Golf

Tour Confidential: A shocking Tiger Woods announcement, FedEx Cup musings

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Tiger Woods got a new job this week
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Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we discuss Tiger Woods’ appointment to the PGA Tour policy board, the FedEx Cup Playoffs and Justin Thomas.
1. Tiger Woods made his way back into the golf news cycle this week with the bombshell announcement that he will be joining the PGA Tour’s Policy Board as a sixth player director. What does this actually mean for the future of the PGA Tour with the pending merger with the Saudi Public Investment Fund and how could it influence future decisions?
Sean Zak, senior editor (@Sean_Zak): It means nothing goes without Tiger’s say. Which is very important. For a while, we thought nothing would go without Rory’s say. His interests and that of Tour HQ seemed to overlap perfectly. And then on June 6, they diverged in a seemingly major way. Now, it seems, there would be fewer surprises. Fewer things that pros just have to deal with. Less listening to demands and more making demands. It feels like a sort of serious unionization that the Tour membership has had but never really realized. 
Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): That’s an interesting way to think of it: unionization. But there’s still the question of who gets best represented in that union, and it speaks to a lingering issue in the men’s pro game: a small number of players move the needle. How should they be compensated? What should be asked of them in return? And what about the rank and file and the up-and-comers, who are part of the lifeblood of the circuit but don’t draw the eyeballs or attract big-time sponsors? What rewards and opportunities do they get? Over this past year, while it was fighting to retain talent, we saw the Tour make all kinds of concessions to its biggest names. If we’re trying to read the tea leaves, Tiger’s appointment looks like an attempt to tilt things increasingly in that direction.
Jack Hirsh, assistant editor (@JR_HIRSHey): This has to be insanely popular amongst the pros. All of these guys look up to Tiger and more importantly, owe him for everything this Tour has become over the past 30 years. Not being able to hear from Tiger regularly during much of the PGA Tour-LIV war was one of the most frustrating things about it because his voice carried so much weight. With him now in the fold of PGA Tour decision-makers, I expect the players to have much more of a say going forward. I do wonder what his appointment means for Jay Monahan, as we haven’t really heard Tiger talk much about his opinions of the commish.
2. Woods had been deafeningly quiet on the PGA Tour-PIF merger since the announcement in early June up until this week. What do you think took him so long?
Sens: Since when has he ever been the first to weigh in on controversial matters? Woods has never been one to rush into the role of political leadership. The more cautious approach he took was right on brand. I would have been surprised if he had played it any other way.
Zak: When the first week passed without a statement from Woods, I was surprised. I figured he had to weigh in. What was he thinking? We knew what he was thinking. But as time wore on, he said a lot by saying nothing. I think the nine weeks of silence were a big way of saying “I don’t really approve of what has all gone down.” And the last week or so has been a big way of saying “I’m going to have a big voice now.” Why did he wait? Who knows, but it allowed him to make a bigger splash.
Hirsh: Woods may have been quiet publicly, but there’s no way the wheels for him to get more involved in the process weren’t set in motion as soon as he learned of the framework agreement. There’s a good chance this appointment was probably held up by Monahan’s medical leave.
3. The PGA Tour’s regular season wrapped up this week at the Wyndham Championship with the top 70 in the standings heading on to the start of the three-week FedEx Cup Playoffs. Who was the most surprising player to miss the top 70?
Sens: Given that he started the week outside the bubble, it’s not a shock that Thomas failed to make it in. But no matter how you slice it, Thomas’s season has been a stunner. Missed cuts in three of four majors. A couple of 80s on the scorecard along the way. Crazy what golf can do to even the best players. At times this year, Thomas has looked like he’s been body-snatched.
Zak: Yeah, it’s definitely J.T. He’s the two-time major winner. The 15-time Tour winner. He just turned 30. Absolute center of his prime. No one else comes close. 
Hirsh: Sure, J.T. is shocking given he just won a major last year, but how about Adam Scott? Sure he’s not at the same No. 1 player in the world level he reached when he won the Masters a decade ago, but he had been a model of consistency for longer than that. Scott had made every edition of the FedEx Cup Playoffs until this year. Now Matt Kuchar is the last player remaining to hold that distinction.
4. 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, who ended up just sneaking into the Playoffs by winning this week, opened up Friday on the reduced field for the first playoff event this season (down from 125). “I think if you finish in the top 125, I don’t know why you don’t get to play next week. That’s my opinion. Been pretty outspoken in that. I think it’s silly that it’s only 70.” What do you make of his comments and the smaller playoff field?
Sens: 125. 70. 82. When you boil it down, any number you choose is pretty arbitrary. But the tighter the cutoff, the better. As they say in “The Incredibles”, If everyone’s super, then no one is. Ever since their birth, the playoffs have felt like manufactured excitement; to really care, you have to care about already rich golfers getting even richer. Remember what Glover said toward the end of that same interview? If he didn’t make it, no big deal to him. He’d get to hang with his family. Good on him. But it points to a problem with the playoffs to begin with. If the players themselves aren’t all excited, why should fans be?  Maybe that should be another of the cutoff criteria. If it’s not a big deal to you, stay home.
Zak: I think like a lot of disgruntled Tour pros this year, the comments come across as pretty flimsy when they aren’t paired with any solutions. The PGA Tour has been pressured into understanding all its assets better than ever before, and Lucas Glover — or the kind of players who are 90th-best in the world — just aren’t as important of assets as the guys who are top 30. Finally, it’s being said out loud in major ways, and to some folks that’s unsurprisingly a bit of a gut punch. 
Hirsh: When I heard these comments, I honestly thought back to 2009 when Heath Slocum won the first playoff event after being the No. 124 player in the FedEx Cup during the regular season. He ended up finishing 8th in the FedEx Cup that year and had a chance to win the entire thing with a win at the Tour Championship. No system is perfect and volatility is what makes playoffs in all sports great, but you can’t give the 124th-best player in a season the chance to win it all. No one will ever agree on a number, but I agree with Sean here, the smaller, the better.
5. Justin Thomas shot a final-round 68 to just barely miss the top 70 after his chip on the final hole bounced out of the cup. If you’re Zach Johnson, are you picking him for Rome?
Zak: J.T. has unfortunately not done enough to make it to Rome. That doesn’t mean he’ll be on the outside looking in. Many captain’s picks have been made for people who didn’t necessarily deserve it more than others. Who does Zach Johnson want to send out 12th on Sunday in Italy to try and win a final point? It still might be Thomas. 
Sens: If I’m Zach Johnson, that’s strange, because I hit a block-slice and can’t putt.  But I’ll play along. If I’m Johnson, I do not pick Thomas because his play does not merit the pick. At the same time, in my strange new existence as the Ryder Cup captain, I also hope that Thomas approaches me first and says, As much as I’d love to be on the team, you should go with someone else. There are a lot of other guys playing better right now. I don’t deserve it this year. But I’ll have plenty of other chances down the line.
Hirsh: Sens is spot on here. I hope Thomas removes the temptation altogether and admits he’s not the best player for the team right now. If I’m Johnson I say no, but in reality, I still think it’s going to be tough for Johnson not to pick him. The fact of the matter is, there are 12 more deserving U.S. players than Justin Thomas right now, but I’m not sure yet if there are 12 better players. Z.J. is certainly in a pickle.
6. It’s a full week of golf ahead between the PGA Tour’s first playoff event at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath, U.S. Women’s Amateur at Bel-Air and LIV Golf Bedminster. Which event piques your interest the most and why?
Sens: After a year-plus of civil war and obscene contracts and cloak-and-dagger boardroom dealings, I’m not sure how anyone could be anything but exhausted by the men’s pro game. Give me the AIG Women’s Open. Another chance to watch Rose Zhang. And Lydia. And Nelly. And many other great players. On a great course, to boot.
Zak: My 5-week stint in the U.K. this summer brought me to the heathland for the first time. It’s a special brand of golf and one I remain very interested in. Enough about me, though! The Women’s Open is headed to a top-tier heathland course just outside London in Walton Heath. That excites me very much.  
Hirsh: Bel-Air. Bel-Air. Bel-Air. Bel-Air. Bel-Air. Bel-Air. One of the great American designs has yet to be seen by the masses on modern TV. Not to mention there are a number of storylines including Rachel Heck making her !!!7th!!! appearance already. Rachel Heck is 21. I’m also biased because I have a friend in the field, but should be an awesome event.

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