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Koepka and Thomas focus on US PGA Tour as Norman's Saudi-backed plan gathers pace

The series would start in 2022 and feature 10 events worldwide sanctioned by the Asian Tour, with stars reportedly guaranteed huge paydays.

Brooks Koepka.
Brooks Koepka.
Image: Matthew Bolt

TWO MAJOR WINNERS, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka, insist that they are keeping their focus on the US PGA Tour rather than a new Saudi-backed series of events being guided by Greg Norman.

The American stars are among those who tee off in today’s opening round of the Mayakoba Championship at par-71 El Camaleon, a course designed by Norman, the Australian legend unveiled as chief executive of the planned series.

The series would start in 2022 and feature 10 events worldwide sanctioned by the Asian Tour, with top stars reportedly set to be guaranteed huge paydays.

The venture is similar to a breakaway idea Norman championed in the 1990s that led to the creation of WGC events within the PGA unbrella.

Four-time major champion Koepka, ranked 13th, said his attention is aimed at PGA events.

“Seems like there’s a bunch of stuff going on, but at the end of the day there’s only one tour I’m playing right now, so I’m only interested in that one,” Koepka said.

golf-sep-05-pga-tour-championshipa Justin Thomas. Source: John Adams

The 31-year-old American, a two-time US Open and PGA Championship winner, also said he likes the ability to select his own schedule rather than being locked into certain playing dates.

“The freedom to be my own boss is nice,” he said. “So I enjoy that.”

World number seven Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner, has said he isn’t interested in jumping to the new league.

I’m focused on what I’m doing out here,” Thomas said. “Obviously I’m trying to listen and talk to players and people and hear as much as I can, but at the same time, what’s most important right now is my career on the PGA Tour and me playing well in Mexico this week.

“I know Greg a little bit. I know that this has kind of been a vision and a hope of his for a while. I know he’s excited and the guys that are excited to potentially go do it are probably even more so.”

Norman said he felt top golfers were not compensated well enough in the current PGA Tour system, but Thomas said recent changes such as a new $40 million bonus fund for traditional and social media popularity — the Player Impact Program — and a prize money jump has addressed the issue.

“I understand what he’s saying, but I think that was something that maybe wasn’t addressed as much in the past, but is a lot now,” Thomas said.

“With stuff like the Player Impact Program and purses and everything going up, I think it’s becoming (better).”

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greg-norman-file-photo Greg Norman. Source: PA

Thomas said the idea of a big-money PGA rival has prompted players to voice concerns over finances and shown the tour it needs to be open to changes to address such concerns.

“All that has happened outside of the PGA Tour has created a lot of questions from the players to where the tour has done a great job of answering it,” Thomas said.

“A lot of it was honestly the players not knowing and also maybe the tour not understanding that it could be done differently and players even felt that way.”

Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, wasn’t asked about the new league but was asked about the drive for money.

“I’m driven by trophies,” Reed said. “If you go out and play well…. the money will take care of itself.”

Asked what impact guaranteed money would have on competition, Reed said, “I’ve always been so driven by winning golf tournaments and having a chance on Sunday and getting that adrenaline you get that money can’t buy.”

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