By Doug Ferguson | The Associated Press
(AP) – Tiger Woods has joined the PGA Tour policy board for the first time in his 27 years on tour, giving Commissioner Jay Monahan key support as he rebuilds trust while forging ahead with details of a business partnership with Saudi backers of LIV Golf.
Woods will become a sixth player director — a year ago, the PGA Tour had only four players on its board — as part of a broad agreement that gives the players a greater voice and awareness of any major deals going forward.
The announcement Tuesday is a response to the PGA Tour having secret talks with the head of Saudi Arabia’s national wealth fund that led to a proposed partnership that was announced in June and stunned players who had lined up behind the tour to fend off the Saudi threat.
Woods, as the sixth player director, marks the first time players have outnumbered the five independent directors on the board. The 12th board member is the PGA of America president, John Lindert.
Equally critical to Monahan was the support from Woods. Monahan is seeing players this week at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, for the first time since he took a monthlong leave because of a medical situation. He returned to work two weeks ago.
“I am honored to represent the players of the PGA Tour,” Woods said in a statement, his first public comments since the Saudi deal was announced. “This is a critical point for the tour, and the players will do their best to make certain that any changes that are made in tour operations are in the best interest of all tour stakeholders.”
Woods thanked Monahan for agreeing to act on the players’ concerns and said “we look forward to being at the table with him to make the right decisions for the future of the game.
“He has my confidence moving forward with these changes.”
Woods had been one of the strongest opponents of LIV Golf and helped run a meeting of select players last August in Delaware to restructure the PGA Tour model, geared toward bringing the top players together more often for $20 million purses.
While limited in his appearances because of injuries from a February 2021 car crash, Woods remains the most powerful voice among players. He has never served on the Player Advisory Council or the PGA Tour policy board. But his opinions have always been sought — and often heard — in private with Monahan and his predecessor, Tim Finchem.
“Tiger’s voice and leadership throughout his career have contributed immeasurably to the success of the PGA Tour, and to apply both to our governance and go-forward plan at this crucial time is even more welcomed and impactful,” Monahan said.
The tour said “player leaders” asked for certain steps to be taken immediately, and Monahan agreed. That starts with amending the board’s governing documents to ensure no major decision can be made without prior involvement and approval of the players on the board.
Monahan recently appointed Colin Neville, a partner at The Raine Group, as an adviser to the player directors as the tour works out a definitive agreement with the Public Investment Fund and the European tour.
Under the agreement announced Tuesday, Neville will be kept abreast of negotiations on the framework agreement and given full access to documents as he represents the players.
Neville was in the Delaware player meeting last August that led to the restructuring. He was involved in the team concept of the Premier Golf League some five years ago, which was to be supported by private capital. It never got going, and many of the ideas were adopted by LIV Golf.
Monahan said he was committed to restoring “any lost trust or confidence” from what he described as the surprise announcement on June 6. According to the framework agreement, the sides have until Dec. 31 to reach a definitive deal, although that can be extended.
“Any agreement we reach must be shaped by our members’ input and approval earned through our player directors,” Monahan said.
The other player directors are Rory McIlroy (the first international player on the board ), Webb Simpson, Charley Hoffman and Peter Malnati. Patrick Cantlay was the fifth player added to the board at the start of the year.
The independent directors are Chairman Ed Herlihy and Jimmy Dunne, who worked privately with Monahan on the Saudi agreement, along with Mary Meeker and Mark Flaherty. Former AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson recently resigned, saying he could not support the Saudi agreement. Players are involved in the search to replace him.
The framework agreement would allow Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the PIF, to join the board as an independent director. Monahan had told The Associated Press in June that Al-Rumayyan would not be an additional board member but would replace someone whose term expires.
The tour listed 41 players who supported the changes, including Woods, McIlroy, Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth. The 41 players include every PGA Tour member from the top 20 in the world ranking, along with all 16 members of the Player Advisory Council.
“I think it’s very obvious last year that a pretty good amount of us were frustrated and taken back with how some things took place,” Justin Thomas said. “We were just kind of put in a funky or tough position with how stuff was handled in the past. We want to have a say of what’s going on because it is our tour and … how it’s structured and how it looks is important to us.”
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