Protests and controversy about LIV Golf’s financial backing have dogged each of the series’ three previous events, which were held outside London, near Portland, Ore., and at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. A similar reaction may occur in Bolton, a town of about 5,600, which has made a designated area near a golf spectators’ parking lot available to protesters.
Varner conceded that when his decision to commit to LIV Golf was announced on Tuesday, he was stunned by the negative comments on social media it engendered. Varner, a popular PGA Tour player and one of the few Black golfers in tour or major championship fields, said he took the time to read each of the derogatory remarks, even though he was cautioned not to.
“I’m not ashamed of being Harold,” Varner said, then added: “But it was terrible. Who likes to be hated? I hate being hated. I’d rather not even be known than be hated.”
But Varner, who earned $10.4 million in prize money on the PGA Tour, said he took LIV Golf’s upfront signing bonus — his payment has not been disclosed — to protect his family financially. Noting his modest upbringing in Gastonia, N.C., Varner said: “For a kid that grew up where I grew up, it was an opportunity for me to just make sure my kid never would be in that situation — ever — and that means the world to me.”
Amid all the buzz and tumult the LIV Golf venture has created, one unequivocal reality has emerged about this summer’s disruption to golf’s status quo: There will be a lot more prize money distributed to virtually every top professional player. Late last month, the PGA Tour suddenly revealed that beginning next season the average purse for 12 of its existing events, plus an additional four tournaments yet to be named, would be $20 million. That’s a sizable jump in player earnings, and, not coincidentally, closely mimics the prize money available at the eight LIV Golf events this year.
The PGA Tour also announced it was augmenting the Player Impact Program it began last year that paid 10 top players from a $40 million pool based on their popularity as measured by internet searches, general golf fan awareness, mentions in the media and broadcast exposure. The new program will now reward twice as many players from a bonus pool that has ballooned to $100 million.