Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

PGA of America executives ‘absolutely’ worried about ‘messy’ state of pro golf

By admin May20,2024

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — This week’s 2024 PGA Championship will most likely feature more LIV Golf players – 16, to be exact – than any other major championship this season as the professional game will briefly unite once again at Valhalla Golf Club.

Ahead of the 106th playing of the PGA of America’s flagship event, the organization’s President John Lindert, CEO Seth Waugh and Chief Championships Officer Kerry Haigh all gathered for a press conference and addressed the “messy” state of pro golf as the PGA Tour and LIV continue to battle for eyeballs and interest.

Waugh said he was “absolutely” worried about the game at the professional level, noting how “it seems to get messier every week.” As an optimist, however, he hopes this is the darkness before the dawn.

“I think the best thing for the game is a deal. And we’ve been very consistent on that front,” said Waugh. “What has been an unsustainable business model has put pressure on other places like the (PGA Tour) that creates some financial dynamics as well as other dynamics that are very hard, and quite frankly it puts some financial pressure on us, as well.”

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“I don’t think the game is big enough for two tours like that, and I think we are diluting the game in a way that is not healthy. We’ve said that, really, from the beginning,” he continued. “I hope there’s a deal. I think both sides are not only committed to trying to find a deal but really need a deal, and in my history of deal making, when both sides kind of need something to happen, it generally does.”

Waugh wouldn’t speak on the timing and noted while he has connections to those in the discussions, he doesn’t have any information the rest of us don’t already possess. Tiger Woods, who is on the subcommittee that will negotiate with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, spoke on the status of the negotiations on Tuesday and echoed what’s been said for months: progress is being made. Jon Rahm, who made the move to LIV late last year, said he thinks a deal will be done but doesn’t want a rushed resolution.

“I hope there’s urgency because I do think it’s doing damage to the Tour, to the game,” added Waugh. “As I said earlier, I hope it’s short-term damage, as opposed to permanent damage, and so I hope there’s some urgency in the timing around it because I just don’t think it’s a healthy situation right now.”

When it comes to players in the field, the PGA of America will invite those in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking who aren’t already exempt. Of the 16 LIV players on site this week, seven received special invites from the PGA of America. Four were inside the top 100 of the OWGR. Of the three who were not, Dean Burmester and David Puig both tried to earn their way in by playing on the DP World Tour and Asian Tour, respectively, and both won at least once. The outlier is Gooch, who has only played for LIV since he joined the Saudi-backed circuit and earlier this month said he won’t be attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open while 34 of his colleagues will try to play their way in.

Talor Gooch of the United States walks to the eighth tee during a practice round prior to the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 15, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Haigh avoided a direct question about Gooch’s invitation being strictly based on his LIV performance – he’s currently eighth on LIV’s season-long standings for 2024 but won the season-long individual championship last year – and gave no hint about LIV-specific qualifying criteria being implemented.

“Well, our invitation process has been pretty much the same for many years. You know, we have 15 criteria that are pretty much set, and then there’s an opportunity for us to invite those players who may not be in those 15 criteria,” said Haigh. “That process over the years has made us be able to have what we feel is a field we are really proud of. It brings the best players in the whole world together to compete on a great golf course for a major championship, and that’s what we pride — we are very proud of the field that we have, and we feel they are the best players in the game.”

“We have the most flexibility of any of the majors, right. We are not bound to World Rankings. We are not bound to special invitations,” Waugh added. “But Kerry has the ability, we all have the ability, to kind of lean in and really pick the best field in golf, and that’s never been, frankly, more important than it is right now.”

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