Webb Simpson was headed into a mandatory PGA Tour ‘Players Meeting’ late Tuesday afternoon (US time) at this week’s Wells Fargo Championship hoping, like each of his Tour colleagues, that PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and Players Advisory Chairman Rory McIlroy between them had answers to the continuing questions being asked of the Tour’s best.
The questions, clearly clouding pre-tournament interviews, have been originating from the media covering golf in seeking answers to the subject of a $40m PGA Tour ‘Player Impact Program’.
And a mandatory meeting was called on the back of news earlier Tuesday (UK time) that a breakaway Premier Golf League had already approached the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson with offers as high as $30m to ‘jump ship’.
It comes following a near fortnight of players being asked their thoughts on a top-10 of the Tour’s elite set to share in a whopping $40m bonus pool likely split between the 10 who are already earning more than enough both inside and outside the competition ropes not to be seriously jumping for joy at thoughts of adding another $10m to their bulging bank accounts.
Former Open Champion Mark Calcavecchia summed-up the feeling of most in tweeting on April 21st: “Utterly ridiculous! How about taking that 40 mil and give 20 mil to the Korn Ferry Tour and the other 20 mil to help grow the game”.
What is bizarre in this whole episode is that the best players in the world are getting quizzed by the golfing media on a Player Impact Program (PIP) that has yet to be formally announced by the PGA Tour.
It was the exact question put to Simpson by this journalist on a PGA Tour pre-Wells Fargo Championship ‘Zoom conference earlier Tuesday afternoon US time:
“Webb? Does it surprise you then that the PGA Tour has not come out with those cold hard facts on the PIP program?”
The seven-time PGA Tour winning Simpson responded: “Honestly, yeah, I feel like it’s out there and everyone’s talking about it.
“I’m sure they (PGA Tour) have reason for not having said anything official on it. But we’ve got our player meeting today, I’m sure it will come up in that and I’ll have an answer.”
Heading the meeting was McIlroy on the occasion of his 32nd birthday. I had earlier asked Simpson, not knowing of a Players Committee meeting, if he bumped into or was drawn with McIlroy at this week’s $8.1m event, whether he would make his views on a PIP program public to McIlroy
“Yeah, Rory and I are friendly, we talk about a lot of stuff,” said Simpson. “Sure, we absolutely could talk about it. But again, I kind of explained, I don’t feel like it’s that big of a concern for me right now.
“I feel like for me, when something’s not a big concern, I don’t think about it a whole lot until, like I say, my agent will call me and say we have to have a conversation; whether they’re signing players, if you want to look at it, or, you know, hey, is this thing going anywhere or is it going to go away. It seems like it’s been on the fence for a while now. Nobody really has any clear answers on timing of when they’re going to do it or send contracts out or start.
“So, I feel like it’s so up in the air that it’s hard for me to even form a strong opinion until I have like cold, hard facts and details that it’s going to happen.”
It seems clear the Tour’s PIP program is a reaction to threats of losing PGA Tour stars to a proposed Premier Golf League (PGL). Simpson, a brilliant winner of the 2012 US Open, would not be a player the PGL would be targeting but no matter who, if any, do decide to break ranks and join the PGL, it will impact on those who stay loyal to the PGA Tour.
And therein may lie the PGA Tour’s trump card as Simpson explained: “I think guys in a position like myself feel the same in that we’re happy with the PGA Tour,” said Simpson
“I think some guys have spoken on the subject and they’re very happy, very thankful for, you know, this particular opportunity we’ve had in golf. I feel like it’s only getting better. Purses are going up, seems like we play better golf courses and golf course condition is getting better. Everything seems to be getting better with the PGA Tour.
“There’s too many unknowns and too many things they would have to figure out for this thing (PGL) to actually work. Are the best players in the world really going to go to this tour if only eight of the Top‑25 in the world ranking are going to go?
“I think as a top player, I want to play against the best. At the end of the day, you have a career long enough, I think most of these guys, they’re financially set. They want to break records, they want to win. Be like Dustin (Johnson), be like 20 times, be a life member, whatever it might be. You create a new tour, all these records get kind of thrown out the window, I think.
“I just think too many things like that are going to come up. I don’t think throwing X amount of money at guys is as appealing now as it maybe once was because of how great the opportunities we have on the PGA Tour.
“Whatever the number is, 350 million dollars we’re playing for this year, and what FedEx has done, Wyndham Rewards, now Comcast, there’s so many opportunities for guys to make a great living here.
“If I’m a guy who’s on my way to make history like a Dustin or, you know, a few other top guys, I’m going after ‑‑ I want to go after records, not a dollar. So, we’ll see what happens, but that’s kind of where I sit on it.”