It’s been a long time since Tiger Woods sat in front of a microphone. Of course, there are mic sessions and gala events where he talks with fans. But actually sitting in front of a microphone, answering questions from the media? The last time this happened was at Augusta National, almost eight months ago. A lot has happened since then.
So it was natural that one of the first questions Woods received Tuesday at the World of Heroes Challenge in the Bahamas began with an apology: “Tiger, I’m sorry to go back, but we haven’t really talked with you. What was your reaction to the June 6 framework announcement? »
It’s true, Woods hasn’t spoken publicly about the milestone day that defined much of the 2023 golf year – and could define much of the golf world going forward.
“Well, coming back,” Woods began, “I would say my reaction was surprise because I’m sure a lot of players were surprised by what happened. So quickly, without any input or information about that it was just thrown out there. I was very surprised that the process was the way it was.
It’s no surprise that Woods was surprised. It was the same for every professional golfer on the planet. But Woods — the global face of the game, who maligned LIV Golf and rallied top pros in creating a signature event system — also wasn’t going to let the Tour’s secret deals with his former Saudi rivals slide , nor develop further. , without looking more closely.
That’s why Woods is now one of six players on the all-important PGA Tour guidance council. He never held this position during the height of his playing career, but he does now, thanks to a near coup d’état at the end of the summer in which 41 pros demanded that Woods get a spot on the board.
Why did this happen? Woods never likes to go into detail, but for a man who doesn’t say much, it’s often telling to repeat himself. Tuesday’s phrase of the day included just three telling words: This can’t happen anymore. In fact, what happened in the weeks leading up to perhaps the most pivotal decision in PGA Tour history cannot… happen… again.
Asked about Jay Monahan’s role as commissioner, Woods said, “I think Jay has been part of the leadership, he understands what happened before that.” this can’t happen anymore and it won’t happen again.
When asked what emotions led him to join the board, Woods said, “I think the general emotion is…we I can’t let this happen again.»
Asked about his confidence in Monahan, Woods said, “That’s part of why I came to the board, is I had confidence in Jay and what he could do in the future and in what this cannot happen again.»
After more than a year of telling PGA Tour players that leaving for LIV Golf and a Saudi-backed salary was a bad decision, Monahan and two non-playing board directors – Jimmy Dunne and Ed Herlihy – finally agreed to hold meetings with the Saudi PIF. The plans were developed almost entirely in secretwith only a few PGA Tour executives brought into the final stages of crafting the master agreement — essentially a deal that dropped pending lawsuits and set a Dec. 31 deadline for a final agreement.
The fact that Woods – who, more than any other player in the last two decades, has made the Tour what it is today – was surprised by the June 6 announcement shows you how much he cares about it. was informed before all this happened. Rory McIlroy, who was on the board alongside Herlihy and Dunne, I only heard the news in the morning the proposed deal was announced. However, negotiations had been going on for six weeks. The response from Tour members was a fiery cocktail of confusion, anger and disappointment, and prompted many regrets from Monahan.
“My biggest regret was…I would have flown to Toronto and communicated directly with the players that day before anything was said publicly,” Monahan said two months later. In other words, he wishes he could have been more patient and conveyed information more directly to the players. This is part of what still concerns Woods and his members. Player involvement, or lack of involvement.
Woods is now able to speak with certainty – “this can’t happen again” – in part because players now own 50% of the board. Even though the board of directors has never made a decision that went against the unanimous support of the players, there have always been at least as many, if not one more, non-playing directors than there are directors- players. The members, at least on the surface, wanted a change to this system. The board of directors now has 12 members, six of whom are Tour professionals. Players also now have an important window into ongoing negotiations between the PGA Tour and outside investments.
As part of demands for Woods to join the board, Collin Neville, partner at Raine Capital, was guaranteed full access to documents and decisions made during negotiations between the PGA Tour and the Saudi PIF , as well as additional investment interest via private funds. equity companies. Neville, who manages Raine’s sports division, has overseen some of the most significant investment deals in recent sporting history, including the record sale of Chelsea Football Club and continued interest in Manchester United. He understands Woods, he understands McIlroy, he understands major investments and even understands creating a league with player equity, a rare thing in sports but one of the topics discussed in negotiations. Neville helped launch the Premier Lacrosse League in 2018, which features an equity system between players.
With Neville’s oversight role, Woods’ place on the Policy Council and the belief that “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”, it is likely that Woods “cannot and will not reproduce again.” “The mandate will bear fruit.
But will a deal between the PGA Tour and Saudi PIF happen in 2023, before the New Year’s Eve deadline? Even Woods isn’t sure.
“I’m happy with the process and how it’s evolved,” he said. “We are also frustrated by the slow pace and change in governance that we want to see happen. And December 31st is approaching very quickly.