Tiger Woods picking up PGA Tour mantle from Rory McIlroy

For at least two years, Rory McIlroy was the outward voice of reason for the PGA Tour and for golfers who remained with the PGA Tour while some were joining LIV.  Now the baton has been passed to Tiger Woods who has taken a position on the policy board as the sixth voter on behalf of PGA Tour players.
Tiger Woods - The Genesis Invitational
Tiger Woods - The Genesis Invitational / Michael Owens/GettyImages

As a result of Woods joining the board, the players have a majority vote on any decision that comes up in matters affecting the PGA Tour which they wanted after being surprised by the agreement between Commissioner Jay Monahan and Saudi Public Investment Fund Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan last June.

Now Woods and the rest of the board Patrick Cantlay, Peter Malnati, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, and Jordan Spieth take up the challenge of guiding the organization forward in a time of upheaval.

“We're trying to provide the best entertainment, and in order to do that you have to have the best players play,” Woods said in his meeting with media at the Genesis Invitational about the ongoing situation with LIV golf, the PIF and their players. That suggests that perhaps there will, in the end, be a way for those who left to rejoin at a later time.

McIlroy’s Pain Over PIF

McIlroy was adamant for some time that working out any kind of deal with PIF was not in the best interests of the PGA Tour, but he has softened his stance in this last year, perhaps because two good friends have joined the Saudi organization, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm.

Both Spaniards have been Ryder Cup partners to McIlroy.  McIlroy was in Garcia’s wedding. It’s believed that Garcia was at McIlroy’s wedding, but the ceremony had high security at an Irish castle, so no one can really be certain.

McIlroy, Garcia and Rahm had deep friendships. PIF put a severe strain on them.  

When all the back and forth between the PGA Tour and PIF happened, McIlroy was on the Tour’s Policy Board, helping to guide the organization through the difficult decisions surrounding the challenges brought to the fore by the Saudi Public Investment Fund and Yasir Al-Rumayyan. That made his situation more difficult, and finally, he needed to step back.  He said he had been too judgmental of others.

“What I realized over the past two years, I can’t judge people for making that decision,” he finally said.

Woods Cites Expertise of SSG

Now perhaps Woods and the rest of the board can help figure a way through what has been the biggest political mess anyone can remember in golf ever. He thinks SSG, the high-powered sports marketing group, can help.

“We want to have the history, involve the history and the traditions of the history of our tour and have the pathways, accessibility, have all of the intangibles that have made the PGA TOUR what it is right now and what has been, and hopefully what it will continue to be even better,” he explained. “That's the whole idea of why we have a group like SSG to provide us with information and help and trying to create the best tour we could possibly have."

The leadership at SSG, an assemblage of some of the best minds in sports and sports marketing, has come to the table with a deal for the PGA Tour including an initial outlay of $1.5 billion with another $1.5 billion available.  According to Woods, the PIF group has not yet solidified its investment.

“Ultimately, we would like to have PIF be a part of our tour and a part of our product,” Woods said at Riviera CC prior to the first round of the Genesis. “The monies that they have come to the table with, and what we initially had agreed to in the framework agreement, those are all the same numbers.”

Woods felt the PGA Tour is now in an excellent position to make the organization’s “product better in the short term and long term.”

In addition to continuing to talk with LIV representatives, according to Woods, the Tour is discussing ways former Tour players who jumped to LIV might be able to return to the PGA Tour. That is a touchy issue. Many are of the opinion that the Tour should be compensated if they return.  

“Trust me, there's daily, weekly emails and talks about this and what this looks like for our tour going forward,” he said.

The PGA Tour Handbook, which PGA Tour players have agreed to abide by, specifies that players can be fined, suspended, or barred from PGA Tour events by violating regulations of the Tour. 

One of those is the conflicting event rule, and all the LIV players have repeatedly played in opposite-field events, often in the U.S.. So they are at the mercy of the Commissioner and of the Policy Board when it comes to finding a path to return.

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As of this week, Woods has not personally met with or spoken to anyone from PIF. But there are certainly executives at the PGA Tour who have been tasked with coordinating talks between the Tour and PIF representatives.

The issue is that no one knows when a solution might be in the offing.