LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Kramer Hickok, a PGA Tour player, adds to the relentless drumbeat of speculation about the long-rumored super-league notion, which threatens to entice top players away from the PGA Tour.
LIV Golf Investments, the fund behind the new league, has signed “17 individuals who have jumped over,” according to Hickok, and that list includes some “huge names.”
“I can’t reveal who they are, but there will be some major names over there,” says the narrator. The money, from what I’ve learned, is very, very enticing,” said Hickok, who is in his fourth year on the Tour. “For some of these guys, it’ll be quite tempting.”
Hickok described a tour featuring 12 to 14 tournaments, each with a “big purse” and a small field. He also stated that ten of the fourteen tournaments will be held in the United States, and that athletes accepted into the super league will get significant “signing bonuses.”
Similar speculations have been swirling on the Tour since the super-league concept was originally publicized in early 2020, and arguably Hickok’s most compelling observation was about how the Tour and the present golf establishment will deal with the threat of a rival league.
“On Tour, we’ve had The Players bumping up to a $20 million purse, and the challenge we’re having is getting the majors to bump up their purses, because we’re just getting a small, small piece of the pie,” Hickok explained. “You have the Masters, I’m not sure how much money they make that week, but $12.5 million purse [sic] – I’m not sure if we’re allowed to disclose these amounts – but we’re getting a tiny, tiny percentage of the total revenue for all four majors.”
This isn’t the first time that the major championships have been brought up in a bigger discussion regarding pay. Brandt Snedeker proposed the notion at a players’ meeting in early 2014, and whichever the Tour combats the super league, it will have to work in tandem with the majors, which include the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and The Open, none of which are run by the PGA Tour.
“How we respond [to the super league] will be heavily influenced by the majors,” said Snedeker, a nine-time Tour winner who joined the circuit in 2007. “I can’t offer you an exact figure, but at the majors, the players get between 10% and 15% of total money [through purses].”
Snedeker said that his estimate isn’t exact, but after years of investigation, he’s confident in his estimation that the purses for the four men’s majors – Augusta National, the PGA of America, the USGA, and the R&A – constitute “10 to 15%” of each organization’s overall revenue.
Snedeker explained, “That’s simply TV contracts, nothing else.” “I’m not saying we’re not playing for a good amount of money, but the purses aren’t keeping up.”
When the USGA negotiated a 12-year television rights contract with Fox for a reported $100 million per year, the discussion began. The 2014 U.S. Open had a purse of $9 million. The national championship purse increased to $12 million in 2017, but Snedeker points out that it still falls short of the income split in other sports. The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, for example, stipulates a 49-to-51-percent share of all basketball-related revenue between players and franchises.
The PGA of America, the USGA, and Augusta National all declined to comment on Hickok’s remarks about purses, but a USGA representative directed any questions to the organization’s tax filings as a non-profit. A request for comment from the R&A was not immediately returned.
“Most players recognize that the majors’ objective is to advance the game of golf, but we’d like to know how the money is spent at some point,” Snedeker said. “There should be some transparency about where it goes.” We have no say in that because we don’t organize such championships.”
Snedeker stated that the major championships have become “more open” in terms of revenue and purses, and that he has no desire to compete in the super league because “there isn’t enough money in the world.”
The prizes for last year’s majors were $12.5 million for the US Open, $12 million for the PGA Championship, $11.5 million for the Masters, and $11 million for the US Open (Open Championship). The Genesis Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, and the WGC-Match Play all have $12 million purses this week. The first two FedExCup playoff events each offer a purse of $15 million. The Players Championship will also see a significant increase in prize money this year, with a total prize pool of $20 million.
Many see the enhanced Tour purses, as well as new programs like the $50 million Player Impact Program, as a direct response to the possibility of a rich rival circuit, and as whispers of high-profile defections grow, the major championships will have to be a part of what feels like a bidding war.
“The issue is that we as players need to be a part of the solution,” stated Snedeker. “Throwing stones isn’t going to get you anywhere. Hopefully, we’ll all be able to work along.”
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