As announcements go, this one was pretty modest with just two episodes revealing this year’s 16-member Player Advisory Council for the PGA Tour.
The annual announcement is usually little more than housekeeping, and for many who have served on the PAC, which “advises and consults” the Tour’s political board and commissioner Jay Monahan, it’s an easy lift with half a dozen meetings throughout the year that can just as easily participate via Zoom.
But these are not normal times, and this was not a normal PAC announcement.
Of the 16 Tour members appointed to this year’s PAC, there were 10 first-timers on the council; not a terribly surprising number until you take a deeper dive. Joining the group for the first time are world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler, Sam Burns, Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler.
“I think you’ve seen more players get more involved in things with the Tour in the past year. I think with LIV it’s kind of an obvious deal that we had to make a few changes to improve our Tour in another way,” Scheffler said. “For me to have an opportunity to be at the PAC and talk to guys across all different levels of our tour, whether it’s a guy finishing 100th on the money list or first, it’s kind of nice to be in the room and have those conversations and figure out what together will work best for all of us so that this tour can be successful.”
If the reigning Player of the Year joining the PAC isn’t a big surprise, Scott and Fowler joining the group is certainly a reason to pay attention. The two veterans have a combined 34 seasons on the Tour without ever aspiring to be part of the decision-making process, and yet here they are, in the front row, so to speak, listening intently.
The era of player empowerment has arrived in professional golf and the idea that they just want to be in the room, to be fair, is a bit misleading.
Not since Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus led players in the creation of the Tour has there been such an undercurrent of scrutiny that has shifted toward the rank and file. It’s a process that began in a conference room at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, Del., when nearly two dozen high-profile players gathered last year to chart a new course for the Tour.
Besieged by an exodus of top players from the Tour to rival LIV Golf, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods gathered the game’s best in August ahead of the BMW Championship to outline a wholesale change to the structure of the circuit with the move to “designated” events with bigger purses and limited fields.
The following week at the Tour Championship, it was Monahan who outlined the changes to the media, with McIlroy watching intently in the back of the room, but make no mistake, this was player-driven, and for the likes of Fowler, Scott, Scheffler and Burns, that ownership starts at the PAC’ one.
“Obviously we want to hold the Tour accountable and make sure everything gets done, but at the same time it won’t necessarily be through the PAC,” Fowler said. “It’s Tiger and Rory and that group, but there’s still a little bit of influence through the guys at the PAC that make sure everything is moving in the right direction and moving forward.”
The addition of the designated events and a minimum of 20 events for the game’s top players appears to be just the beginning of the ground changes that Woods, McIlroy and the group ushered in at Delaware. Next year promises even more change. As one Tour official described the situation last week, it’s like trying to build an airplane while it’s flying. That’s why, after decades of playing the Tour with little interest in how the sausage is made, people like Scott and Fowler have suddenly taken an interest.
“I was in the room in Delaware, and I think it’s good that we’re not just focusing on this year, but the lifetime of the Tour. We all care deeply about this Tour and the history behind it, and care about not only us, but the next generation of players,” said Will Zalatoris, who will serve his second term in the PAC this year.
Neither Woods nor Phil Mickelson, who was among the first to win LIV Golf’s guaranteed riches, has ever served on the board. There was no need. For much of their career, their voices carried far enough, and the “irrational threat” that Monahan described to LIV Golf was unimaginable.
But top players no longer have the luxury of thinking in isolation. It’s a sign of the times that with unprecedented player empowerment comes unprecedented responsibility.