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Tiger Woods made his presence felt in a top players-only meeting ahead of the BMW Championship on Tuesday. Woods flew in with Rickie Fowler (neither were playing in the tournament) to join some of the other top names in the sport to discuss the direction everything should go as the PGA Tour continues to square off with the LIV Golf League.
Woods was vocal ahead of the last tournament in which he played, The Open Championship, discussing how he didn’t understand why a player would give up the potential opportunity to play in the biggest tournaments in the world for a bigger paycheck. And while it remains unknown what was discussed in the meeting featuring most of the top 20 players in the world on Tuesday at a hotel in Wilmington, Delaware, it’s evident that Tiger led the way.
Justin Thomas, who called it “a productive meeting,” said Tiger was paramount in rallying the troops toward some uniformed outcome, though he didn’t discuss what that outcome was going to be.
“I think if someone like him is passionate about it, no offense to all of us, but that’s really all that matters,” said Thomas. “If he’s not behind something, then one, it’s probably not a good idea in terms of the betterment of the game, but two, it’s just not going to work. He needs to be behind something. I think he’s been a great kind of leading role in a lot of ways in the game for a lot of us. “
Woods is firmly behind the PGA Tour, having turned down a reported $700 million – $800 million from LIV Golf.
Rory McIlroy added that the meeting’s discussions were “between the players and between the executives at the Tour to try to sort of manage a way forward” before adding that Tiger’s presence was, as always, immense.
“He is the hero that we’ve all looked up to,” said McIlroy. “His voice carries further than anyone else’s in the game of golf. His role is navigating us to a place where we all think we should be.”
“I think it’s pretty apparent that whenever we all get in the room, there’s an alpha in there, and it’s not me,” he added.
As for where the Tour does go from here in the wake of its small victory in a California court last week when LIV Golf players Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford were kept out of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, McIlroy and Thomas said unification and galvanization were important, both on and off the course.
“We need to get the top guys together [to play the same tournaments] more often than we do,” said McIlroy.
“I think the one thing that came out of it, which I think was the purpose, is all the top players on this Tour are in agreement and alignment of where we should go going forward, and that was awesome,” added Thomas.
How that plays out over the next few years on the PGA Tour and elsewhere will shape the professional game for the next few decades. McIlroy said something out loud that hasn’t been discussed a lot as it relates to the future, and it’s something that impacts this present moment more than anyone would care to admit.
“Like it or not, they can’t really sell Tiger Woods anymore,” he said. “The Tour had an easy job for 20 years. They don’t have Tiger — yes, they’ve got a bunch of us and we’re all great players, but we’re not Tiger Woods. We’re moving into a different era, and we just have to think about things a little differently.”
While it’s true that the Tour can’t sell Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods can still sell the Tour. This is what he’s been doing for months, and on Tuesday it’s what he continued to do with almost every consequential player in the golf world.
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