Alan Shipnuck: 'The PGA Tour has Gotten Very Fat And Complacent'

The emergence of the LIV Golf Series could force the PGA Tour to make some serious changes, says Shipnuck

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Alan Shipnuck, author of 'Phil: The Rip-Roaring (And Unauthorized!) Biography Of Golf's Most Colorful Superstar', has accused the PGA Tour of getting "fat and complacent" in the midst of the "serious competition" posed by the LIV Golf Series.

The US-based circuit has long been the pinnacle of the men's game since its inception in 1968, but it now faces a threat to its dominance with the emergence of the Saudi-backed breakaway league led by Greg Norman. 

Shipnuck hit the headlines back in February when he published an excerpt detailing Phil Mickelson's plan to use the Saudis to gain leverage over the PGA Tour, and has now waded further into the debate in an interview with Golf Monthly.

VIDEO: Things you didn't know about Phil Mickelson

"The fact is the PGA Tour has gotten very fat and happy and complacent, because they've never had competition really," said Shipnuck. "And this is now serious competition and may force the tour to modernise its product.

"Better golf courses, more interesting formats, more dynamic TV coverage, really embracing social media, which they've always been terrible at."

The LIV Golf Series events are played over three rounds rather than the traditional four, and feature a shotgun start with no cut, meaning all 48 players are guaranteed a share of the $25 million purse, with last place paying out $120,000. There's also a team competition, with Norman hoping, in time, to establish each one as franchise that will yield further profit for the players.

Innovation isn't the issue; it's where the money comes from that has been at the centre of the controversy. Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is being used to bankroll the series, with many viewing it as nothing more than an attempt to sportswash the country's human rights record.

That hasn't deterred the likes of Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau from signing exorbitant contracts, and while Shipnuck agrees the source of the funding is "dirty", he thinks all will soon be forgotten.

"I mean, the Saudi money is dirty, but they bought their way into a lot of sports. And they're already an accepted stop on the European Tour. The insidious thing about sportswashing is that it works. People may just kind of get over their distaste for the Saudi involvement.

"I still think there's a chance that, ultimately, the Saudi events will get absorbed into the larger schedule of the PGA and European Tours, and it might just be more golf for fans to watch and more money for the players and maybe a better TV product.

"I mean, it could be a win-win. The jury's out, it's going to take a year or two or three to really play out."

A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.


Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.


As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.


What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade M1 (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)

Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1