PGA planning revamp to head off LIV as Koepka defects

The PGA Tour is planning to revamp its schedule with a series of lucrative new tournaments, reports said Tuesday, as four-time major champion Brooks Koepka became the latest star to defect to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit.

Brooks Koepka. Picture: @BKoepka/Twitter

LOS ANGELES - The PGA Tour is planning to revamp its schedule with a series of lucrative new tournaments, reports said Tuesday, as four-time major champion Brooks Koepka became the latest star to defect to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan detailed proposed changes to the tour schedule at a packed meeting of players early Tuesday at this week's Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut, according to reports.

Proposals outlined by Monahan include boosting purses to at least $20 million in eight existing marquee tournaments and the introduction of three new $25 million tournaments that will feature no cuts and limited fields. The schedule overhaul could be in place by the 2023 season.

The moves are the clearest indicator yet of the PGA Tour's strategy to combat the rise of LIV Golf, which has steadily been luring star names to sign with the upstart circuit that offers $25 million in prize money for each of its 54-hole tournaments.

Other changes proposed by Monahan on Tuesday included a return to a calendar year schedule running from January to December.

The current "wraparound" season starts in the North American autumn and is unpopular with some players who complain it does not allow for a clearly defined off-season.

Tuesday's developments came as news broke that Koepka, the world number 19, and Mexico's Abraham Ancer, the world number 20, have joined LIV.

Koepka, 32, is expected to make his debut on the money-spinning circuit at its maiden US event in Oregon next week. Koepka's management team did not immediately respond when contacted by AFP on Tuesday.

Koepka - who removed "PGA Tour" from his Twitter profile on Monday - will follow the likes of Dustin Johnson and six-time major-winner Phil Mickelson by joining LIV.

The series, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, has plunged the golf world into turmoil since its emergence.

LIV Golf has drawn stinging criticism from human rights groups, which say the series is an attempt to boost the kingdom's image through sport.

The PGA Tour has adopted a zero-tolerance stance towards the series, with tour chief Monahan suspending 17 former or current tour players for making the switch.

Speaking at the Travelers Championship on Tuesday, defending champion Harris English said he hoped the PGA Tour's proposed revamp could persuade players to remain with the circuit.

"I think it can be, for sure," English said.

Patrick Cantlay meanwhile described the PGA-LIV confrontation as a fight to attract and retain talent.

"I think right now there's a competition for talent that's going on and I think you see it in all sorts of other businesses," Cantlay said.

"Part of the concern is not knowing what the future is going to be like.

"Right now it's an uncertain time for golf, but if you think about it in the larger business landscape it's a competition for talent.

"So if the PGA TOUR wants to remain the preeminent tour for professional golfers, it has to be the best place to play for the best players in the world."