PGA Tour facing threat that could upend the business of golf – Axios
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A full-scale battle has erupted between an upstart Saudi-funded golf series and the PGA Tour, potentially throwing the future business of golf into question.
Why it matters: Major broadcast networks have invested over $6 billion for the rights to air PGA Tour events through 2030, with additional commitments coming from corporate sponsors for players, the tour and its individual events.
While tension has been brewing for months, the PGA Tour today suspended 17 golfers who participated in LIV Golf's inaugural event this morning in the U.K., citing their failure to secure required conflicting-event and media rights releases.
Details: Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood top the list of golfers "suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA TOUR tournament play," the PGA Tour wrote today in a memo to its members.
Yes, but: The names of players who have not left the PGA Tour are, at this point, equally notable. They include Tiger Woods, still the game's biggest draw, who's popularity changed the economics of golf immeasurably over the last two decades.
What's happening: Money. The average purse (prize money) for a weekly PGA Tour event is about $9.1 million, distributed among roughly 70 players.
By the numbers: CBS Sports, NBC Sports and ESPN signed a nine-year rights deal with the PGA Tour in 2020, valued at around $680 million per year.
State of play: At the moment the LIV Golf series is toxic for sponsors given the Saudi connection.
The intrigue: YouTube and Facebook are streaming the LIV Golf event this week, but it remains to be seen whether any traditional broadcasters will look to secure rights deals in the future.
What we're watching: Whether the LIV Golf series continues to bleed talent away from the PGA Tour, and expands its schedule to compete more directly with its calendar.
Go deeper: Everything you need to know about the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series