New details have emerged of last week's players-only meeting between some of the PGA Tour's biggest stars, and the exciting new plans that could transform the top echelons of men's golf.
Tiger Woods flew in on his private jet to attend last week's meeting before the BMW Championship got underway in Delaware, with his peers hailing the 15-time major winner's influence on proceedings.
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The players-only meeting was held to discuss the threat posed by Greg Norman's Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, which has been backed with a reported $3 billion war chest to poach some of the PGA Tour's best players.
The LIV roster currently includes golf heavyweights such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.
Details around what was discussed at the meeting were initially kept largely a secret, however, several players such as Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Will Zalatoris said Woods' presence was telling.
Information has now started filtering through about what plans the players have for the PGA Tour's future, with many of them reading like something straight out of the LIV Golf playbook.
Reputable publications No Laying Up and The Firepit Collective both reported that Woods and McIlroy are spearheading a series of proposals that would dramatically realign the PGA Tour to favour top players.
The plans would essentially create a new tournament structure that would bring those players together more often and for more money.
The players in attendance at last week's meeting included Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Will Zalatoris, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sam Burns, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, Cameron Young, Joaquin Niemann, Max Homa, Shane Lowry, Tyrell Hatton, Kevin Kisner, Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler, as well as Woods and McIlroy.
Several of those names had been rumoured to be considering, or even signing with, LIV Golf, so their presence in the meeting would seem to be confirmation that they are aligning with the PGA Tour going forward.
Curiously, Australia's British Open champion Cameron Smith was not in attendance, perhaps strengthening suggestions he will join LIV Golf at the conclusion of the PGA Tour season.
The reported plan proposed by the Woods-McIlroy consortium would include up to 15 limited-field events with increased purses.
Somewhat of a 'tour-within-the-Tour', they would offer both financial incentives and guaranteed stability via a no-cut format.
Perhaps the reason it sounds so similar to the format LIV Golf has unveiled, is because much like the Saudi-backed rebel competition, it has been created to appeal to what players want, and what fans need — the top players, all together.
The PGA Tour schedule would still include dozens of “non-elite” events that would proceed as normal. But just as a victory at a PGA Tour event grants exemption into upcoming majors, strong performance at the “non-elite” events would provide a pathway for lower-tier players to play their way into the limited-field events.
In other words, options have narrowed for non-elite players, but opportunities still exist for them to ascend. In addition, the “elite”-level players reportedly agreed to participate in three “non-elite” events each year, to spread the star power around.
The Fire Pit Collective reported that the possibility exists that the PGA Tour could renounce its tax-exempt status and transform into a private operation with equity shares available.
Power shifting towards PGA Tour stars
Such a move would allow players like Woods and McIlroy to offset the opportunity-cost losses incurred by not jumping to LIV with stakes in the new PGA Tour venture.
In both cases, what’s apparent is that the Tour’s players now possess substantial power over the operations of the Tour that they didn’t have even a few weeks ago.
Much remains for this proposal to come to light — the Tour must navigate existing contracts, broadcast deals and sponsor agreements — but it's clear the players now enjoy unprecedented power.
The Tour can’t compete with LIV Golf’s Saudi-backed billions in available prize money and guarantees, however, what the Tour can offer is a combination of tradition — a familiar schedule, known tournaments and guaranteed access to the majors — and stability.
The PGA Tour has broadcast agreements in place across multiple networks; LIV Golf is still streaming only on YouTube for now.
The Tour also offers substantial career security in a wy that LIV, at present, does not. For mid-tier players, LIV represents a gamble: as competition grows for the 48 spots available in a LIV season, so too does the likelihood that some players will be left with few playing options.
A player who jumps from the Tour to LIV forfeits their right to play on the PGA Tour, even if the LIV option doesn’t work out. The Tour, at the moment, has imposed suspensions that run as far as March 2024 for certain former Tour players now with LIV.
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