Rory McIlroy was asked to ponder the sustainability of increasing prize money in professional golf at the Memorial Tournament.
And a quite concerning concept came from the Northern Irishman’s media session that perhaps few people have contemplated before.
This week’s event at Muirfield Village has a $20 million purse after being awarded elevated status within this revamped 2023 schedule.
It is one of 11 events that carry a prize fund of at least $20 million – with the Players Championship dishing out $25 million in financial rewards at TPC Sawgrass in March.
Both the Masters at Augusta National golf club and the PGA Championship had inferior prize payouts compared with this week.
This led one reporter to ask McIlroy to ponder the sustainability and obsession with increasing prize money and whether this compromises the attractiveness of golf majors.
“It wouldn’t stop me from playing a major,” McIlroy said, “but at the same time the major championships basically rent the talent for a week from the PGA Tour and you could argue from LIV, and the DP World Tour and wherever else.
“The major championships aren’t going to be the product that they are without the top players in the world. So would that mean that I would or anyone would go to the lengths of not playing a major championship to make a point?
“No. But that’s just having a reasonable conversation with the governing bodies and the people that run those tournaments and trying to come up with a solution.
“I don’t know who to place the blame on here, but you have a new entity coming into the game offering $25 million prize funds and other entities feel the pressure to keep up.
“You think about the four most important tournaments in our game, the prize funds aren’t in the top 20 of prize funds. That doesn’t quite add up. So whether there needs to be some sort of correction – I don’t know.
“As a player these big prize funds are great. But it’s a good question whether that’s sustainable in the long term. Golf has never been healthier. The industry’s doing really well. There’s more money coming into the game than ever before.
“More people want to put money into the game. For the short and medium term, I don’t think it’s a problem. But long term, I don’t really have a good answer for you.”
The PGA Tour announced its cash-injected schedule for this season at the 2022 Tour Championship, as well as doubling the Player Impact Programme pool to $100 million.
This was seen as a strategy to nail down its best players and prevent any more big names from moving to the LIV Golf League.
$25 million prize purses will be given out at each of LIV’s 14 events in 2023, as well as the season-ending team championship which awarded $50 million in total back in October.
The greatest example of LIV’s riches arguably lies with Dustin Johnson. The two-time major champion made $74,982,819 in 309 PGA Tour events.
In 14 individual LIV Golf tournaments in total, he has already passed the $40 million mark.
Money certainly talks in the professional sphere, but how long can prize pots continue to rise and can golf’s four major championships keep up?
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