Since June 6, the discussion around the PGA Tour has focused far more on governance, committees, and board seats than anything to do with golf. That is a colossal failure for all involved. It’s exhausting, and you’d be forgiven if you started giving less of a shit about the organization’s product because of it. Focus on the majors and your own game. Take a leave of absence.
Since he returned from his, Jay Monahan’s two weeks have seen a return to the Tour’s usual flow of memos, press releases, and reorganizations. The latest came Tuesday morning with the announcement that Tiger Woods would be joining the PGA Tour’s policy board as a sixth player representative. Reporting from the Washington Post, New York Times, and elsewhere revealed that this sudden change came in response to a player letter on Monday demanding further control in the wake of the secretive PIF deal conducted with zero player input. Tiger jumps into an entirely new board seat, giving the players six representatives and the independent directors — those non-pros from high places in business who were also the architects of the merger — only five seats. One of those five seats is vacant after Randall Stephenson resigned. A four-person committee that includes Webb Simpson and Patrick Cantlay will be responsible for choosing the successor there. We’ve got boards and committees, a council, and also that “task force” to deal with the LIV players trying to come back, headed by new “chief player officer” Jason Gore. This might feel exhausting to those of us on the outside, but remember, they have plenty of conference room space to fill at the Global Home.
A few more thoughts on this announcement:
1. Tiger is obviously the headliner. It is admirable that he cares enough to take on a role like this when he could just as well keep to himself and live a comfortable life while wielding influence from afar. His voice matters, far more than the other players sitting in board seats. On Monahan, Woods added in his statement: “He has my confidence moving forward with these changes.”
2. That’s a nice boost for Monahan, who quickly acceded to the player demand for board restructuring, perhaps in order to keep his job. They sent him a letter on Monday. The Tour issued the press release on Tuesday. It was a self-preservation move. But what’s left to preserve? A role as a full-blown puppet? Monahan’s hollow form seemed evident with last week’s memo parroting the majority of player sentiment on the rollback issue. This week, he’s publicly stating these are moves working to “restore any lost trust or confidence that occurred as a result of the surprise announcement of our Framework Agreement.” If it’s not an outright condemnation of the resulting agreement, it’s certainly a full-blown repudiation of the secretive process and bumbling reveal of the PIF deal. Speaking of processes …
3. Perhaps the most substantive revelation in the Tuesday news: an overhaul of how the Tour will conduct business going forward. The press release used the word “transparency” multiple times, and included the line that the Tour would “amend the Policy Board’s governing documents to make it clear that no major decision can be made in the future without the prior involvement and approval of the Player Directors.”
4. As it pertains to the current business of the “Framework Agreement,” Colin Neville, who works for the Raine Group, will have access to all documents around those negotiations and serve as a consultant on behalf of the players. Neville was brought in by Tiger and Rory last year in a similar consulting role, focusing then on how to respond to the LIV threat. With Neville overseeing and consulting, the six Player Directors will have the power to scuttle the agreement (perhaps an unlikely outcome), along with making any amendments or related proposals.
5. There is a lot of symbolism in this announcement — publicly chastising Jay, denouncing the Framework secrecy, and repudiating the ascendance of non-player bureaucrats and executives in Ponte Vedra over the last couple of decades. But there is a fair amount of substance beyond that, with player directors actually having the final say now on all major matters, including how this agreement with the PIF shakes out. How’s that NewCo board going to look compared to what was originally in the Framework?
6. There will be more press releases and leaked memos to come. After years of beating back attempts at reform with messaging focused on stability, structure, and contractual constraints, we’ve now seen the Tour suddenly decide it can create a for-profit entity and overhaul its entire board structure, all within a couple of months. Things are changing on the fly, with moves that make the Tour’s long-term strategy look like it was devised by a kid reactively flailing about on a Whac-A-Mole machine. If you’re a player … partner … or yes, fan … I’d be skeptical of anything this Tour puts out as being concrete or stable. For now, and for a long time going forward.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.