Justin Thomas Hails 'Astronomically Higher' Number Of Top PGA Tour Pros vs LIV Golf
The arrival of limited-field, no-cut events to the PGA Tour schedule for 2024 has created plenty of controversy.
As well as concerns the high-profile, big-money tournaments could be a closed shop to all but the best players, PGA Tour pro James Hahn has suggested the change represents little more than a way for the top players to earn more money.
However, another area of criticism has been the format, which some have likened to the model employed by the PGA Tour’s great rival, LIV Golf. While the PGA Tour’s affected events will feature between 70 and 80 players, there will no longer be a cut. Meanwhile, the latter is true of the 54-hole tournaments employed by the Greg Norman-fronted circuit, which also have limited fields of just 48 players.
One player likely to have a prominent role in the new-look tournaments is World No.9 Justin Thomas. However, when asked about the perceived similarities with the product offered by LIV Golf, the American jokingly pointed to what he saw as one big difference - the number of quality players. Speaking ahead of this week’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, the two-time Major winner said: “Well, we have an astronomically higher amount of quality players than they do in their events.”
Despite LIV Golf’s success in persuading some of the world’s best players to join the circuit, including defending Players champion Cameron Smith, there is no doubt that the bulk of the talent remains on the PGA Tour. With the exception of the World No.5, the remainder of the world’s top 10 is in the field for this week tournament, while of LIV's six signings ahead of its 2023 season, the highest profile was Thomas Pieters, who was World No.34 at the time.
Still, Thomas admitted there was some truth in the accusation that the tournaments will be similar to those of its rival. He said: “We still have your regular, you know, cut events. I don't know, I mean if you're just going to single out those events and have them only be the events we have, then, yeah, it's extremely similar.”
However, Thomas also pointed out that taking the calendar as a whole leads to an entirely different picture. He said: “There's a lot more going on over the course of an entire year on the PGA Tour than just the elevated events, I would say.”
Last week, as the news began filtering through about the changes, LIV Golf’s official Twitter account wrote: “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Congratulations PGA Tour. Welcome to the future”.
Also on Twitter, LIV Golf player Lee Westwood wrote: "I’ve spent the last year reading how good full fields and cuts are!" while Westwood’s Majesticks GC teammate Ian Poulter also mocked the PGA Tour, writing: “Sounds very similar to another product that’s been spoken so badly about by Media and commentators. I’m all ears now.”
Speaking to the media before Thomas, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan refuted the accusation of imitation. He said: "Do you think we really look the same? And, you know, the players that are competing in our events in this new format next year will have earned the right to compete in them and they will have earned it through top-50 position in the FedEx Cup this year as well as their performance in the fall and ultimately in these swings."