Three weeks have passed since PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan dropped the Alliance bomb on golf’s tenuous universe—a purported act of peace meant to end a war nobody could win. As ceasefires go, however, it has fanned the flames to far greater effect than it has diminished them, creating a sense of disillusionment among players who remained loyal to the Tour, baffling the public and arching enough eyebrows on Capitol Hill to warrant the attention of a Senate subcommittee.
Never mind Monahan’s unclear intentions, the lack of communication with the men who swing the club or the hypocrisy of doing business with a pariah tied to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His recent health issues aside, no degree of medical attention can spare the embattled commish from the kettle of hot water awaiting his return.
Among the cries of bewilderment and pleas for clarity, one voice remains conspicuously absent. Tiger Woods, a man who knows a thing or three about the dynamics of public wrath, has maintained his silence regarding the Tour’s plan to unify with LIV Golf. Having long ago refined the art of addressing media gatherings for 30 minutes without saying anything to speak of, perhaps Woods recognizes the hazards of commenting on such an incomplete and ambiguous issue.
The terrain is full of quicksand. These days, as we’ve all come to realize, Tiger has trouble walking on solid ground.
Through his longtime agent, Mark Steinberg, Woods declined my request for an interview regarding his thoughts on the alliance—a predictable and understandable response from an icon whose competitive brilliance was fortified by the ability to focus solely on things he could control, and this is not one of them. He did Monahan a huge favor last summer by flying to Delaware and meeting with an assemblage of top players before the second FedEx Cup playoff event. Those discussions led to the adoption of designated tournaments with dramatically increased purses and stratified fields, ostensibly to prevent additional defections to LIV Golf.
So imagine that. Tiger hops on the jet to do Monahan’s dirty work, and of course, everybody in the room listens. The personnel leakage comes to a halt. The Tour regains its stride in the first five months of 2023, problem resolved, and even better, the Saudi-funded enterprise still can’t get anyone to watch its pimped-out presentation on TV. Its partnership with the CW Network hits a comical snag when the carrier pulls the plug on the playoff of the league’s most exciting finish to date, denting the primary mission of a rival that never would have existed if Tiger hadn’t turned professional golf into such a cash cow in the first place.
And now they’re merging? You can bet your last nickel that Woods is rather unhappy about this. It basically defies everything he taught us. Step on the opponent’s neck, keep your foot there until the breathing stops, then kick the body a few dozen times before hosting a party celebrating the death of a dangerous enemy. No remorse, absolutely no recourse. Cheers, fellas.
Once a winner, always a winner, but 82 times? Don’t let that limp fool you. Woods is the most powerful person in the sport, has been for more than 25 years, holding status that won’t suffer in the slightest once his playing career comes to an end. Monahan didn’t necessarily betray the Dude in the Red Shirt by succumbing to the fiscal virtues of the Saudi faction, but his eagerness to strap on the blinders and purge his memory the minute his wingmen returned from an exploratory meeting and gave him the green light …
How can you rationalize such behavior without cracking the mirror? Woods’s appreciation for loyalty is utterly legendary. Steinberg is the only guy he has ever really held onto. Caddies, swing coaches, business associates, media people, significant others—you lose Tiger’s trust, you get shown the door. My relationship with Woods during his competitive prime was quite good, at least relative to so many others who fell out of favor, perhaps because I recognized my standing as a potentially intrusive outsider who approached with caution and understood that I needed him a million times more than he needed me.
He’s not confrontational by any means, but he’s steadfast to an extreme. Woods has to be disappointed with how Monahan has managed these last 18 months, first threatening the players with expulsion from the Tour, and when that didn’t work, committing to the huge influx of prize money to placate the top-tier constituency. All while publicly flogging the upstart rival at both a personal and professional level, as if a fly on a horse’s ass could kill the animal by sundown.
These actions run contrary to Tiger’s ingrained mentality. For Monahan to climb into bed with a legion he once despised, thereby nullifying a threat to his own legacy without adequately pondering the dozens of peripheral consequences—for any reason whatsoever—is an abject sign of weakness.
Tiger Woods doesn’t like weakness. He has spent his whole life ignoring it, avoiding it and destroying it. If the Tour has become financially compromised to the point where it couldn’t afford any long-term legal battle against LIV Golf, that doesn’t mean you have to walk down the aisle with them and exchange vows. Beyond all that, however, Monahan’s most egregious error, at least in the eyes of a 15-time major champion, has to be the complete lack of player inclusion in this process.
What is the purpose of even having a Player Advisory Council, composed of 16 tour pros of all makes and models, if the front office goes stealth to institute historic and gravity-defying changes without an ounce of input from the guys who cover their salaries? It’s an unforgivable sin from any balanced perspective, a blatant and intentional overstepping of executive boundaries that can’t be pardoned with an explanation that “we really had to keep this quiet.”
Monahan should have known better, and he surely did, but he proceeded nonetheless with a monumental upheaval of pro golf’s infrastructure for all the wrong reasons with all the wrong people, a breach of responsibility that has rubbed almost everybody the wrong way.
Make no mistake. Tiger Woods doesn’t like wrong, either.