Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson isn’t sure why LIV golfers are being criticized by some PGA Tour players for taking guaranteed money from the new circuit.
Watson, 43, told ESPN that while playing on the PGA Tour, he received guaranteed appearance money from sponsors and tournament organizers that was not allowed under the tour’s rules.
“It made me laugh because on the PGA Tour I’ve been paid behind closed doors and paid to appear in tournaments and tournaments,” Watson told ESPN. “And if Bubba Watson isn’t very good, that means the best is better than me and paid more than me. And so it’s guaranteed money. I’ll miss the cut, I’ll still make money. I’ll cut, I’ll make more money.”
The PGA Tour said in a statement to ESPN on Wednesday that it “prohibits the payment of appearance money to players as an incentive to play in a particular tournament.”
“We are aware that some tournament sponsors will contract with the player to perform a sponsor-related activity during the week of the tournament during which they receive nominal compensation,” the PGA Tour said in a statement. “This is allowed under our guidelines.”
Tiger Woods, among other PGA Tour players, has criticized the players for accepting multi-year contracts from LIV Golf, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Former world No. 1 golfer Dustin Johnson reportedly pocketed more than $125 million in cash to move to the new circuit, and then another $35 million in prize money and prizes during the inaugural season.
Six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who helped recruit players to LIV Golf, has reportedly signed a $200 million deal.
“What are these players doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice?” Woods told reporters at the 150th Open at St. Andrews in July. “What’s the incentive to go out there and get in the dirt? You’re getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events and playing 54 holes.”
Watson, who won 12 times including the 2012 and 2014 Masters, did not disclose how much under-the-table money he made during his PGA Tour career.
“It was a laugh. [criticism] Because we all had some guaranteed money to show up,” Watson said. “Win, lose, quit, whatever, you still got the money. We’ve all been doing it. We all play for guaranteed money. The critics, it’s just what we’re doing that makes me laugh. We don’t want to talk about it on tour, but we’re getting it.
Kevin Kisner, a member of the PGA Tour Advisory Council, told ESPN that the money that players earn in PGA Tour tournaments is different from what LIV Golf is doing.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an appearance fee as much as a relationship between the player and the title sponsor or host organization,” Kisner said. “They’re trying to get more money in the hands of players away from the regular PGA tour for the tent tour or the pro-ams.
“If the Travelers wants to pay Bubba Watson to play a tent tour, that has nothing to do with the PGA Tour. Don’t you think Zurich in New Orleans is pressuring guys to play because they have sponsors on their hands? That’s it. It’s not an appearance fee. That’s an off-course endorsement on a contract. RBC How many players does it have?
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman says he is not allowed to receive appearance fees while playing on the PGA Tour.
“I’ve been away from the PGA Tour for a long time,” Norman said. “I’ve heard those rumors and comments out there. All I can say is, if what Bubby says is true, it wouldn’t surprise me. We weren’t allowed to take pocket money in my day. We weren’t allowed to pay for our hotels or any expenses. We just had to go golfing and get what we got and what we spent to get that money.” We took it out. Now it might be different.”