Tiger Woods responds to ‘surprising’ PGA Tour leadership drama

tiger woods scratches face in blue hat at the PGA championship

Tiger Woods responded to Jimmy Dunne's 'surprising' exit from the PGA Tour policy board.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Whether he likes it or not, Tiger Woods is now the voice of the PGA Tour.

And on Tuesday morning at the PGA Championship, being the voice of the PGA Tour meant addressing the elephant in the room: Jimmy Dunne’s sudden (and rather critical) departure from the PGA Tour’s all-important Policy Board, citing stalled negotiations with the Saudi PIF.

From a packed house on a rainy morning at Valhalla, Woods admitted that the Dunne departure — announced via public letter on Monday evening — had caught him by surprise, and offered a terse defense of the Tour’s slow-rolling negotiations with the Saudis.

“Jimmy, and the amount of work and dedication that he put into the board and to the PGA Tour, it’s been incredible,” Woods said diplomatically. “It was a bit surprising that he resigned yesterday and just how it all came about, but, no, his role and his help, then what he’s been able to do for the PGA Tour has been great.”

There is no doubting the importance of Dunne’s role in early negotiations with the Saudis. The New York financier and golf magnate was the Tour’s first representative in negotiations with Saudi PIF chief Yasir Al-Rumayyan in discussions last spring, tasked himself as the public face and heat-shield for the Tour’s decision-making in the aftermath of the framework news and later sat for a Senate hearing on behalf of the PGA Tour in regards to the PIF.

But Dunne was asked to take a secondary role in the Tour’s negotiations in the weeks following that hearing — a move that corresponded with Woods’ own demands to Tour leadership for increased player representation and power at the negotiating table. Dunne suggested in his resignation letter that his role on the board had been rendered “superfluous” by those decisions, a point that Woods did not dispute on Tuesday morning.

“Well, the PGA Tour is for the players and by the players,” Woods said. “So, we have an influence and there’s roles for the player directors and there’s roles for the independents. We’re trying to make the PGA Tour the best it can be day-in and day-out.”

The Tour’s newfound democracy has secured it against another event like the framework agreement of June 6, but those changes have come at the cost of complicating negotiations with the PIF. For months, the Tour, its players and independent directors have appeared at odds about the shape of golf’s future, and adding internal strife to otherwise highly complex negotiations hasn’t served to expedite the process of finding a solution.

Gridlock is a sign of a functioning democracy, and that sure seems to be where the Tour finds itself on PGA Championship week, the final major before the framework agreement’s one-year anniversary. But gridlock often leads to frustration.

“That’s one of the reasons why we have arguments and we have disagreements, we want to do what’s best for everyone in golf and the Tour,” Woods said. “Without those kind of conflicts, the progress is not going to be there.”

But without those arguments, there might also be a sense of clarity surrounding golf’s future. And if there’s one thing that was certain from Woods’ presser at Valhalla, it’s that clarity remains a long way off.

“We’re working on negotiations with PIF,” he said. “It’s ongoing; it’s fluid; it changes day-to-day. Has there been progress? Yes. But it’s an ongoing negotiation, so a lot of work ahead for all of us. We’re making steps and [they] may not be giant steps, but we’re making steps.”

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.

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