Updated April 25th, 2024 at 14:57 IST

PGA Tour players learn how much loyalty is worth in new equity program

Players who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour amid lucrative recruitment by Saudi-funded LIV Golf are starting to find out how much that loyalty could be worth.

Golf | Image:ANI
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Players who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour amid lucrative recruitment by Saudi-funded LIV Golf are starting to find out how much that loyalty could be worth.

The PGA Tour on Wednesday began contacting the 193 players eligible for the USD 930 million from a "Player Equity Program" under the new PGA Tour Enterprises.

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The bulk of that money — USD 750 million — went to 36 players based on their career performance, the last five years and how they fared in a recent program that measured their star power.

How much they received was not immediately known. Emails were going out Wednesday afternoon and Thursday informing players of what they would get. One person who saw a list of how the equity shares were doled out said the names had been redacted. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because many details of the program were not made public.

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The Telegraph reported Tiger Woods was to receive USD 100 million in equity and Rory McIlroy could get USD 50 million, without saying how it came up with those numbers.

Commissioner Jay Monahan outlined the first-of-its-kind equity ownership program in a Feb. 7 memo to players, a week after Strategic Sports Group became a minority investor in the new commercial PGA Tour Enterprises.

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The private equity group, a consortium of professional sports owners led by the Fenway Sports Group, made an initial investment of USD 1.5 billion that could be worth USD 3 billion. The tour is still negotiating with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia — the financial muscle behind the rival LIV Golf league — as an investor.

Any deal with PIF would most certainly increase the value of the equity shares.

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Another person with knowledge of the Player Equity Program, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the dealings, said the equity money is not part of the SSG investment. That money was geared toward growth capital.

Golf.com received a series of informational videos on the Player Equity Program that was sent to players and reported only 50% of the equity would vest after four years, 25% more after six years and the rest of it after eight years.

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It also reported how the 36 players from the top tier were judged on "career points," such as how long they were full members, victories, how often they reached the Tour Championship and extra points for significant victories.

Jason Gore, the tour's chief player officer, said in one of the videos, “It's really about making sure that our players know the PGA Tour is the best place to compete and showing them how much the Tour appreciates them being loyal.” Emails also were sent to 64 players who would share USD 75 million in aggregate equity based on the past three years, and USD 30 million to 57 players who are PGA Tour members. Also, USD 75 million in equity shares was set aside for 36 past players instrumental in building the tour.

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The program has an additional USD 600 million in equity grants that are recurring for future PGA Tour players. Those would be awarded in amounts of USD 100 million annually started in 2025.

Players only get equity shares from one of the four tiers now, although everyone would be eligible for the recurring grants.

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Even with equity ownership geared toward making the PGA Tour better, the concern was players questioning who got how much and whether they received their fair share.

LIV Golf lured away seven major champions dating to 2018 since it launched in 2022, all with guaranteed contracts and most of them believed to have topped USD 100 million.

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McIlroy, playing this week in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, was asked how much would make players feel validated for their decision to stay with the PGA Tour.

"I think the one thing we've learned in golf over the last two years is there's never enough," McIlroy replied. 

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Published April 25th, 2024 at 14:57 IST