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Golfers praise Tiger’s leadership amid LIV unrest
The PGA Tour’s top players aren’t ready to reveal what was discussed during a meeting with Tiger Woods on Tuesday night, but many insist they’re on the same page in terms of what the tour needs to do in its ongoing battle with LIV Golf.
Many of the top 20 golfers in the world and other influential players who are still members of the PGA Tour met with Woods for more than three hours at a hotel in Wilmington, Delaware, the site of this week’s BMW Championship, the second leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“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,” Rory McIlroy said during a news conference Wednesday at Wilmington Country Club.
McIlroy said any ideas or proposed changes discussed by the players aren’t for a “public forum right now” and will stay between the players and PGA Tour executives.
Xander Schauffele, the sixth-ranked player in the world, described some of the ideas discussed in the meeting as “new” and “fresh.”
When Schauffele was asked how he would like to see the battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf resolved, he said: “Some sort of unity. [Golf is] definitely fractured currently. Yeah, we’re just in the middle of it. In a nice peaceful way would be a nice outcome.”
Having Woods, a 15-time major champion, in the meeting brought credibility to the discussion, the players said.
“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,” McIlroy said.
“It was a productive meeting,” Thomas said. “It’s just something that the players who are involved just want the best for the tour and want what’s in the best interest. I think it’s just one of those things where we all want what’s best for the players, and we’re working to do that.”
Several past major champions, including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed, have been lured to the Saudi Arabian-financed LIV Golf circuit with guaranteed contracts worth $100 million to $200 million.
Last week, the Telegraph of London reported that Open Championship winner Cameron Smith, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, is set to defect to LIV Golf. Two other players who have been linked to the new league, Cameron Young and Joaquin Niemann, attended the players-only meeting on Tuesday night, sources confirmed to ESPN.
Woods, 46, played in only the Masters, PGA Championship and The Open at St. Andrews this season, his first action since he was seriously injured in a car wreck outside Los Angeles in February 2021. Woods has insisted he will play in limited events in the future as his career winds down.
But Woods’ voice still carries a lot of weight with players like McIlroy, Thomas and others, who idolized him as a player growing up.
“I think it shows how much he cares about the players that are coming through and are going to be the next generation,” McIlroy said. “Like it or not, they can’t really sell Tiger Woods anymore. The tour had an easy job for 20 years. They don’t have Tiger. 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.”
Added Thomas: “I think if someone like him is passionate about it, no offense to all of us, but that’s really all that matters. 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.”
McIlroy said Woods’ role is to now make sure the PGA Tour is in good shape when his career ends. According to LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, Woods turned down an offer between $700 million and $800 million to join the upstart league.
“He is the hero that we’ve all looked up to,” McIlroy said. “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.”