Column: PGA Tour stars unified, pushing ideas similar to LIV

Aug 22, 2022, 10:08 PM | Updated: Aug 23, 2022, 10:10 am

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits from the 18th tee during the final round of the BMW Champio...

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits from the 18th tee during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament at Wilmington Country Club, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

ATLANTA (AP) — Greg Norman braced for another fight with the PGA Tour and was equipped with what he often referred to as the tour’s “playbook” from the first time he tried to start a rival league.

This version might have a similar ending.

Norman’s first attempt to assemble an exclusive field to play for big money around the world never got off the ground. The PGA Tour wielded its political influence, Arnold Palmer stood behind the heritage of the tour and that was that.

And then the PGA Tour stole his idea.

What emerged were the World Golf Championships, the richest events (back when a $5 million purse meant something) with no cut and a limited field. Former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem publicly thanked Norman for his “determination and suggestions of 1994” when the first WGC was played.

In that respect, this is starting to feel like a repeat.

Reports over the weekend — the most thorough from No Laying Up, which has engaged top players on its podcast for years — pointed to a plan to create up to 15 tournaments offering some of the richest purses for a limited field of elite players.

Those were the most pertinent details that emerged from a players-only meeting last week. Norman must feel as though he has seen all this before.

But this was less about trying to quash Saudi-funded LIV Golf and more about taking the PGA Tour in a modern direction that emphasizes its biggest names. And what makes this different from 1994 is how the movement unfolded.

No Laying Up reported 23 players in attendance at the invitation-only meeting. That included — it starts with, really — Tiger Woods, who flew to Delaware from Florida for the meeting.

“We need to get the top guys together more often than we do,” Rory McIlroy said the next morning, the closest any player came to a public revelation. “I’m talking about all in the same tournaments, all in the same weeks.”

For now, the plan is somewhere between a vision and reality. The players have been in touch with Commissioner Jay Monahan, and he could provide a better sense of where it all stands when he speaks Wednesday ahead of the Tour Championship.

But the value of that meeting went far deeper than details.

By all accounts, the players left inspired, unified and unusually quiet. Xander Schauffele smiled when he referred to the silence as a “code,” which is not to suggest he was joking.

Said one player, speaking on condition of anonymity to honor such a code, “When was the last time all the top players got together in the same room? That has never happened before.”

It spoke to the ownership the players have taken of their tour, and their determination to stave off the greatest threat professional golf has faced.

Worth noting is 16 of the top 20 players in the world ranking were in the room. Among those missing, one didn’t become a PGA Tour member until three weeks ago (Tom Kim). Another is reported to be leaving for LIV Golf after this week (Cameron Smith).

Hideki Matsuyama and Sungjae Im might have required translation, though they should have been included. Matsuyama was said to be curious why he wasn’t invited. Two people who know of his plans say the Japanese star is not going anywhere. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Matsuyama has not said anything publicly about his plans.

Some of those players still might leave for LIV one day. After Brooks Koepka did an about-face in the span of one week in June, no one should be surprised by any defection.

If so, what they leave behind might be similar to what they are joining.

If this is the path forward for the PGA Tour, is it the answer?

Short fields, no cuts, big money. Where you have heard that one before? More than a WGC concept, it sounds like it was torn from the gospel of what Norman was preaching, minus the concept of team golf with silly names.

But it will have far more relevance under the umbrella of a tour, the identity of professional golf for more than 50 years. And it won’t have the scrutiny over the source of funding — the Public Investment Fund — that LIV Golf seems to constantly face.

One other difference in the playbook is Norman’s first challenge in 1994 never made it to court.

For the three LIV golfers who sought a temporary restraining order to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs, the ruling against them was a big setback. At this point, players who sign with LIV Golf should not expect to play anywhere on the PGA Tour until at least 2024, and the majority of them might miss out on all the majors unless they go through open qualifiers.

All the while, the PGA Tour could be headed toward a new model of small fields, big purses, guaranteed money because of no cuts and the option to play other PGA Tour stops that have special meaning to them and still have a good purse.

Perhaps the tour should have thought of this sooner.

In the long run, maybe it’s better this way. One of the messages that came out of the antitrust lawsuit filed by defectors is that every PGA Tour player had a right to feel like a defendant. “This is your tour,” they were told.

Now they’re acting like it really is.


More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Column: PGA Tour stars unified, pushing ideas similar to LIV