Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods’ game, TGL’s postponement, PIP results, golf deals

Tiger Woods smiles at a 2022 Hero World Challenge press conference.

Tiger Woods will have a lot to answer this week.

Getty Images

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 at @golf_com. This week, we discuss Tiger Woods’ first press conference and the state of his game, the TGL’s shocking postponement and the 2023 PGA Tour PIP results.

1. This week’s Hero World Challenge will have extra eyes on it, as tournament host Tiger Woods will be among the 20-player field in the no-cut event in the Bahamas. It will also essentially be the first time Woods has fielded questions from reporters since the 2023 Masters, which was also his last start. Lots has happened since. What are the top two topics you’d love to hear Woods answer questions about candidly?

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James Colgan, news and features editor (@jamescolgan26): The merger! Crazy as it sounds, we still haven’t heard from the man since the golf world flipped on its head. I want to know what he thinks about the prospect of joining forces with the Saudis. I’d also love to hear Tiger talk about the list of demands submitted to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan that resulted in his becoming the Tour’s sixth player director. That story — and the resultant fallout of a considerable shift in power at the PGA Tour level — feels like one of the most underreported pieces of 2023. 

Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): What does he think pro golf will look like in the years ahead? And since he’ll have a say in that, what does he want it to look like? More elevated events? Fewer? Could he himself stomach playing in events under a Saudi partnership? Would that tarnish the sense of legacy that he values so much? Underlying all of those questions is the issue of the growing divide among pro golf’s biggest stars and the rank-and-file. Does he think more needs to be done to appease those stars? What about the rest of the players who increasingly feel like they’re getting short shrift? Where would Tiger strike the balance? Yeah. I know. That’s more than two questions. At this point, security has ushered me out of the press room.

Jack Hirsh, assistant editor (@JR_HIRSHey): I think my colleagues above covered a lot of the top questions with one notable exception: His health. I’m not sure I’m more concerned about his health than two years ago, but certainly more than last year. With the fusion surgery he had on his ankle last spring, he likely had to relearn how to walk again. I want to hear about that process and how he had to rework his golf swing to accommodate it. Tiger is normally coy when talking about his injuries, but he’s also more insightful about the golf swing than just about anyone. I bet his press conference could serve as a clinic for golfers battling trail leg injuries.

2. Woods has played sparingly over the past few years as injuries and a condensed schedule have limited his starts. But what if his game isn’t up to his standards? Could Woods’ play this week give any hint to how much he will attempt to play in 2024?

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Colgan: I think we already know how much Tiger Woods is going to play heading forward: minimally. The bigger question is how well will Tiger Woods play golf heading forward. This week we’ll get a much clearer picture of how the subtalar fusion surgery he underwent in April has affected his ability to walk and swing with ease. His score, spare for something crazy, is irrelevant next to how comfortable he seems shooting it.

Sens: I think we can pretty much count on Tiger’s game not being up to his standards this week. How could it be? But I doubt how well he plays this week will determine how often he plays this season. As James says, we know Tiger is going to pick his spots. The majors. Maybe Jack’s event. Maybe the Players. Maybe the Genesis. Ultimately, the deciding factor will be his health, not how well he strikes it or putts it this week.

Hirsh: This week is about one thing: can he still walk 72 holes? He’s only done it two times since his car accident. I don’t think his play means anything this week and I think it’s probably a good bet that he finishes 20th in the field of 20. But if he can walk 72 holes without limping too severely, it will still be a win.

3. Speaking of Tiger, it was announced last week that his tech-infused TGL golf league, which was supposed to launch in January, will now be postponed until 2025 after its roof collapsed. Why such a long delay? And will this setback have any lasting ramifications on the league, including things such as player commitments?

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Colgan: My instinct tells me the delay has more to do with the golf schedule than the repairs necessary to get the arena up and running. The issue here is timing: flying pros in for a Monday or Tuesday match, then flying them out to play a 72-hole tournament beginning on Thursday. It’s a big ask! Having it overlap with the major season was too much to ask. 

Sens: Agreed, James. There was a window to get this started, and it closed when the roof collapsed. As for what happens going forward, like so much else these days, that seems contingent in large part on what happens in the bigger picture, with the proposed merger. What if the framework agreement falls through and other big names jump to LIV? Would they be welcome on the TGL? Would they even want to join? What about Tiger himself? What if he gets hurt again and can’t take part? What does that do to the league’s prospects and appeal? So much is up in the air, to the point where I don’t think it’s silly to ask—is there a chance that the TGL doesn’t ever get off the ground at all?

Hirsh: I think the cause of the 12-month delay is actually very simple. Monday nights on ESPN are occupied from April to December with Monday Night Baseball in the spring and summer followed by Monday Night Football in the fall. TV is where all the money is, therefore they get to call the shots. If the league was pushed back just a month or two for the dome’s repair, ESPN wouldn’t be able to show matches in April or May on its main channel. I’m sure more went into the decision than that, but money talks and that’s where the majority of it was. I’m still optimistic we see the TGL in 2025.

4. The 2023 PGA Tour PIP results are in! Rory McIlroy came away with a huge bonus with a bunch of other players cashing in too. Meanwhile, Nate Lashley was the latest to speak out against it, calling it “ridiculous” that $100 million was spent on just 20 players. “Time for new leadership on the PGA Tour,” he wrote. “This is an absolute kick in the face to the rest of the PGA Tour players.” What are your thoughts?

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Colgan: Patrick Mahomes’ cap hit this year is $37.1 million. Jerrick McKinnon — a solid, vested veteran running back — has a cap hit of $1.1 million. Can anybody figure out why we haven’t heard Jerrick McKinnon complaining about Patrick Mahomes making 37x his salary? 

Sens: Lashley’s not wrong. That’s crazy money, lavished on a limited few. Then again, these are crazy days in the professional game, fueled by irrational competition for top talent. So, yeah, it’s hard to make old-fashioned sense out of the PIP money. At the same time, if you told the average person on the street in any part of the world that someone named Nate Lashley has made nearly $7 million playing golf since 2018, they’d say that’s pretty nutty, too.

Hirsh: Nate Lashley wants a slice of that $100 million? Cool! Play better and it’s yours! The PIP is intended to reward players to contribute most to the PGA Tour’s product. Fans are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars each week to see Rory McIlroy. Nate Lashley simply doesn’t sell tickets.

That said, the PIP is being reduced back to $50 million next year with the difference going into the FedEx Cup bonus pool and Comcast Business Top 10. So if Nate Lashley wants a piece of that, and I digress, he needs to play better because he missed the FedEx Cup playoffs this year.

5. Black Friday, Cyber Monday — there are golf deals galore right now. What’s been the best club, gadget or accessory you’ve added to your bag over the past year?

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Colgan: I started playing Titleist’s new T100 series irons and proceeded to shoot the lowest 5 scores of my golfing life. So I’d say that.

Sens: I got going on the Golf Forever fitness program, which I can do from my home office, with a bar and bands that hook easily to the door. Simple, time-efficient exercises that have helped immensely with strength and flexibility. Too bad my swing is the same fragile assemblage of wildly moving parts.

Hirsh: I got to try out the Garmin S70 golf smartwatch earlier this fall and I liked it so much that I bought one for my dad for the holidays. Never did I think I was a GPS guy over a rangefinder, let alone a watch wearer, but it’s super quick to use and the other smartwatch features, like sleep tracking, are great for me.

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