BY NO LAYING UP
The top players on the PGA Tour, led by Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, have finalized a proposal that would dramatically reshape the Tour and incentivize the best players to play together more frequently, according to numerous sources with first-hand knowledge of the plan.
The proposal, which would create an elevated series of limited field events, will be sent to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan this week, another unexpected twist in what has been a tumultuous year for men’s professional golf.
Multiple sources told No Laying Up this week that McIlroy and Woods have been leading the discussions among the top players for the past seven weeks, hoping to find ways to solidify support for the PGA Tour, which has seen a number of high profile players join LIV Golf, and its millions in guaranteed contracts, in recent months.
According to multiple sources close to the situation, the proposed plan would involve limiting fields and elevating purses at up to 15 events on the PGA Tour, creating a series of events around which the game’s top players have all committed to build their schedules.
“We need to get the top guys together more often than we do,” McIlroy told the media this week at the BMW Championship.
McIlroy and Woods, along with the PGA Tour’s biggest stars, have been formally discussing systemic changes dating back to an initial meeting at the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland on July 3. Since then, McIlroy and Woods have hosted various meetings with players, representatives, consultants and advisers – including Commissioner Jay Monahan – which culminated in a meeting to present a plan to players on August 16 at the BMW Championship.
Twenty-two players attended the most recent meeting at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware. Invitations were said to be strictly players-only, as the golfers were walked through the specifics by an outside consultant familiar with the proposal.
Players in attendance were: Scottie Scheffler, McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Will Zalatoris, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sam Burns, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, Cameron Young, Joaquin Niemann, Max Homa, Shane Lowry, Tyrell Hatton, Kevin Kisner, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler and Woods.
According to numerous sources inside and outside the meeting, all twenty-three players left the meeting unanimous in their support of the proposed plan.
While the plan would not contain the large sums of guaranteed money reported to be included in many LIV Golf contracts, the upside for the game’s top players is apparent.
The proposed series of “top-tier” events would feature reduced fields – a to-be-determined number and a mix of exempt players and weekly qualifiers from the other events on Tour.
Many details of the proposal are conceptual and will need to be worked out in conjunction with the PGA Tour for feasibility. For instance, it’s unclear which events on the PGA Tour schedule would be elevated to this “elite series” status under the proposal.
According to the proposal, the remaining events – the ones not included in the elevated series – would still be played for similar purses as they are today. (An event like the John Deere Classic, which sits on the lower end of the PGA Tour regular season purses, still puts up a $7.1 million total prize pool and more than $1.2 million to the winner.) Those remaining events would also be used to offer a number of qualifying spots for the upcoming “top-tier” event to top finishers, guaranteeing that players of any status have a defined path to the series.
The proposal also includes a provision that players exempt for the elevated series would be required to play at least three events outside the series per season.
According to a report by The Fire Pit Collective, these elevated events would feature purses of $20 million. However, according to multiple sources inside the Wilmington meeting, the report that the Tour would renounce its tax-exempt status and the report that the Tour would plan to privatize and sell equity in the new venture were inaccurate. Those topics were not discussed, according to sources inside the room.
The proposal would be a stark departure from the PGA Tour’s current set up, which includes more than 40 events of varying star power at which fans, broadcasters and sponsors are often unsure what type of field will be present.
The next steps will likely come from the PGA Tour, which will have to review the proposal and its feasibility. The PGA Tour declined to comment on the proposal Sunday when contacted by No Laying Up. Commissioner Jay Monahan is expected to speak to the media Tuesday of this week’s Tour Championship.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story did not include Adam Scott listed among the players in attendance. Multiple sources confirm that he was also in attendance at the meeting, and the story has been updated to reflect that.
Chris Solomon, Tron Carter and D.J. Piehowski contributed to this report. For more information and context, listen to this week’s No Laying Up Podcast, available wherever you get your podcasts.