It's been an interesting year for the various organizations responsible for governing and growing the game of golf. The ban on anchoring created disparate points of view among the USGA, R&A, PGA Tour, and PGA of America. And then there was the big USGA announcement that they had struck a lucrative rights deal with FOX Sports, the release coming on the eve of the PGA Championship and viewed by many as an upstaging slap in the face to the PGA of America (and NBC). The PGA of America then countered in a small way by extending its deal with NBC for the Ryder Cup.
Those are just some of the highlights in a year of big money rights deals, public disagreements, and less public maneuvering between organizations that are largely viewed as competitors.
This week, however, the PGA Tour and PGA of America, two of those organizations that have generally agreed upon matters recently, came together in Georgia for an announcement that is sure to please the pros playing for cash. Ted Bishop and Tim Finchem, in a press conference on Sea Island before the McGladrey Classic, announced a set of cooperative initiatives. The most newsworthy item was that both groups would push the purses at their marquee events, The Players Championship and PGA Championship, to a season-high $10 million.
The increase to $10 million for the PGA of America is a 20 percent jump from last year's purse at Oak Hill. The Players has long boasted the richest purse in golf in its continual attempt to wedge its way into the title of golf's fifth major. The increase in cash from the PGA Tour is $1.5 million, as $9.5 million was doled out in 2013 at TPC Sawgrass.
The move to $10 million pushes the season's final major ahead of the other three championships. In 2013, the Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open each paid out $8 million in winnings alongside the PGA Championship. Aside from the four $8 million purses at the majors, the three WGC events -- the Accenture Match Play, Cadillac Championship, and Bridgestone Invitational -- all had purses of $8.75 million. Only The Players had a larger pot than the WGC trio until this announcement.
There was speculation that this was some overhanded power move against the USGA, which imposed the anchoring ban that both the PGA Tour and PGA of America disagreed with all summer. Both organizations eventually acquiesced to the anchoring ban, but it was tense year of back-and-forth. The tenseness all came to a head in Rochester when the USGA announced the rights deal with FOX during the most important week of the year for the PGA of America.
The cash boost is certainly headline-worthy and adds a bit of cache to the two events. But what separates the majors from all the other PGA Tour stops has never really been money, but rather history and (sometimes arbitrarily assigned) prestige. It's cool that the PGA Championship is pushing the others, increasing its purse in a joint announcement with the Tour, and even experimenting with the idea of playing the fourth and final major overseas. The PGA Championship gets a bad rap, but it often has the best field and is played under the most interesting conditions of all the majors. This is another move that will hopefully distinguish it from the others.
(You can read a full transcript of the announcement by Bishop and Finchem here.)