At long last, Tiger Woods has spoken, and in more ways than one. There is the headline of Tuesday’s press release, which reads, “PGA Tour agrees with players on new governance and transparency measures, welcomes Tiger Woods as a Policy Board member.” That’s one big thing: Tiger Woods joining PGA Tour government for the first time in his career. He is now the sixth player director on the 12-seat policy board that meets regularly to decide how the PGA Tour runs. Six is half of 12. For a board that has never denied unanimous player support, we’d call that a voting majority.
There are Woods’ quotes in the press release, his first statement of any kind on the planned PGA Tour/Saudi PIF partnership: “I am honored to represent the players of the PGA Tour. This is a critical point for the Tour, and the players will do their best to make certain that any changes that are made in Tour operations are in the best interest of all Tour stakeholders, including fans, sponsors and players. The players thank Commissioner Monahan for agreeing to address our concerns, and we look forward to being at the table with him to make the right decisions for the future of the game that we all love. He has my confidence moving forward with these changes.”
Some meaningful bits in there: Players came together and elevated concerns to Monahan. He heard them. As a result, Monahan has a vote of confidence — on paper, anyway — from the biggest voice in the golf ecosystem. That matters. Finally, there are the stipulations that were agreed to, also covered in the press release: Players will work with Monahan to amend the governing documents of the policy board so that no major decision can be made without prior involvement and approval from player directors. In other words, no surprise mergers.
Colin Neville, a name golf fans will begin to see more frequently, is serving as an advisor to the player directors and will “be fully aware of the state of the negotiations” regarding the Framework Agreement between the PGA Tour and the Saudi PIF. Devoted to the six player directors, Neville is the intermediary between the Tour membership and the tenets of their future playing landscape. Neville was one of the founding directors of the Premier Golf League and also involved in the player-led Delaware meeting that took place last August and highlighted the need for elevated events.
According to the New York Times and Washington Post, these changes were the immediate result of a letter sent to Monahan by many of the Tour’s leading voices. According to the press release, 41 players “joined together to express their support for these changes,” a group that included the five acting player directors, the 16 players on the next rung of PGA Tour governance, the Advisory Council and 20 others including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa. It was from that crop of players that we saw cracks forming in a public way.
“I’d say [Jay Monahan] has a lot of tough questions to answer in his return,” Xander Schauffele said at the Scottish Open. “And yeah, I don’t trust people easily. He had my trust and he has a lot less of it now.” Added Scottie Scheffler: “As a player on Tour, we still don’t really have a lot of clarity as to what’s going on and that’s a bit worrisome. They keep saying it’s a player-run organization and we don’t really have the information that we need.” Does Jay Monahan have trust issues to navigate when he returns, Spieth was asked. “Yeah, quite a bit,” he said. “Just based on conversations I’ve had with players, and I think he realizes that. I’m sure he’s preparing for a plan to try and build it back.”
The plan might just be accepting exactly what Tour players want. Right now, that means a weighty presence for Tiger Woods. The game’s greatest player now owns a designation he has never held before. If Woods is able to commandeer unanimous support from his fellow player directors, they are bound to get more of what they want when they want it. (At this point, those desires are unclear, but one of the main points of the PGA Tour’s negotiations hinge on a Player Benefit Program that will reward Tour members for their loyalty the last 15 months.)
Jimmy Dunne, one of the independent directors on the board, said during a senate hearing last month that he would not vote in favor of something the player directors did not approve. There is no precedent for the policy board to push forth a decision that player directors were unanimously against. (Just one big one pros knew very little about, bringing us to where we are today.)
Optically, Woods’ positioning can be viewed as simply as a basic math equation. A balancing of the expressions. The policy board included just nine people in 2016, four player directors, four independent directors and the director of the PGA of America. Then, in 2017, a fifth independent director joined. During more contentious times, in March 2022, Patrick Cantlay came aboard, balancing the equation a bit more. And now Woods. Six players and six non-players. An even split…for now.
One stipulation of the Framework Agreement stated that the PIF would have representation on the policy board. In the event that a definitive agreement is established, the 50-50 split will be disrupted by a new seat, to be owned initially by Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the sport-shifting body that Woods has adamantly spoken out against. Whose voice will be the loudest? We will have to wait and see.