Butch Harmon: Tour players who have been vocal against LIV ‘ought to thank them’

Butch Harmon at the 2019 U.S. Open.

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PGA Tour players who have come out against LIV Golf, Butch Harmon says, should instead be appreciative. 

In an appearance this week on the Five Clubs podcast, the legendary instructor also said he was not “anti-LIV Golf like a lot of people” and that he didn’t like “all the verbal pillow fighting that’s going on” between LIV, the Saudi-backed series that starts its season at the end of the month, and the PGA Tour. But maybe his most notable thought came while talking of the recent changes the Tour has made in response to LIV. 

“Now I will say this, that the guys on the PGA Tour that have been very vocal against the guys on the LIV Tour ought to thank them because all of a sudden the Tour found $250 million to raise their prize money to get those elite tournaments up to 20 million prize money — oh yes, just like LIV,” Harmon said on the podcast. “They got that PIP system to make a whole bunch more money — oh yeah, just like LIV. 

“So look, it’s not the devil that’s out there that’s portrayed.”

Harmon’s comments come as the Tour is entering the second calendar year of a fight with LIV Golf that has seen LIV offer guaranteed money to Tour players, and the Tour create changes in response, along with the sides taking each other to court. Among the Tour’s moves, 20 players will be defined as “top players;” the device in which the Tour will define those players will be the Player Impact Program, and it will receive a $100 million purse to reward those players; and the 20 players will play in 12 so-called “elevated events” — with purses that have increased to between $15 million and $20 million — the four majors, the Players Championship and three other tournaments, for a 20-event schedule. 

When the changes were announced, in late August at the Tour Championship, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that the moves had been planned for a while, and the money had come from three sources

“One, I would say for 2020, this year that we’re in, the Tour is having its strongest year in history of the PGA Tour and is performing well ahead of budget,” he said.

“Secondly, as you’ve heard me talk about before, the Tour through the years has been very prudent in managing its finances and building reserves and being in a position to be able to invest in programs that are going to help the Tour grow. That’s what they’re there for, and that’s what we’ll continue to use them for.

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“I would say additionally our partners, our sponsors and all of our partners who want to get behind and are getting behind the direction that we’re going in, want to be a part of the continued growth and evolution of the Tour. They recognize that with the changes we’re talking about today, the changes that we’ve made prior to today, and the direction we’re heading in, we’re going to be creating more value.

“When you create more value, you’re going to get more income coming into the business.”

On the Five Clubs podcast, host Gary Williams asked Harmon if he thought whether there would be “some sort of detente or cleansing or resolution between these two factions within the next year or two years.” 

After saying he could see that scenario in four or five years, Harmon said he wanted the sides to move on now.

“Look, I’m not anti-LIV Golf like a lot of people,” he said on the podcast. “I think we live in a society of free enterprise. I think you have the right to do anything you want to do. Guys that were offered a lot of money, I would say you would be a fool to turn it down. But you have to understand, and this is true in golf and in your whole life, every decision you make there are certain circumstances that go with the decision. The guys that left the PGA Tour to go play in LIV, I have no problem with it, I’ll be honest with you. Their circumstances were they knew they weren’t going to be able to go back over here and play at the present time, so just stay over here and play.

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“I don’t like all the verbal pillow fighting that’s going on between the two factions, the players, the guys that are running it: Monahan and Greg. I think we just need to play golf. If you’re on the LIV Tour, play over there. If you’re on the PGA Tour, play there.” 

Harmon’s comments on PGA Tour-LIV Golf were not his first publicly. Notably, on the Son of a Butch podcast, hosted by his son, Claude Harmon III, he was asked what advice he would give to Monahan and Greg Norman, the LIV CEO, “to try and see if there’s a way that this whole thing can be less destructive and less aggressive than it is.” 

“First of all, I would say leave your egos at the door,” Butch Harmon said. “Come in with no egos. let’s come in with an open mind and see what we can do to make it better. That would be the first thing. Second thing, I would think that there is a way for the European Tour, the PGA Tour, the LIV Tour, to get together and have four or five huge tournaments a year, where participants from all three get to play. You can make it a 100-man field, you can do it off world rankings, you can do it any way you want to do it, I don’t care. For an amount of money, because that’s what it’s all about. And go to iconic, fabulous golf courses around the world and have this true world event. 

“Now, that going to happen? Probably not because I don’t think Jay Monahan would even go to the meeting at the moment. So I think until things calm down — I’ve never talked to Jay about it, so I haven’t had that opportunity. But I would love to see some kind of thing get together where it is a world event, a gigantic world event. Not close to the majors. The majors will always be the majors. They’re there. Ultimate in golf is winning a major. I don’t care if you’ve 25 tournaments in your life; if you’ve never won a major, I’m sorry, you’re not considered a great champion. But there’s got to be a way that they can co-exist. … And I think these two organizations have to get together and do what’s best for golf.”   

Editor’s note: To listen to the entire Five Clubs podcast with Butch Harmon, please click here.

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.