BOSTON — The elephant in the room at the LIV Golf Media Center was quickly escorted out of the building Wednesday.
During their introductory press conferences, new LIV golfers acknowledged the role money played in their decision to join the offshoot golf league.
“Yes, the money was a factor,” said Marc Leishman, adding that the ability to spend more time with his family was one of the biggest factors. “This was a great opportunity for me to play less golf but still be competitive, and on top of that, it’s a really big business opportunity.”
Cameron Smith — who was notoriously non-committal about joining LIV after he won The Open Championship in July — conceded on Wednesday that joining the Saudi-backed venture was a “business decision.”
Even Bubba Watson — who was one of the PGA Tour’s most popular players, taking home $3 million for ranking in the Player Impact Program’s top 10 — acknowledged that the finances of LIV were too good to pass up.
“I’ve done quite well on the PGA Tour. I’ve been able to support my family, build generational wealth,” he said. “And then coming here, obviously it’s more money than we’ve ever played for. I mean, 4 million to the winner, so obviously it’s about some money, too.”
Of course, the money wasn’t the only reason the players jumped: They cited more free time, the team format, and the ability to play to a younger demographic.
But the freedom to talk about the cash was a precedent set by Harold Varner III, who wrote a brutally honest Instagram post announcing his decision Tuesday.
“Not really sure the direction the Tour is going in, but the biggest thing for me was trying to take care of myself,” he said Wednesday. “I can only do what’s best for me at the time from the experience I’ve had as a kid and I’m actually super proud I made a decision based off of what I believe in.”
LIV players may have felt more empowered to speak their minds following a series of sweeping changes announced by the PGA Tour last week.
A set of elevated events within the FedEx Cup will now have an average purse of $20 million, and fully exempt players will be guaranteed $500,000 per year — even if they don’t play any events.
Additionally, Rory McIlroy took home a record $18 million for winning the Tour Championship and, in turn, the 2022 FedEx Cup.
He and Tiger Woods announced a virtual golf league known as TGL last week as well.