HARTFORD, Conn. – Kramer Hickok, who became a bit of a folk hero during his eight-hole playoff loss to Harris English in the Travelers Championship last year, made some intriguing comments during a Stripe Show podcast this week.
Hickok claimed 17 players have signed on to the proposed Saudi-backed Super Golf League that would conflict with the PGA Tour. He did not identify any names but alluded the group has plenty of star power.
“You’re going to see a lot of big names jump over there,” Hickok said. “I think there’s already been 17 guys that have jumped over, and I can’t say who they are, but there’s going to be some big names going over there. Look, I mean, from what I’ve heard the money’s very, very appealing. You’re only gonna have 12-14 events that are gonna have big purses. You’re not going to have to deal with missing a cut anymore; there’s only going to be 40 players. And 10 of the 14 events will be in the States. Signing bonuses, huge, huge purses – it’s going to be very appealing for some of these guys. Yeah, you’ll see some big names for sure.”
While Hickok believes PGA Tour players should be receiving a bigger slice of the Tour’s profits, he said those jumping to the SGL are “money hungry.”
“I think you have to be thankful and appreciative for the Tour,” Hickok said. “They’ve given us this platform to be able to chase our dreams and do what we love and make a great living doing it. To go after a few extra bucks, I think it might be a little greedy because you don’t know how long that [SGL] tour is going to be around; you don’t know if that money’s going to dry up; you don’t know what’s going to happen, and if you do leave you’ll be banned from the tour; the tour’s come out and said that.”
Hickok, 29, said he has heard the SGL will start in June. He is 63rd in the FedEx Cup standings and is in this week’s Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Among those who have pledged their allegiance to the PGA Tour are Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Collin Morikawa, who said he was “all in for the PGA Tour” during a Genesis Invitational pre-tournament press conference. Woods is the tournament host and still trying to determine when he will return to the PGA Tour since sustaining several serious injuries in a SUV accident on Feb. 23, 2021, two days after Max Homa won the Genesis Invitational.
“My entire life I’ve thought about the PGA Tour,” Morikawa, the second-ranked player in the world and a Southern California native, said ahead of his hometown event. “I’ve thought about playing against Tiger, beating his records, whatever, something that might not even be breakable, but I’ve never had another thought of what’s out there, right? I’ve never thought about anything else, it’s always been the PGA Tour.
“Has [the rival league] opened up things for us as professional golfers, to open up things for the PGA Tour to look at what to do better? Absolutely. We’ve seen a lot of changes, some good, some bad, some that are still going to be amended I’m sure as time goes on. Right now, you look at the best players that I see and they’re all sticking with the PGA Tour, and that’s where I kind of stay and that’s where I belong. I’m very happy to be here.”
Morikawa’s comments come amid another round of rumors regarding the Greg Norman-led league, which will have no cuts and large guaranteed paydays. Last month, the Saudi International, an Asian Tour event funded by the Norman-fronted LIV Golf Investments, lured a number of top players to the Middle East with lucrative appearance fees. Phil Mickelson, who told Golf Digest that the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” has him looking elsewhere, made the trip, along with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Shane Lowry, Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood, Bubba Watson, Matthew Wolff, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.
Talks of a challenger to the PGA Tour began at the Genesis Invitational two years ago, when officials with ties to the Saudi government held a clandestine meeting with agents to pitch their vision for a new league that would offer eye-popping sums. Morikawa said he was not one of the first players approached but did eventually listen to a pitch and was frustrated by a lack of definite answers.
“I don’t want to keep hearing it from other people saying ‘you need to go talk to this person, you need to do this, this is what they have, this is what they don’t have.’ ” said Morikawa, who played his third PGA Tour event in the 2019 Travelers Championship via a sponsors’ exemption. “Yeah, of course, if there were more details, maybe I would have thought about it more, maybe I would have given it more of a decision and I would have had to sit down and ask more questions. But it’s hard to ask questions when you’re not getting answers, either.”
Morikawa also said he feels there are better uses of $50 million than the Player Impact Program, which saw him finish 11th and receive no bonus in its first year. He praised the atmosphere at the WM Phoenix Open last week and cited the event as a case study in how to bring new eyeballs to the game. And he seemed to call out his fellow players who have negotiated with the Saudi-backed venture for months without speaking on it publicly.
“We’ve all heard rumors of this date, this date, in the future — I’m ready for it,” Morikawa said. “Why not, right? Like we’ll call them out, like what are they waiting for? I don’t know. I saw something this morning that said someone had an interview with a player and there’s other things said about players signing up. There still have been no names. Once again, we go back to evidence, right? Can we see concrete evidence of what’s going on? If we can, then people can make decisions. It’s an unknown, it’s a hidden thing. For me, it’s not enough.”