PGA Tour's $600 million move amid ugly Greg Norman controversy

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·Sports Editor
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Greg Norman, pictured here in action at the Honda Classic Pro-Am in 2019.
Greg Norman in action at the Honda Classic Pro-Am in 2019. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)

The PGA Tour has raised the purses in five of its biggest tournaments in a season schedule that pushes prize money up to $427 million ($A590m).

The move appears to be a direct response after a Greg Norman-led group funded by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund outlined plans to inject $200m ($A277m) into the Asian Tour as a step toward creating a world tour promising guaranteed riches.

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The PGA Tour increases were approved at a board meeting two weeks ago in Houston and outlined in a memo that Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan sent to players on Monday.

"We are positioned to grow faster in the next 10 years than we have at any point in our existence," Monahan said in the memo, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Monahan said the tour's forecast is for 55 per cent of revenue going to the players in prize money, bonus programs and other benefits.

Last season's top Australian money earner on the PGA Tour was Cameron Smith with more than $5.6m ($A8m), while Marc Leishman, Cameron Davis and Matt Jones all topped the $A3m mark.

Two play-off events will now offer $15m ($A21m), while $12m ($A17m) is up for grabs in the three invitational tournaments.

The lucrative FedExCup will now be worth $75m ($A104m) - up from the $60m ($A84m) this year - with the winner to scoop up $18 million ($A25m).

The memo was a year-end message that was delivered earlier than usual, in part because of the Norman-led group's announcement last month.

Monahan did not mention competing tours in his memo.

The tour already posted the new season schedule in which most tournaments increased prize money by nearly $1m ($A1.4m).

The average purse on the PGA Tour, not including the four opposite-field events, is roughly $9m ($A12m).

The increases come largely from the nine-year media rights deal worth roughly $7 billion ($A9.7b) that goes into effect in 2022.

The majors typically don't announce their purses until closer to the event.

A year ago, the richest major was the US Open at $12.5m ($A18m). The PGA Championship purse was $12 ($A17m) and the Masters and British Open awarded $11.5m ($A16m).

Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith, pictured here with the trophy after winning the Zurich Classic.
Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith pose with the trophy after winning the Zurich Classic in April. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Controversy over Greg Norman's deal with Saudi Arabia

Norman has been named as the CEO of LIV Golf Investments (LGI), a newly formed company backed by the Private Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

Norman said the investment of at least $260 million in prize money over the next 10 years "is only the beginning" amid rumours that he will also become the commissioner of a new Saudi-funded breakaway golf league.

But when asked if the plans were intended as revenge against the PGA Tour after it rejected his bid to establish a World Golf Tour in 1994, Norman told Australian Golf Digest: "No, it's not that way at all.

"I can categorically say this is not a direct attack on the PGA Tour. It's for the betterment of the game of golf, pure and simple.

"There's been a lot of commentary about this being all about me getting even with the Tour. This idea has been around for a long time."

Greg Norman, pictured here wife Kirsten Kutner at the London Olympics in 2012.
Greg Norman wife Kirsten Kutner at the London Olympics in 2012. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)

The "strategic alliance" signed between the PGA Tour and European Tour in November of 2020 was widely seen as a response to the threat posed by potential breakaway leagues.

Norman and the PIF have copped backlash because of Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record.

"Whether or not this is the harbinger of a future Saudi-backed Golf Super League, it's yet another example of Saudi Arabia spraying its money around in an attempt to sportswash its appalling human rights record," Amnesty International UK's chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said.

"It's no coincidence that Saudi Arabia's aggressive move into sport - with major boxing bouts, glitzy golf tours and new football club ownership - has come at a time when Saudi human rights defenders have been jailed, when Saudi missiles have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians, and when Jamal Khashoggi was hacked into pieces in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"Sportswashing wasn't invented by Saudi Arabia but under Mohammed bin Salman the country is now almost without equal in its brazen efforts to use the glamour and razzamatazz of sport to rebrand itself and distract attention from its human rights record.

"Golfers tempted to play in these tournaments ought to take the time to consider the dynamics of sportswashing and how they might break its spell by speaking out about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia."

with AAP

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