PGA Tour Offered Rookies $500K Up Front, Only 8 Needed It

The PGA Tour approved a new program this season to make sure rookies and most Korn Ferry Tour graduates get $500,000 up front. That money would be recouped from their earnings to make sure no one lost any money.

Tour officials are still calculating the “Earnings Assurance Program,” although only eight of the 27 rookies who finished a full season (15 events or more) failed to reach $500,000. All but one of them are back in Q-school this week.

How much that cost the tour is still to be determined. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan predicted $2 million to $3 million — money spent making up the difference if players didn’t reach $500,000 — though that’s what is still being computed.

Rookies had the option of getting the money up front. But the program was for every fully exempt player, which might have come in handy for Kevin Kisner in a strange year. He was torn between bad play and wanting to be at home with three young children during the summer when he stopped playing in June.

Kisner made $335,671 this year, which presumably means a check for $164,329 — except for the fine print. The program was designed to fund “any gap between actual comprehensive earnings” and the $500,000.

This is where the long season (September 2022 through November 2023 to get back onto a calendar schedule) hurt Kisner. Because the “comprehensive” earnings include his stipend from the Presidents Cup — $250,000 from his Presidents Cup stipend in 2022, and his $101,000 for finishing 19th in the 20-man field at the Hero World Challenge in December 2022.

Comprehensive earnings also include what was described as non-cash items such as day care services and health benefits.

On earnings alone, the gap for the fully exempt players came out to roughly $1.9 million. Michael Gligic of Canada, who got his card back for 2022-23 through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, made only $169,449 in 32 starts and made only eight cuts. He would be owed $330,551, less depending on whatever comprehensive earnings he also received.

Sixteen of the 27 rookies at the start of the season — Phillip Knowles played only nine events before injury — finished among the top 125 to keep their cards. Eric Cole led the way with nearly $5.5 million. Seven other players earned $2 million or more.


Joe Skovron’s fortunes have been getting better ever since longtime friend Rickie Fowler decided to change caddies 16 months ago.

Skovron went to work for Tom Kim, who starred in a losing effort at the Presidents Cup, and then won in Las Vegas, was runner-up at the British Open and won again in Las Vegas. He is No. 11 in the world ranking.

And now, Skovron is going to work for Ludvig Aberg, another PGA Tour rookie who’s stock might be even better. Aberg turned pro in June and since then has won on the European tour, won on the PGA Tour and played on Europe’s winning team at the Ryder Cup.

Aberg was No. 914 in the world when he made his pro debut. Now he’s at No. 32, with no shortage of observers who see him as being among the elite very soon. Aberg started his career with Jack Clarke, who is engaged to LPGA Player Madelene Sagstrom.

Sagstrom told Golf Channel at the Grant Thornton Invitation that Clarke would no longer be working with Aberg. The next move is figuring out who Kim will take to Hawaii to start the new season.


Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson is using his second exemption from career money to keep a full card for next year. Johnson used his one-time exemption for being top 25 in career money this year. Now he gets a one-time exemption for top 50. He has just over $48.5 million in career money, putting him at No. 14 on the list.

Johnson turns 48 in February.

Also contemplating a career money exemption for 2024 are Charley Hoffman, who is part of the PGA Tour policy board, and Ryan Palmer.

Brian Gay’s two-year exemption from winning the Bermuda Championship ran out this year, and he has been spending time on the 50-and-older PGA Tour Champions (he turns 52 later this week). But he is using a new one-time exemption available to players who have made 300 cuts and have not used a career money lifeline.


The LIV Golf League ended in late October. Some its players keep on winning.

Louis Oosthuizen winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship in a rain-delayed finish on Monday means LIV players have captured four of the five tournaments on the European tour schedule this year. Three in South Africa and two in Australia were co-sanctioned by the European tour.

Dean Burmester won the Joburg Open and South African Open, while Joaquin Niemann won the Australian Open. Of course, Burmester won about $435,000 for his two wins in South Africa. That’s about one-tenth of one victory on LIV Golf.

The final European tour event this year is in Mauritius. No one from LIV is in the field.


The inaugural World Champions Cup got off to a rousing start and was easy enough to follow along in a format that was distinct.

The matches were nine holes with three teams in each match, either partnerships or singles. Ultimately, it came down to singles and the Americans rallied behind Billy Andrade and David Toms, with help from Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen losing ground.

There’s nothing like a once-a-year team competition to get players involved.

“We may not be quite as, maybe, hot-headed as we used to be,” Darren Clarke said. “But there’s still that inner desire.”

So what’s next? Colin Montgomerie would like to see it move around.

“I think it’s only right that this event should be played on European soil or on international soil the way that the Presidents Cup is and the way that the Ryder Cup is played. Unfortunately, at this time of year Europe is difficult to play,” he said.

“But at the same time I think it’s only right that we should travel worldwide. I mean, what the hell is the thing called? It’s called the World Champions Cup, right? So let’s play all over the world and showcase our fantastic tour.”


Davis Love III cannot lean on his PGA Tour exemption as a lifetime member for 2024. According to PGA Tour regulations, players in the “lifetime member” category must be within three strokes over the field average for the tournaments he plays. Love’s average was 5.57. He played only three tournaments without making the cut. Love still has a pair of career money exemptions if he wants them. … Lydia Ko now has hoisted a trophy at Tiburon for two straight years — the CME Group Tour Championship in 2022 and the Grant Thornton Invitational with Jason Day in 2023. … Ko started the year at No. 1 in the women’s world ranking and is now out of the top 10. … Cameron Percy led four Australians who earned the five cards at Q-school for the PGA Tour Champions. He turns 50 on May 5, a week before the first of five senior majors.


Kalle Samooja on Finland won the LIV Golf Promotions, which paid him $200,000. It was the second-largest paycheck of his career, behind his 2022 victory in the Porsche European Open ($318,860).


“Me and Tony, we’re fighting for ‘Strokes Gained Kids’ on the tour.” — Jason Day, referring to him and Tony Finau each having five children.