are sponsors of the Tour Championship, not to say FedEx, who as a season-long sponsor of the PGA Tour contributes a big a part of the $18 million first-prize check.)

And having a winner from LIV Golf creates a difficult situation for sponsors and the DP World Tour itself, which is a strategic partner of the PGA Tour but has allowed LIV players to compete.

Before the tournament even began, the LIV presence at Wentworth was criticized by top tour members just like the U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, who called the LIV presence “disappointing.” Billy Horschel, who won the BMW PGA Championship in 2021, said the LIV golfers shouldn’t be allowed to play on the DP World Tour in any respect: “They decided to go play on that tour and so they should go play there.”

Its sponsor has remained neutral. “The main focus of the BMW Group is to host a world-class event and supply a premium experience for players, fans and enthusiasts in any respect our sport engagements,” said Tim Holzmüller, a spokesman for BMW Group Sport Engagement.

Great players usher in fans and tv viewers at home. And a battle between a LIV golfer and a PGA or DP World Tour member would definitely juice rankings. But what happens afterward for sponsors could be hard to say.

The normal measure of a tournament is its “strength of field,” which is significant to make sure sponsorship dollars are well spent. In layman’s terms, the term refers back to the quality of the players committed to playing the event. And for sponsors, the larger the celebrities the larger the audience.

The DP World Tour says its marquee event has a powerful roster of players.

“The sector for this yr’s event is projected to be significantly stronger than last yr’s event,” said Steve Todd, deputy media communications director for the DP World Tour, noting that three top-10 players are in the sector — McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Fitzpatrick. The last time that happened was in 2019 — the last BMW PGA Championship unaffected by the pandemic.

Todd added that there have been loads of fan favorites to attract in viewers and satisfy sponsors.

“The sector also features defending champion Billy Horschel and plenty of Ryder Cup players including Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari, all of whom have strong records within the tournament and are particularly popular with the Wentworth crowds,” he said. “Also playing is [Ryder Cup] European captain Luke Donald, who won the event back-to-back in front of his home English fans in 2011 and 2012.”

Westwood, a three-time winner of the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai and a winner on the PGA Tour, is now a LIV golfer who’s playing at Wentworth this week. He said he didn’t imagine it made any difference who won.

“Everyone playing at Wentworth has qualified to play by right,” he said in an interview. “It’s the strongest field on the BMW PGA Championship for years.”

He added: “If a LIV golfer wins, then he’ll be the individual that’s played the most effective and can fully deserve it. I don’t think the general public typically are bothered what tour people play on. They only need to see the most effective players play great golf.”

Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, a longtime agent for players on the DP World Tour, said the competing tours at Wentworth “adds rather a lot to the event each in star names and intrigue. I don’t see an issue if a LIV golfer wins at Wentworth. I feel it possibly shows what might need happened if the [DP World Tour] could have accepted all of the LIV golfers as full members when it was suggested 4 months ago.”

The tournament also comes just weeks after the PGA Tour made significant changes on the way it operates that won’t align with what the DP World Tour is doing.

For one, top players on the PGA Tour must commit to twenty events, which might be difficult for European players. The Tour has also created so-called elevated events with greater prize money. Each are supposed to get the highest players competing against one another more often.

McIlroy said that sports fans need to see the most effective in the sport after they tune in to observe, drawing a comparison to U.S. football fans wanting to see Tom Brady at quarterback in the event that they’re watching a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game.

Yet the up-and-coming players are being given a $500,000 draw against their PGA Tour earnings to assist them compete. This goes for each U.S. players who’ve made it to the PGA Tour and international players who’ve qualified through the DP World Tour rankings. In other words, it’s helping to finish the economic drawback that young players have in golf that they don’t in other skilled sports.

“It’s comparable to how other leagues approach their athlete compensation,” said the PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan at a news conference. “For rookies, coming out here and knowing that that’s payable on day one we predict will help put those rookies in a greater position to compete because they will spend money on the infrastructure they should succeed.”

(Players who miss the cut also get a $5,000 stipend to assist cover their expenses.)

The PGA Tour’s August announcement also has given LIV players fodder to play each side of the talk, since what it means for the tour’s partner, the DP World Tour, wasn’t mentioned.

“The goal for the DP World Tour is finding a technique to get the highest Europeans that play on the PGA Tour to return back and play in Europe more often, not only the odd big one or two tournaments where they get appearance money,” Westwood said. “That is all going to be made harder by the brand new concept that Jay [Monahan] announced that’s designed to ensure 20 strong fields within the U.S. with not much thought given to the DP World Tour and other tours. It’s an odd decision considering the brand new ‘strategic alliance’ supposedly in place.”

But a PGA Tour official who was not authorized to talk due to ongoing litigation involving LIV Golf said the strength of fields on the tour stays strong even without the players who’ve left.

And that, at the tip of the day, is what some observers imagine firms want. “Sponsors,” Chandler said, “want the most effective fields at their events so BMW shall be pleased.”

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