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Some of the PGA Tour’s top-ranked players have given differing reasons for resigning their memberships and deciding to participate in the LIV Golf circuit.
But, for one long-time tour member, the reasoning is quite simple.
Curtis Strange, a 17-time PGA Tour winner and back-to-back U.S. Open champion (1988-89), told Fox News Digital this week he believes the biggest motivator for players joining the rival Saudi-backed golf league is the money.
“You know, there’s one reason these players are going, and one reason only, and that’s the appearance money,” Strange said.
“I used to go overseas two or three times a year when I was playing well, and it was about the money. It was about appearance fees. But, at the same time, you were playing in tournaments that had substantial prize money. So you always try. I mean, but they were real-life world ranking tournaments, so it meant something — financially, reward-wise as far as world ranking points and your status in the game, which is very important. This is not the case.”
The PGA Tour does not allow appearance fees while LIV golf does – similar to the DP World Tour. Players also compete for $20 million purses in addition to an additional $5 million prize for the team competition 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 measure to increase purse sizes, which was expedited because of the birth of LIV Golf, brings the two circuits closer but also makes appearance money all the more significant.
He said he can understand the financial lure for certain players but dismissed some of the reasons that have been publicly offered for their departures.
“I understand the players going. I do because it’s so large, it’s life-changing,” Strange said. “Now, some people will say, ‘Well, they already make a lot of money.’ Yes, they do. But some of these players are at the end of their careers, and so they’re not going to make huge amounts of money for the next, you know, number of years.
“It isn’t about not liking the your. This isn’t about what the tour hasn’t done. It isn’t about I want to see my family more in a year. It is not about having more time to myself. These guys don’t play that much anyway. It’s all about this huge appearance money. And that’s it. That’s the bottom line.”
Brooks Koepka, who joined LIV Golf before its first U.S.-based event in Oregon this week, told reporters during a press conference that his chief reason for joining the tour was because of injury and the desire to spend more time rehabbing.
“What I’ve had to go through the last two years on my knees, the pain, the rehab, all this stuff, you realize, you know, I need a little bit more time off,” he said. “I’ll be the first one to say it: It’s not been an easy last couple of years, and I think having a little more breaks, a little more time at home to make sure I’m 100% before I go play in an event and don’t feel like I’m forced to play right away [is good].”
In February, Koepka said of LIV Golf: “They’ll get their guys. Somebody will sell out and go to it.”
But, on Tuesday, he said, “opinions change,” adding that he made his decision after the U.S. Open.
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 has taken some big player names away from the tour. Is it harmful for golf? Yes. Because it’s diluting the whole system. It’s a rebel system with extremely deep pockets, and they’re buying their tour.
“This is one of the biggest things to ever happen in a negative way to our game. And so it’s not good for anybody. But will it continue to happen? You know, as long as they continue to throw that kind of money, there’s always a chance. Does that tour exist for longer than a couple of years? That’s all up to them, how much money they want to put in it.”
Strange defended the PGA Tour and Commissioner Jay Monahan for suspending the membership of those defectors, saying he’s trying to protect the integrity of the tour for those remaining members.
“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 do understand a guy who doesn’t think he can play well enough anymore going. But I just have a tough time. After playing the tour for so long, turning your back on an organization and actually being somewhat detrimental to it. But I get it. I get it. It’s money.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.