GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — In a year where golf seems to revolve around money, the Ryder Cup is not immune.
The PGA Tour had 11 tournaments with at least $20 million in prize money — excluding the majors — as it tried to hold off the threat of Saudi-funded LIV Golf. And then it struck an agreement with Saudi Arabia’s national wealth fund to be business partners.
Pro golf is only going to get richer, however that Saudi agreement gets worked out, if it does.
“I’m tired of it. The whole world is,” Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, said in an interview leading into the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone. “We play for love and they play for money. It’s the one time of the year they should be playing for love, and we’re still talking about money.”
The idea that players should be compensated to play in the Ryder Cup is nearly as old as the Americans’ 30-year losing streak on European soil.
But it surfaced again Saturday morning with an unsubstantiated report from Sky Sports — the broadcast partner for the European tour at Marco Simone — that singled out Patrick Cantlay as causing a rift among the Americans because he thinks they should be paid.
“It’s not about that,” Cantlay said after he birdied the last three holes to win the last match of the day. “It’s just about Team USA and representing our country. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”
The report also claimed Cantlay was not wearing a hat out of protest. Cantlay also did not wear a cap at the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in 2021. Rory McIlroy rarely wears a hat in the Ryder Cup but did so this week, primarily because of the hot sun.
“Not at all. This is the first I heard of it right when I got off the green,” Cantlay said. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth.”
He said the hat didn’t fit him right, just like at Whistling Straits.
All afternoon, fans because waving their caps at Cantlay, a cerebral type who is difficult to rile. He egged them on at times and told his partner, U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark, to use it as fuel.
The PGA of America declined comment, other than to say some allegations in the report — such as Cantlay and Xander Schauffele being in a separate area of the locker room — were not true.
Waugh said he had not had any conversations with players about it this year, though he has in the past on the topic of getting a bigger share of the revenue.
“Nothing obnoxious or awful,” Waugh said. “That makes sense.”
Several players in recent years have questioned what percentage of the revenue goes to players in the form of prize money at the four majors, which are not run by the PGA Tour.
Waugh said the nonprofit PGA of America operates on a break-even basis over four years and money goes back into the game in various forms.
The PGA of America hosts the Ryder Cup every four years. The European tour has a majority stake in the Ryder Cup when it’s held in Europe.
The difference is the PGA Tour has no involvement in the Ryder Cup except that American players are PGA Tour members (along with 10 Europeans from this year’s team, who also are European tour members).
Waugh said that in order to secure the players’ releases, the PGA of America gives the PGA Tour 20% of its television contract for the Ryder Cup. That could be an indirect payment.
“We ask that that goes to the pension plan,” Waugh said Saturday in a text message. “The tour could in theory give that directly to the 12.”
He did not disclose the TV rights fee but said its payment to the PGA Tour “represents many millions of dollars.”
This first became a public talking point leading up to the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline, when David Duval referred to an estimated $63 million gross revenue for the PGA of America and questioned where it was going.
Duval hinted at the potential of a boycott someday and suggested taking “some of that big Ryder Cup pot and cut it up and give it away to charity,” similar to the Presidents Cup. That was resolved when the PGA of America agreed each player would get $200,000 to distribute to the charity of his choice, with half of it toward a college golf program.
The PGA of America made a slight change for this Ryder Cup, with all $200,000 going to whatever charity or foundation the players choose. At the last Ryder Cup, $100,000 of the contribution was directed to the Boys & Girls Club of America; the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship; and the PGA Junior League.
The Presidents Cup also made a change, and a case can be made the players are paid.
Previously each player, captain and assistant captain received $150,000 for charity, resulting in more than $54 million to 460 charities in 18 countries from 1994 through 2019.
For the 2022 matches at Quail Hollow, players and captains were given $250,000 without stipulation where it goes. The PGA Tour said the Presidents Cup contributed an additional $2 million on its own, with the majority directed toward nonprofits in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Meanwhile, the topic of money — what else? — was part of the conversation as Europe was building a big lead in its bid to keep the Ryder Cup. That’s the biggest prize of the week.
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