Golf’s establishment is still redefining itself 12 months after the emergence of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit rocked the game globally and pitted longtime friends and colleagues against each other.
Tiger Woods, who came down hard on the side of the US PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, said those circuits are seeking the best means to engage fans, honor history and reward players in golf’s changed landscape.
“If you go back to this week at Genesis last year to where it’s at now, we all have to say it’s been very turbulent,” Woods said Tuesday as he prepared to play in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club.
“We never would have expected the game of golf to be in this situation, but it is, that’s the reality.”
That reality includes back-and-forth lawsuits, a ban on LIV Golf players teeing it up on the PGA Tour – and similar attempted suspensions by the DP World Tour thwarted in court.
In the year since Phil Mickelson declared that LIV Golf offered a chance to “reshape” how the PGA Tour does business, significant changes have indeed been made, notably the addition of designated events in which top players must play and which carry beefed-up purses – including this week’s $20 million in prize money.
With other changes reportedly under consideration, including the creation of limited-field no-cut events on the PGA Tour, Woods said lots of options are under discussion.
“We are in the process of figuring all that out and it’s been a variety of different models, different opinions, trying to figure out what is the best product and competitive environment and what we should do going forward,” Woods said.
“Yes, limited fields, what’s the number. Cuts? Yes or no. What’s the number, what do we go to. How many players are playing the event? OK, what is the ability to get into the designated events?”
LIV Golf’s limited fields with no cuts was a major knock for golf traditionalists, who fear they undercut competitive drive and limit opportunities for golfers to rise through the ranks.
Woods acknowledged that the debate has “been difficult” but necessary as “we’re trying to create the best product that we think (is) the future of golf, how it should be played.”
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who regained the world number one ranking with a victory at the Phoenix Open on Sunday, said even the introduction of some limited field events would offer opportunities for newcomers and mid-range tour pros.
“If we do go to those smaller fields it’s not going to be an unaccessible event,” Scheffler said. “Just because you go down from 120 guys, let’s say you go to 70, there’s still going to be avenues for people to get into those tournaments. The eligibility to get into those events is still going to reward good golf.”
Amid the changes, and with LIV Golf lobbying strenuously for world rankings recognition as it prepares to kick off its second season, Scheffler could find himself at the center of the tension when he hosts the annual Masters champions dinner in April.
Woods, who has hosted five champions dinners, said he didn’t know what the gathering of LIV golfers and PGA Tour stalwarts will be like.
“I know that some of our friendships have certainly taken a different path, but we’ll see when all that transpires,” Woods said, adding that he hoped the past champions would come together to “honor Scottie.”
Scheffler, who says he has yet to settle on a menu for the evening, is hoping camaraderie will carry the day.
“Gathering all those guys together in a room, I mean, it should be a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s an historic group of people, Masters champions, and I’m sure that we can all put our personal opinions aside and just have a good night and just kind of enjoy what the night really is.”