Pat Perez Hits On Exactly Why the Saudi Golf Offers Are So Attractive – Sports Illustrated

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Pat Perez finished tied for sixth last week at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Orlando Ramirez/USA Today
Pat Perez is not part of the pursuit, but he’s enjoyed watching the chase play out before him.
The PGA Tour veteran who is now in his 21st year admits that those charged with recruiting players for the LIV Golf Investments golf league are not necessarily looking at him.
Hence, he was not offered a spot in this week’s PIF Saudi International, the Asian Tour event that has attracted 21 of the top 50 players in the world including defending champion Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson and caused some controversy as it required the players to seek releases from the PGA Tour in order to participate.
Coming off a tie for sixth at the Farmers Insurance Open, Perez, 45, is at Pebble Beach this week instead — and happy to be there. But he understands why a potential rival league being fronted by commissioner Greg Norman has garnered so much interest.
“I know what some of the guys have been offered, and sadly enough, it still seems light to me,’’ Perez said during an interview. “Now (the money being offered) is heavy. It’s a heavy number. I’d leave right here and go right to the car and anywhere in the world for that number. But it’s not going to happen. For a guy like me, it’s not going to happen.’’
Perez is fine with that. But he’s intrigued by what is going on around him. Undoubtedly those with LIV Golf Investments and Norman himself will be putting the full-court press on some of the top players in Saudi Arabia, trying to get them to come on board with guaranteed money to play a tour that is expected to have 54-hole events, team play and $20 million weekly purses.
And to Perez, the basketball analogy is fitting.
“I’m not saying this about me, I’m talking about the top players. They have an incredible year and they make $7 million on the course," he said. "That’s an incredible year. You know how well you have to play to make $7 million on the golf course? My best year (2017), I won, I got to the Tour Championship, I made $4.3 (million). That’s like 300th in major league baseball. And I finished 15th (in the final standings).
“Look at guys in the NBA. Some of them don’t even take their sweatpants off, don’t get in the games, and they are making way more than that.’’
While Perez might be accused of hyperbole, his overall point is valid: professional golfers have no on-course guarantees. They make what they earn, which to many in the sports world is part of the charm. And a star player, someone like Rahm or Johnson or Rory McIroy, might actually be underpaid when it comes to how well they perform. Rahm led the PGA Tour money list in 2020-21 with $7.7 million.
That’s why the Saudi-backed venture has legs. Forget that all these guys make mega-millions off the course. So, too, does Steph Curry, the Golden State Warriors star who averages $54 million a season in guaranteed salary.
Perez was not trying to equate the NBA to the PGA Tour, but when you consider that the stars in golf pay their own way and make a fraction of what players do in other sports, a league that comes along offering multi-millions just for showing up is getting attention.
For example. The (London) Telegraph reported Tuesday that England’s Ian Poulter has been offered between $20 and $30 million to sign. Reports of Mickelson and DeChambeau getting similar guaranteed deals have circulated.
And for all the riches the PGA Tour provides — lucrative purses every week, including $20 million at the Players Championship, the FedEx Cup bonus plan, an understated pension plan — it’s difficult to ignore the kind of money that is being floated by Norman and his associates.
“I ask everybody,’’ Perez said about the proposed new league. “I talk to everybody. I know who has been contacted and who hasn’t. It’s all interesting. There’s a ton of money but you are going to have to spend a lot of money to the right guys to get them to go. And if you do, you will give them a hell of a decision to make.’’
Sports Illustrated’s parent company, Authentic Brands Group, has a licensing and endorsement partnership with Greg Norman. ABG is not a party to this deal.
Bob Harig is a golf writer for Read and has previously covered the game for ESPN and the Tampa Bay Times. He holds degrees in journalism and history from Indiana University, where he was a proud Evans Scholar. He recently wrote a book called Tiger & Phil: Golf’s Most Fascinating Rivalry, which will be available in April. A past president and active member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Harig lives in Florida.