Nicklaus worried big purses will minimize other tournaments

October 11, 2022 GMT
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Tom Kim, of South Korea, left, shakes hands with Patrick Cantlay after Kim won the Shriners Children's Open golf tournament, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
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Tom Kim, of South Korea, left, shakes hands with Patrick Cantlay after Kim won the Shriners Children's Open golf tournament, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jack Nicklaus is as curious as anyone how the new PGA Tour schedule will work with $20 million purses at 10 elevated tournaments, and The Players Championship at $25 million. And that doesn’t include what the majors will do.

The Memorial is one of the elevated tournaments, no surprise because the tournament Nicklaus built has long been one of the premier events this side of a major with an ideal spot on the schedule between the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open.

His biggest concern is it will create what amounts to two tours, and he said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan “has a little work to do to figure out how to make it work.”

“I’m not sure what to make of it yet,” Nicklaus said last week at Timuquana Country Club. “I think the tour was going to get there, but the LIV thing pushed them. That’s pretty obvious. What it’s done is made the PGA Tour almost two tiers. All of a sudden the other tournaments become feeders.”

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Nicklaus also is involved in the Honda Classic at PGA National, which has the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation as its primary charity.

The Honda Classic field was as strong as any during the Florida swing in March for a three-year stretch ending in 2016. In recent years it has suffered from being a week after the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, and the week before the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship.

Those are now elevated events. The Honda Classic has an $8.4 million purse next year.

“It’s been in a tough spot for the last four to five years sitting there between LA and Bay Hill. I think they’d like to get out of that spot,” Nicklaus said. “Since we’re beneficiaries, I’ve had some reasonable talk with Jay about it. I’ve got a few ideas we’re exploring. We’re trying to figure out a way to move the date and make it more significant.

“But you know what? You go there, you’ll find out the people will still be there. There will be great crowds, they’ll raise a lot of money and it will do well in spite of not having some of the players. It’s still pretty good.”

It’s not just the Honda Classic. The Valspar Championship in the Tampa area falls after The Players and before the Dell Match Play. Still to determined are four other tournaments that will be among the elevated events with $20 million purses and how they fit into a suddenly tight schedule.

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Nicklaus laughed when reminded of his career earnings that top $5.7 million.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “The golfers of today are blessed by what they do and the money they can raise and play for. It’s unbelievable. But you look at the other sports, and they’re doing the same thing.”

INTERNATIONAL CROWN

The best team event that doesn’t involve a cup is returning to the LPGA Tour.

South Korea-based Hanwha is the new title sponsor of the International Crown, which returns to the LPGA landscape next year at Harding Park in San Francisco. The tournament features eight countries each with four players competing in team match play.

The Hanwha LifePlus International Crown will be May 4-7.

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“The 32 athletes ... will have the ultimate honor of playing under their national colors and representing their countries, one of the most exciting opportunities an athlete can experience,” LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan said.

The qualifying countries will be divided into two pools and have round-robin fourballs matches the first three days. The top two countries from each pool advance to Sunday. The semifinals and championship round will be two singles matches and one foursomes match.

The countries will be determined by the women’s world ranking after the CME Group Tour Championship in November, and the players who qualify for each team will be based on the world ranking on April 2, 2023.

The International Crown typically is every other year and began in 2014. Spain won the inaugural event, followed by the United States. South Korea won the most recent event in 2018. It was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harding Park, now part of the TPC network, most recently hosted the 2020 PGA Championship. It also has held the Presidents Cup (2009) and two World Golf Championships (American Express in 2005, Match Play in 2015).

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PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

The PGA Tour Champions will be releasing its 2023 schedule next week, and nine tournaments will be increasing their prize money. That’s no small feat considering the 50-and-older circuit doesn’t generate a level of television revenue like the PGA Tour.

“The only way we do it is through title sponsors and local organizations,” PGA Tour Champions President Miller Brady said. “This is not PGA Tour dollars. But from where we were in 2021 to 2023, it’s $10 million more.”

The number of tournaments will stay at 28, which includes a new event in Palm Desert, California, at Mission Hills, which the LPGA Tour left when its first major moved to Houston. The Galleri Classic will be March 24-26, a full month after the PGA Tour is in town.

“For a long time we were keeping our purses flat and just making sure we had tournaments,” Brady said. “Now we’re at a point where tournaments are competing with one another. ‘If you’re raising your purse, I’m raising mine.’ Our tournaments top to bottom are as strong as they’ve ever been.”

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The tour loosely known as golf’s greatest mulligan is in a good spot. Steve Stricker picked up his tour-leading fourth win of the year last week at Timuquana. Padraig Harrington won the U.S. Senior Open among his three victories.

What the PGA Tour Champions could be missing in the coming years are some players who went to LIV Golf. That list includes Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell, and further down the line Paul Casey.

“There’s definitely guys who might have played out here,” Brady said. “You never know who’s going to play or how fully committed they are. It’s probably just a handful of guys, more of them Europeans. But to be honest, we’re focused on the guys who are supporting the tour.”

GREAT STARTS

Tom Hoge opened with a 63 in Las Vegas for the first-round lead. He wound up in a tie for fourth, and so Pebble Beach remains his only PGA Tour victory.

Great starts are nothing new for Hoge.

That was the ninth time dating to the 2014-15 season that Hoge had at least a share of the 18-hole lead. Only Dustin Johnson (11) and Justin Thomas (10) have more in that time.

MONEY MATTERS

Patrick Cantlay in five times playing Las Vegas has won, been runner-up three times and tied for eighth.

His total earnings: $3,645,750.

Pat Perez in five times playing LIV Golf events has tied for 15th, tied for 29th, tied for 31st, tied for 32nd and finished 40th in the series’ 48-man fields.

His total earnings, including team results: $3,837,000.

DIVOTS

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and CBS Sports analyst Tony Romo has qualified for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball next year with Tommy Morrison, a high school senior who is 6-foot-10. ... Tiger Woods is now No. 1,206 in the world ranking, the lowest of his career. He has played only three times since November 2020 in the Masters, after which he was at No. 33. ... Steve Stricker has 11 wins on the PGA Tour Champions in 47 starts. ... Jay Haas has shot his age (68) or lower four times this year.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Eugenio Chacarra leads the Mena Tour money list with $4 million (all from his victory in the LIV Golf Bangkok event last week).

FINAL WORD

“I cannot believe I’m freaking here!” — Gabriela Then, 26, upon earning an LPGA Tour card for the first time.

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