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Tiger Woods hits a shot out of a bunker on Tuesday during a PGA Championship practice round.
What do you think the Tour needs to be doing better?
Say one thing about the breakaway Saudi and Premier tours — and you’ve likely said and heard more — and it’s this: Maybe at no point in recent history has the established brand been more scrutinized. Talk of guaranteed paydays and limited schedules and team events has those with pro-game investment not only thinking more of what could be now, but wondering if the PGA Tour is too.
If you believe in competition breeding innovation, this falls in line with that. As you may have heard, Phil Mickelson had this thought in his dealings with the Saudi Tour — he told Alan Shipnuck, the author of a Mickelson biography, that “this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates” — but then, we’ll just say, things also took a turn from there, Mickelson hasn’t been seen or heard from since, and he won’t defend his PGA Championship this week.
Let’s move on. The aforementioned question, or the Saudi league, hasn’t gone away, though, and one of Mickelson’s longtime rivals, none other than Tiger Woods, was asked it on Tuesday in his pre-PGA press conference. Is Woods pro-PGA Tour? Yes, he’s come out as such numerous times over the past year. Can the Tour improve upon its model?
Yes, to that, too, the 15-time major winner said.
“Well, they are obviously trying to give what the top players have — obviously the top players have carried the Tour for a number of years, whether it’s back with Jack, Arnold and Gary or other eras, you know, the top players have carried the tours,” Woods said.
“The PIP program or however we are ever going to do something like that going forward, what the incentives are, it’s trying to take care of the players that have obviously done a lot for the Tour. I think that programs like that will probably alter it a bit going forward and how — how we are able to promote the Tour.
“I mean, the top players are used — that’s one of the things that we have got into arguments, I have, with Jay or Tim over the years is, you know, how we are marketed and used in events that we are not even playing in. So that in itself is an issue right there.
“And that stems from conversations I’ve had privately with those guys and shared my viewpoint, and how the top players are rewarded for what they do, not just on the golf course but how they are able to bring so much attention and awareness to our sport, whether it’s through all the different streaming or TV, or the different ways you can view golf. We have our now feature groups, which we never had before. There’s a reason why they are feature groups. I think those guys should get rewarded somehow.”
That’s 251 words, but essentially he’s saying this: Woods wants the Tour’s stars to be rewarded outside of tournament winnings. As he mentioned, the PIP (Player Impact Program) has essentially started to do that. Established last year, it rewards 10 players based off their “Impact Score,” an amalgam of metrics based largely on popularity. Or, in other words, the more you say, tweet or Google “Tiger Woods,” the more Tiger Woods may make. In 2021, he finished first in the $40 million program, winning $10 million; this year, the pot has gone up to $50 million.
As for Woods’ other suggestion — that if the Tour promotes a player as part of a tournament, they should be compensated — it gets murky, and Woods himself admitted he’s gotten into arguments over it with former Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and current boss Jay Monahan. Rest assured, though, that if Woods raised it, the concern wasn’t just swept away.
But would Woods ever consider taking these ideas to, say, another league? On Tuesday, he was asked repeatedly for his thoughts on Mickelson, and Woods reconfirmed his commitment to the Tour as his answer to this question: “You said [you have] a disagreement with a lot of what Phil has said. From your view, how does he resolve that disagreement or does he have to resolve that disagreement? What do you think?”
“I don’t know if he has to resolve it or not,” Woods said. “You know, he has his opinion on where he sees the game of golf going. You know, I have my viewpoint how I see the game of golf, and I’ve supported the Tour and my foundation has run events on the Tour for a number of years.
“I just think that what Jack and Arnold have done in starting the Tour and breaking away from the PGA of America and creating our tour in ’68 or ’69, somewhere in there, I just think there’s a legacy to that. I’ve been playing out here for a couple of years over decades, and I think there’s a legacy to it. I still think that the Tour has so much to offer, so much opportunity.
“Yes, it is, and I understand different viewpoints, but I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past. There’s plenty of money out here. The Tour is growing. But it’s just like any other sport. It’s like tennis. You have to go out there and earn it. You’ve got to go out there and play for it. We have opportunity to go ahead and do it. It’s just not guaranteed up front.”
Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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