Golf: Tiger, McIlroy lead PGA Tour players meeting on LIV Golf threat

US PGA Tour players, led by Tiger Woods (left), held a meeting regarding the threat posed by Saudi-backed LIV Golf, Rory McIlroy (right) and Justin Thomas confirmed. PHOTOS: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Tiger Woods led a US PGA Tour players-only meeting regarding the threat posed by Saudi-backed LIV Golf, and how to combat it, ahead of this week's BMW Championship.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and two-time PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas confirmed Tuesday's gathering on Wednesday (Aug 17), McIlroy saying players departed united on a plan of action moving forward.

"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," McIlroy said. "And that was awesome."

Several big-name players have left the PGA for the record purses and shorter events of the LIV Golf Series, where hefty guarantees and US$25 million (S$35 million) purses have attracted such stars as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.

The PGA responded with indefinite bans and raised the purses of several events in hopes of competing with the riches of the Saudi-backed circuit.

Exact details of what players want were not revealed but McIlroy said one key issue from the meeting was having more opportunities for the world's best golfers to play against each other outside of the majors.

"We need to get the top guys together more often than we do," McIlroy said. "I'm talking about all in the same tournaments, all in the same weeks."

McIlroy said for now the nature of the talks was a matter between the players and PGA Tour leaders.

"I don't think that's for a public forum right now," McIlroy said. "I think that's between the players and between the executives at the tour to try to sort of manage a way forward."

Woods, a 15-time major champion who is recovering from leg injuries suffered in a February 2021 car crash, made the effort to appear in person at the meeting ahead of the FedEx Cup playoff event, which tees off Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware.

"It was impactful and I think it shows how much he cares about the tour," McIlroy said. "It shows how much he cares about the players that are coming through and are going to be the next generation."

Tiger takes charge

McIlroy made it clear that of all the players in the room, it was Woods who commanded the greatest attention.

"He's the hero that we've all looked up to. His voice carries further than anyone else's in the game of golf, McIlroy said.

"His role is navigating us to a place where we all think we should be.

"It's pretty apparent that whenever we all get in the room, there's an alpha in there, and it's not me. He cares a lot."

Liv Golf has attracted several big-name players, such as (from left) Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson. PHOTOS: REUTERS

Having Woods in the room mattered, Thomas said.

"That was huge. He has been a great kind of leading role in a lot of ways in the game for a lot of us," Thomas said.

"He came because it was very important to him. It probably was just not something that he felt was appropriate to do over Zoom or just to call in. I think it shows how passionate he is about golf and wanting to improve it."

McIlroy noted the days of selling Woods as the star attraction at events and on telecasts are over.

"Like it or not, they can't really sell Tiger Woods anymore," McIlroy said.

"Yes, they've got a bunch of us and we're all great players, but we're not Tiger Woods.

"He has carried the tour for a long, long time... We're moving into a different era and we just have to think about things a little differently."

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