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Inside the Meeting: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy Leading Effort to Create 18-Event PGA Tour Circuit With $20 Million Purses

By Bob Harig,


According to two sources with knowledge of the players-only meeting earlier this week, PGA Tour players plan to make several bold suggestions to commissioner Jay Monahan.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are two of the PGA Tour's biggest stars, and loudest voices, against LIV Golf.

Rob Schumacher/USA Today

WILMINGTON, Del. – A plan that would see the PGA Tour stage 18 tournaments with 60 players and $20 million purses was one idea discussed among an elite group of players, including Tiger Woods, at a meeting earlier this week in advance of the BMW Championship.

Few details, by design, have emerged from the meeting but two sources who each spoke to a player who attended the meeting at the Hotel du Pont told Sports Illustrated that the concept was among many items discussed and would potentially be brought to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Tour executives.

The FirePit Collective also reported the 18-touranment concept as a “tour-within-a-tour’’ and the possibility that the PGA Tour, which is designated as a 501c-6, could renounce its non-profit status.

All of this is against the backdrop of the PGA Tour playing its FedEx Cup playoffs with the season-ending Tour Championship upcoming in Atlanta. Afterward, the Tour is expected to lose several players to LIV Golf, including reigning British Open champion Cam Smith.

Among other ideas discussed was an annual stipend for players and whether the Tour should eventually have a conversation with LIV Golf, which launched in June and has signed several players to lucrative multi-year contracts.

Woods and McIlroy emerged as prominent leaders in this discussion. Both players have come out strongly against the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which has completed three events so far and plans five more for 2022 before shifting to a 14-event league schedule with 12 teams as part of its 48-man fields next year.

In comments made last month at St. Andrews preceding the British Open, Woods, who has 82 PGA Tour victories and 15 major titles, spoke strongly about legacy and said the players who jumped to LIV were “turning their backs’’ on the platform that helped them gain their stature.

Woods flew to Wilmington on Tuesday along with Rickie Fowler to take part in the meeting. Players who attended have been generally tight-lipped about what was discussed, going so far as to not even confirm the number of players in attendance. Several players who attended and who were approached this week at the BMW Championship would not discuss the meeting. Most interviewed have offered just general comments about the meeting. Golf Channel reported there were 22 players at the meeting.

Neither commissioner Jay Monahan nor any other Tour executives attended; Monahan was on site Wednesday at Wilmington Country Club to answer player questions and concerns.

Mostly the comments about the meeting were guarded.

“It was great. It was exciting. It was new. It was fresh,’’ said Xander Schauffele, who later explained that the players agreed to keep the specifics private.

“Yeah, I think I'd be pretty unhappy if I saw one of those guys from (Tuesday) night just blabbering to you guys what we talked about,’’ Schauffele said during a news conference Wednesday. “That would be really frowned upon, and you probably wouldn't get invited back to the meeting. Yeah, there's a little bit of a code there, I'd say.’’

McIlroy was similarly brief, saying “I don’t think that’s for a public forum right now.’’

But he did acknowledge when asked about one thing he’d like to see: “We need to get the top players together more often than we do.’’

And that would fall in line with what the sources disclosed. The PGA Tour currently has a 40-plus-event schedule that includes the four major championships, the Players Championship, three FedEx Cup playoff events, and three elevated events – the Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational and Memorial. Just one World Golf Championship event – the WGC-Dell Accenture Match Play – remains on the schedule.

All of those events are due for purse increases next year, and the FedEx Cup playoffs will start with just 70 players and not cuts, making them more elite and rewarding for those who qualify.

If the Tour were to incorporate 18 elite events with small fields and no cuts, the path to doing so still need some serious vetting.

Would they include some or all of the above-mentioned events? Would there be required starts or could minimums be applied? Throw in the four majors and you’re up to 22 events, meaning a small likelihood of regular Tour events getting strong fields. How are the 60 players determined?

The Premier Golf League, which preceded LIV Golf, proposed 18 events that would bring 48 players together for no cut 54-hole events. LIV Golf will have 14 such events next year. The purses are $25 million and include a team portion that pays out $5 million to the top three teams.

At last year’s BMW Championship, Patrick Cantlay prevailed in an exciting six-hole sudden-death playoff that helped propel him to the FedEx Cup title. He won over Bryson DeChambeau, who is now ineligible for the FedEx Cup (although it’s unlikely he would have qualified due to injury) because of his affiliation with LIV Golf.

Similarly, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen joined LIV Golf and might otherwise have been here.

“I think there’s no doubt that the fields out here have gotten weaker, missing those guys,’’ Cantlay said. “I think that’s just one of the unfortunate circumstances that happens when you have somewhat of a fractured sport as far as the best players, where they’re playing, especially compared to all the consistency we’ve had in the past where pretty much every single one of the top players plays all these events.’’

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