Bubba Watson revealed what he disliked about the PGA Tour, what caused him to leave for LIV Golf and his views on the sport’s current climate on the NCG Golf Podcast
When the US circuit announced a framework agreement with the Public Investment Fund last June, discourse and outrage ensued from a handful of PGA Tour players.
The difficulty of keeping such a vast membership content was one issue Watson stated when explaining his choice to move in July 2022 on the NCG Golf Podcast.
Other things bubbled that the RangeGoats captain revealed he didn’t like when an exciting new league and a reported signing fee of over £40 million were dangled before his eyes.
The emergence of LIV prompted the PGA Tour to increase prize purses during a period when chief executive Jay Monahan admitted it couldn’t win an arms race for money with the Saudi-backed league.
Watson doubted the business model, which now intends to sign agreements with the PIF and a private equity consortium to boost its financial position.
“It’s the same stuff that’s being exposed now,” he said when asked what he didn’t like about the PGA Tour.
“You’re talking about growing the game, we’re trying to help all the players. There are 200 plus people that have a PGA Tour card, but you can’t help 200 people because there are only 150/155 playing an event.
“You can’t help everybody, right? And when Bubba Watson loses his card on the PGA Tour, nobody calls me and tries to help me out. Luckily, I’ve never lost my card on the PGA Tour.
“People lose their job every year on the PGA Tour because they don’t perform to their level or the level they want to perform to, and then having a non-profit just start paying out all this money, I just didn’t see how that’s a good business model.
“Then I got this great opportunity at LIV, they said I’m going to be part of a team. I’m getting older, I’m going to be part of a franchise, we’re going to be a travelling league that goes all around the world, bringing exciting golf to all of these people and be part of a team.
“You can design a logo and the team atmosphere in the colours. When I think about the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, they’re the most watched events all year round, which makes the most sense to me. LIV gave me an opportunity to do something and be more creative, so I went that route.
“I’m not saying I would ever quit the PGA Tour if LIV wasn’t there, I would’ve kept playing on the PGA Tour, but it’s hard to get all the players to have the same amount of votes, that’s just a lot of people to make happy.
“It’s a lot easier to make 48 people happy than 200.”
Bubba Watson: LIV Golf is ‘the bigger dog on campus’
Prize money has proved to be the order of the day, but also a contributing factor that widened the divide and intensified the rivalry between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.
Each of the tour’s Signature Events in 2024 holds $20 million purses, which is still no match for the 12 events listed on LIV’s website that carry $25 million pots.
Watson describes the rebel league as “the bigger dog on campus” on that front, but the two-time Masters champion believes the lure of cash is nothing new.
“The one thing I do know is LIV is not going anywhere, because that’s the only information I care about. You have got to look at this differently though,” Watson said.
“Jack Nicklaus and all the big names from America used to go to Japan, because Japan paid more money. Then with Greg Norman and other Australians, the Australian Tour at the end of the year had the big events, three main events in Australia. There still is.
“So, the PGA Tour wasn’t the biggest payout, so people went to other parts of the world. Just because we started paying out more money on the PGA Tour, does that mean we’re a better tour? Or does that mean people can make more income?
“Just because there’s now another big dog when the LIV league came out, we’re just the higher one right now, right? And look at every continent, we’ve had different tours. The DP World Tour, I can think of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, think of all the big names that we’ve learned about watching those events.”
“Right now, LIV is the bigger dog on campus, but no one wants any of these tours to go away – if I went and played in Europe, no one would say anything bad about me or where I went and played, but because I went to LIV, for some reason, that’s the bad one.”
The 45-year-old has no ill feelings towards Monahan, much the opposite. But he asserts the tour had cause for concern when splashing out larger prize purses on a more regular basis while maintaining its non-profit status.
When asked if he was happy with the information available to him about the framework agreement, Watson only needed to know one thing:
“The information I needed to know was that LIV is here to stay. You’re talking about an organisation that’s non-profit that started passing out a lot of money and that was going to struggle.
“Jay is not the big voice, Jay is the face, but there are people behind the scenes – there’s a board of directors on the PGA Tour and so, there’s things I can’t answer from behind the scenes.
“But I could see the writing on the wall where LIV was going, and that’s why I wanted to go to LIV. I thought Jay had done an amazing job for his organisation since when Greg dreamed up this idea, and now it finally came true, I think Greg has done an amazing job.
“I’m friends with both of them, I love both of them and I think both have run their organisation to the best of their ability.”
Would you agree with these Bubba Watson-PGA Tour issues? Listen to the NCG Golf Podcast right here!