ATLANTA — The 30 players who are competing in the Tour Championship at East Lake this week are playing for $45 million in FedEx Cup bonus money, with $15 million going to the winner.
And PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Wednesday that he anticipates no reduction in purses going forward as the golf circuit navigates the coronavirus pandemic without spectators for the foreseeable future.
Despite the revenue hit the PGA Tour took due to the 13-week shutdown and financial losses suffered every week the tour plays without fans, Monahan announced a robust 50-tournament “super” schedule for the 2020-21 season that begins next week and concludes a year from now at the Tour Championship.
“We still live in a world of uncertainty,” Monahan said at East Lake Golf Club, site of the Tour Championship, which begins Friday. “But 30% of our events we haven’t held. We have had a decrease this year. You look at the support we’ve had from our title sponsors, from our tournament organizations, that fact that our players have generated more than $35 million for COVID-related charities.
“I’m hopeful we’re going to get through next year. We’re going to get back to normal fast, and that puts us in a position where we continue on the normal growth pattern that we’re projected to be on this year that unfortunately we were not able to be on because of the events associated with COVID.”
The 13-week layoff, in essence, was a pay cut for the players, who were unable to play or earn tournament income during that time. Although some events were rescheduled, about $80 million in prize money was not paid out.
Meanwhile, the events that have been played since the schedule restarted — now in its 13th week — have done so without spectators. That is a big financial hit to the local organization groups, which still have bills to pay. Although figures are unavailable, the PGA Tour is supplementing them so they can cover their costs and still make charitable contributions.
But that model cannot last forever. Hence, in three weeks, the PGA Tour will resume having pro-ams at its events starting with the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. (Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour Champions events have been having pro-ams.)
Amateurs often pay $5,000 or more for the ability to be grouped with pros on the day before a tournament. Money raised through those events represents a significant portion of a tournament’s operating income.
Purses are generally not affected by ticket and local sponsorship revenue. The title sponsor and television rights fees cover prize money.
When spectators will be able to return is still undecided, Monahan said.
“Every tournament is starting to plan for multiple potential outcomes, and hopefully planning towards the return of what we know as normal, and that’s fans on site,” Monahan said.
“But I’m really proud of the work that the team has done to systematically rebuild our way back up to that, and our tournaments are eager to reinstitute the pro-ams. It’s obviously a very important revenue source and source of connection to the communities.
“When we feel like it’s safe to return fans out here, that’s when fans will return. We owe that to them, and we’re supported locally in every market we play in, and that is supported by the local government authorities.”
As part of the 2020-21 scheduled unveiled Wednesday, the Bermuda and Punta Cana events will now be full FedEx Cup points tournaments with Masters invites going to the winners.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational will move to the week after the WGC-Mexico Championship, followed by the Players Championship and the Honda Classic; the Valspar Championship will move to after the Masters and be played the week before the Wells Fargo Championship; the 3M Open follows The Open, which will be played at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England; and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis will follow the Olympic men’s golf tournament.