As the announcements go, this one was rather mediocre with just two paragraphs unveiling the PGA Tour’s 16-member Players Advisory Council.
The annual announcement is usually more of a home service, and for many who have served on the PAC, which “advises and counsels” the Tour Policy Council and Commissioner Guy Monahan, it is a light lift with six meetings during the year that can be as easily attended as online. Zoom.
But these are not normal times and this was not an ordinary PAC ad.
Of the 16 round members named to this year’s PAC, 10 were first-time members of the board; Not a terribly surprising number until you dive deeper. Joining the group for the first time are Scottie Scheffler, Sam Burns, Adam Scott and Ricky Fowler.
“I think you’ve kind of seen more players become more involved in Tour things in the past year. I think with LIV it’s kind of an obvious deal that we had to make some changes in order to improve our Tour in a different way,” Scheffler said. Lee, I get the chance to be in the PAC and talk to guys from all different levels of our tour whether it’s a guy who’s 100 on the money list or first, it’s nice to be in the room and have those conversations and figure out what collectively will work best for We all want this tour to be a success.”
If the PAC’s Player of the Year joining wasn’t much of a surprise, having Scott and Fowler join the group is certainly cause for concern. Both Warriors have a combined 34 seasons on tour without ever looking to join the decision-making process, and yet here they are, in the front row, so to speak, listening intently.
The era of player empowerment in professional golf has arrived and the idea that they simply want to be in the room is, to be fair, a bit misleading.
Ever since Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus led the players in creating the tour, there has been such an undercurrent of control shifting towards the rank and file. It’s a process that began in a conference room at the Du Pont Hotel in Wilmington, Del., when nearly two dozen high-profile players got together last year to plot a new route for the Tour.
Trapped by the exit of the top players from the Tour to rival Leaf Golf, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods took the best of the game in August ahead of the BMW Championship to illustrate a sweeping change to the structure of the circuit with the transition to ‘designated’ events with larger purses and limited fields.
The following week on the Tour Championship, Monahan was outlining the changes in the media, with McIlroy watching intently at the back of the room, but make no mistake this was paid players and the likes of Fowler, Scott, Scheffler and Burns that owned starts in the PAC.
“Obviously we want to hold the tour accountable and make sure that everything gets done but at the same time it won’t necessarily happen through the PAC,” Fowler said. “That’s Tiger and Rory and that group, but there’s still a little bit of influence going through the guys in the PAC to make sure everything is headed in the right direction going forward.”
The addition of designated events and a minimum of 20 events for the game’s top players appears to be just the beginning of the changes from the ground up for Woods, McIlroy, and the group that started in Delaware. The coming year promises more change. As one tour official described the situation last week, it’s like trying to build a plane while it’s in flight. That’s why after decades of playing the tour with little regard for how hot dogs are made, the likes of Scott and Fowler are suddenly interested.
“I was in the room at Delaware, and I think it’s good that we can focus not just on this year, but on the longevity of the Tour. We all care deeply about this Tour and the history behind it,” said Will Zlatoris, who will serve his second term in the PAC this year. And we care not only about us, but about the next generation of players.”
Neither Woods nor Phil Mickelson, who was among the first to swoop in for the secured fortunes of LIV Golf, have served a term on the policy board. There was no need. For most of their careers, their voices had been far enough away that “irrational menace,” as Monahan described LIV Golf, was unimaginable.
But the big players no longer have the luxury of isolationist thinking. It marks the times when along with unprecedented player empowerment comes unprecedented responsibility.