Just days into the new year, talk of a rival league has already begun at the PGA Tour’s lid-lifter in Maui, and Jordan Spieth was among those asked about the proposed Saudi League on Tuesday during his pre-tournament presser for the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
While Spieth admitted that a Saudi-backed league would be a “threat” to the Tour, he also contended that, in some respect, all the rumors and rumblings of a potential challenger have actually been a good thing for the Tour.
“I think as a player, overall, it will benefit in that I think that the changes that have come from the PGA Tour have been modernized in a way that may or may not have come about if [the reports on the Saudi League] weren't there,” Spieth said. “So, I think for us players on the PGA Tour, I think that so far it's been something that has kind of helped the PGA Tour sit and say, hey, where can we look to satisfy our membership and potentially make some changes going forward where there's some similarities potentially to a league like that, but while maintaining kind of the integrity, the 501(C)(6) category that the PGA Tour has.”
Spieth is, of course, referring to several new earnings incentives for players that the Tour had announced in recent months, from the $40-million Player Impact Program to $50,000 Play 15 bonuses to increased purses and comprehensive, including a bump to $427 million in official prize money and added $15 increase in the FedExCup bonus pool.
No players have publicly pledged to joining any rival league, though several Tour members, including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele, are committed – and have been allowed by the Tour – to compete in next month's Saudi International, which is now sanctioned by the Asian Tour and not the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour).
“Going forward, I mean, I guess we'll have to see,” Spieth added, “but … I can only say from my point of view I think that it's been beneficial to the players to have competition, and I think the Tour would say that they probably feel that they're in a better position going forward by having to sit back and kind of take a look at things and make some changes.”